I first started seriously working on a Macintosh in 1994 when I graduated from university and started writing Mac software for a company in Toronto. At the time, one of the most famous software applications was SimpleText, a precursor to today's TextEdit on Mac OS X. Even though it came with System 7, it seemed almost every other third party developer would ship SimpleText so you could read their README. It was really silly. Back in those days, names of actual engineers appeared in Apple About boxes, and so I learned the name of Tom Dowdy.
I was working on printer drivers at the time, and I encountered a problem where SimpleText would crash when using my printer driver. I was commenting to my colleague that I should send a bug report to Tom Dowdy. Of course, after more investigation, I determined it was all my fault. I was relieved I didn't make myself look bad by trying to send a bug report to Tom.
When I came to work at Apple in 1996, I was starstruck when I first saw Tom Dowdy. He was working on QuickTime in the same building as me, R&D 2. Years later, he went to work on iTunes.
Most engineers at Apple had some interaction with Tom because he had worked at Apple for so long (more than 17 years), and also because he was the bug screener for iTunes. So, any time someone wrote a bug against iTunes, Tom would read it, and send it along to the appropriate person, or explain to you why iTunes was right and you were wrong.
I shared the stage with Tom at the annual Stump The Experts event at WWDC. This last year I was sitting beside or very close to beside Tom. An audience member was addressing the experts. His name sounded familiar, so I asked aloud to my fellow experts, "Who is that guy? His name sounds really familiar." Tom replied to me, "I know. I think he posts on the mailing lists a lot." Even though I had exchanged emails with Tom over the years, and even though we communicated through Radar bugs, that might have been the only verbal conversation we had ever had.
I was surprised and saddened to hear on Sunday that Tom suddenly passed away on Saturday. Although I never really knew him, I always had a tremendous amount of respect for him. He was a great engineer, and his passing is a great loss to Apple.