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The 50 biggest heroes in technology history

Innovators, legends and geeks who shaped our world

Every gadget and technology that affects your every day life has taken years if not a lifetime of hard work in research, design and development. We've charted the top 50 people responsible for implementing today's best technologies.

While we take everyday gadgets such as laptops, iPods and mobile phones for granted, there was a time when they simply didn’t exist.

In fact most of the technology we couldn't live without has been the product of visionaries who have spent years or even their whole lives researching and developing their ideas, which in many cases were initially written off as ludicrous.

We've rounded up the most critical players in recent tech history - everyone from the guy who invented a way to store data in a portable form to the woman who coined the term 'bug' after a moth flew into a computer relay - and detailed their efforts which are no doubt making your life easier now.

1. Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce

Unlike most of the other multiperson entries on our list, Robert Noyce and Jack Kilby didn't work together. But their common invention is still utterly crucial. In 1959, both men came up with the first integrated circuits, Kilby while he was at Texas Instruments, and Noyce at Fairchild Semiconductor.

The IC solved the problem of size that got worse and worse as the need to jam additional transistors into a device grew more and more critical. Packing them all into a single chip in effect ended the era of the room-size computer. Ultimately, Noyce's design based on silicon, rather than Kilby's based on germanium, became the standard and the one that we still use today, but both designs were instrumental in pushing the technology forward. Kilby and Noyce are often overlooked, but the importance of their contribution to technology cannot be overstated. Nothing else on this list could exist without the underpinning of the integrated circuit.

2. Sergey Brin and Larry Page

What is the defining contribution to technology made by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the fathers of Google? The company is the single most important business in Silicon Valley today, but of course search engines had existed long before Google came along.

What impressed so many early fans was Google's relentless pursuit of refinement and accuracy in its search algorithm: whereas other search engines' results tended to be laden with spam, Google's were generally on target. The company had lots of other tricks up its sleeve as well: the rapidly expanding Google universe now offers dozens of productivity and entertainment tools, from word processing to video, most of them free, underwritten by the company's ubiquitous ad-serving system.

NEXT PAGE: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee’s place in tech history

  1. They persevered with technology to make our lives easier
  2. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Tim Berners-Lee's place in tech history
  3. Why we've got Ray Tomlinson and Douglas Engelbart to thank for our tech lives today
  4. The founders of AOL and Intel take their places in our top 50 tech bods
  5. Nolan Bushnell, Vint Cerf and Don Estridge
  6. Marc Andreessen, Linus Torvalds and Chuck Thacker take their place in tech history
  7. Why we've got Vic Hayes and Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston to thank for our life today
  8. Apple vice president Jonathan Ive and Amazon creator Jeff Bezos take their places in our top 50 tech heroes
  9. Al Shugart, Karlheinz Brandenburg and James D Johnston
  10. Thomas Penfield Jackson, Jerry Yang and David Filo take their place in tech history
  11. Why we've got Jon Postel and Alan Emtage with Bill Heelan and Mike Parker to thank for our tech lives today
  12. Susan Kare, Sir Arthur C Clarke and Herbie Hancock


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