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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.

11. Gordon Moore

You can't go wrong with a guy who's got his own scientific law, can you? Moore's Law appeared in 1965, three years before Gordon Moore founded a little company called Intel, predicted that the number of components on a computer chip would double every year (later, he amended it to every two years). As Intel notes, Moore's Law remains the 'guiding principle for the semiconductor industry'; but, in truth, every field of high-tech, from hard drives to TVs, validates to some degree the almighty Law of Moore. Moore remains involved with Intel, which at 40 years old, may be number one on the list of companies that Silicon Valley could not exist without.

12. Bill Atkinson

You've got Bill Atkinson to thank for being able to move your cursor to your PC's File menu and open a new window. His early ideas regarding user interface design elements like the menu bar became graphical user interface standbys not just on Apple computers (where he worked), but on every major operating system that has followed. As a programmer, Atkinson designed MacPaint, QuickDraw, and HyperCard, a sort of proto-web system that clearly inspired the creation of the world wide web. After starting his own company, General Magic, Atkinson mostly retired from tech to work as a nature photographer.

13. Steve Case

Don't laugh. The brainchild of Steve Case, America Online (AOL) was a big deal back in the early 1990s. The timing was perfect for a service that offered online training wheels for millions of intrigued but trepid people looking for an introduction to the world wide web.

AOL pioneered more than just the chatrooms for which it became infamous. Case launched Neverwinter Nights, one of the first massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) was an early champion of user avatars, and (most notoriously) started the blending of online and big media by selling out to Time Warner in 2001. Not such great timing there, alas.

14. Martin Cooper

Quick, check your pockets. Whether you're toting an iPhone or a Motorola Razr, you owe a debt to Martin Cooper and his 1973 patent responsible for the mobile phone as we know it.

His invention, created during his tenure at Motorola, weighed just shy of 1kg, and 10 years would pass before mobile phones broke the 0.5kg barrier. Cooper is still active in the telephone business. His company ArrayComm develops antenna technology so today's 200g phones can reach their networks.

NEXT PAGE: Nolan Bushnell, Vint Cerf and Don Estridge

  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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