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80,259 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.

15. Nolan Bushnell

Atari is synonymous with video gaming, so much so that the name remains in use (though now far removed from founder Nolan Bushnell, the undisputed father of video gaming) 36 years after it originated. Bushnell's inspiration - a world where everyone could play games in the comfort of their own home - is a rare instance where the vision panned out almost exactly as envisioned. Though no one is thrilling over Atari's consoles any more, Atari and Bushnell paved the way for every video game platform that has followed.

16. Vint Cerf

Turing Award. National Medal of Technology. Presidential Medal of Freedom. Vint Cerf has one of the most impressive CVs in technology. Cerf's work as an internet pioneer has largely taken place in universities and government agencies, which in the early 1970s led directly to the creation of ARPANet, the predecessor to today's internet. Cerf now works for… who else… Google.

17. Don Estridge

IBM veteran Don Estridge is widely known as 'the father of the PC', at least in its Big Blue incarnation. Estridge developed a number of computer systems, even tinkering with NASA radar equipment. But he is best known for his work as a manager, leading a 'skunk works' staff of just 14 people that ultimately produced the IBM PC, an 'open' platform that could run third-party software and accept third-party upgrades, that would become the standard for business.

Tragically, Estridge died in a plane crash in 1985 and never saw his creation achieve ubiquity.

18. Michael Dell

The original story of Dell Computer Corporation is so well-known it has become part of the canon of the tech business. Michael Dell started his company, PC's Limited, at age 19 out of his dorm room at the University of Texas. Eventually he dropped out of school to found Dell Computer, which grew at breakneck pace throughout the 1990s.

Dell's marketing philosophy turned the industry on its ear: Rather than offer predetermined configurations, Dell's machines were totally customisable and built to order. Eventually almost every competing PC manufacturer followed suit or went out of business.

Visit PC Advisor's Dell news spotlight for latest Dell news.

19. Alan Kay

A jack-of-all-tech-trades, Alan Kay lays claim to at least two watershed innovations, starting with HP's original Dynabook, one of the first usable mobile laptop computers. Kay ideal was to design a laptop that weighed no more than 200g. We still aren't there yet, but Kay's contributions to software, which include shepherding the idea of object-oriented programming and the notion of multiple, overlapping windows in a GUI, rank as essential milestones in computing.

NEXT PAGE: Marc Andreessen, Linus Torvalds and Chuck Thacker take their 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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