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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.

45. Susan Kare

Another Macintosh 1.0 innovator, Susan Kare worked behind the scenes, but came up with essential innovations. Her earliest achievement was designing the typefaces--and some of the, er, iconic icons--that shipped with the Macintosh. The "Happy Mac" remains one of computing's most visible expressions of things working well. Today Kare works as an independent designer: She designed the cards for Windows' ubiquitous Solitaire game and now designs Facebook's "Gifts" feature.

46. Sir Arthur C. Clarke

Sure, give Arthur C. Clarke credit for inspiring the minds of thousands of technology pioneers. But Clarke didn't just write seminal works of science fiction (including 2001: A Space Odyssey ); he also conceived of geostationary communications satellites (satellites that orbit the earth at a speed proportional to the earth's rotation, so that the satellite always remains positioned above the same geographical point). Satellites with such orbits, sometimes termed the "Clarke satellite orbit," are essential to the telecommunications infrastructure, to GPS, and to numerous other technologies. Clarke died in March 2008 at age 90.

47. Herbie Hancock

When Herbie Hancock released his single, "Rockit" (from the album "Future Shock") in 1983, few listeners knew what to make of it. But everyone was struck by its unique sound--it was perhaps the first mainstream offering to use scratching. Though Hancock was by no means the first person to make heavy use of synthesizers, drum machines, and other computer-based musical equipment, few musicians relied so heavily on such gear and reached such a wide audience. "Rockit," with its innovative music video, is now considered a turning point in the electronic music-making scene, where Hancock is revered as an elder statesman.

48. William Gibson

The king of cyberpunk, William Gibson, has dreamed up all manner of high-minded techno wizardry, some of which has actually started to come true. His early stories introduced the term "cyberspace" and the visualization concepts behind it, which in turn prompted people to start thinking about networks in a way that transcended text and a command line. We may not be plugging chips directly into our brains yet, but Gibson's fiction-based prophecies have a strange way of panning out.

49. Gary Kildall

Called "The Man Who Could Have Been Bill Gates" by BusinessWeek, Gary Kildall was the guy Gates beat out in the bidding to supply IBM with the operating system for the original PC. According to legend, Kildall blew off the meeting with IBM to "go flying," though Kildall denied that rumor, posthumously, in his unpublished memoirs. Controversy aside, Kildall made significant contributions to the tech business--especially as the head of Digital Research, which created the seminal pre-DOS operating system CP/M, and (later) as a host of the classic Public TV program, Computer Chronicles. Kildall died in 1994.

50. Udi Manber

If there is a search engine anywhere that doesn't have the thumbprint of Udi Manber on it, we don't know about it. From Yahoo to Amazon's A9 to Google, Manber has been one of the search business's greatest contributors. But Manber's work goes back even farther than that, to AltaVista. He was a key member of the design team on what many feel was the best engine running until Google came along.

  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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