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78,780 News Articles

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.

6. Ray Tomlinson

In 1971 Ray Tomlinson sent the message that would ultimately be heard 'round the world'. An email from one ARPANet host to another. When you open your email program and see that your inbox has 112 unread messages, you may not feel like thanking Tomlinson, but imagine where digital communications would be without email. Tomlinson also came up with the idea of using the @ symbol to separate the username from the host name in an email address.

7. Douglas Engelbart

Quick, click on this link. You now understand the importance of Doug Engelbart's creation, the computer mouse. Engelbart patented the idea of his 'X-Y position indicator for a display system' in 1967, and also nicknamed the device the mouse (owing to its tail). Although it's hard to imagine working without one now, the mouse didn't catch on for more than a decade, until Apple computers started using them. Engelbart didn't stop at one invention, either: he and his research lab also developed an early online storage system and even demonstrated video-conferencing back in 1968.

8. Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard

No company has touched so many facets of technology as the brainchild of Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett, two titans of Silicon Valley who built a monster computing company out of nothing but spit and gumption. Originally responsible for building audio oscillators for Walt Disney in the 1940s, HP went on to create all manner of test equipment for electronics before jumping into computer servers, desktops, calculators, cameras, and of course printers.

After a few rocky years, HP is back on top as the largest technology company in the world. And what other people have had their garage turned into a national historic landmark?

Visit PC Advisor's HP spotlight for the latest HP news and opinion.

9. Shigeru Miyamoto

The video game industry collapsed in the early 1980s, and for a while it looked as though the phenomenon would go down in history as just a quirky fad, like the pet rock. But Shigeru Miyamoto almost singlehandedly kept the industry alive with his creation of an animated character named Jump Man, who soon became known as Mario. Miyamoto's influence in the gaming business - he's now a senior director of Nintendo - has been crucial ever since. His latest creation: Wii Fit made waves when it sold out almost instantly last month.

10. Shawn Fanning

With Napster, Shawn Fanning introduced the technology that, some doomsayers warn, could spell the end of the internet. Today traffic from peer-to-peer (P2P) programs consumes an estimated 70 percent of all broadband bandwidth, and AT&T says that P2P is a major reason why it will have to radically upgrade its infrastructure if it is to avert the collapse of the internet as we know it by 2010. All of this because a guy was looking for an easier way to share a few tunes with strangers? Sheesh.

NEXT PAGE: The founder of AOL and Intel take their places in our top 50 tech bods

  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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