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78,131 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.

20. Marc Andreessen

The Mosaic web browser devised by Marc Andreessen may seem quaint now, but bits and pieces of Mosaic code remain standard software components of most of today's commercial browsers. It's a safe bet that many of Andreessen's other creations will leave similar legacies: Netscape, the company he founded, set off the tech stock craze of the 1990s, and his Ning website continues to grow in popularity as an outlet where anyone can build a topic-oriented social network. He even finds time to blog regularly about all this stuff.

21. Linus Torvalds

Given the exorbitant cost of most Apple computers, Linus Torvalds is the godfather of what may be the last, best hope for an affordable alternative to Windows. The Linux Operating System has been in continuous development since Torvalds conceived it in 1991, and has experienced steady gains in popular acceptance every year. And at long last, Linux is making the jump from server rooms to large numbers of desktop PCs, most visibly in low-cost laptops like the Asus Eee PC. The OS now has a market share in excess of 2 percent on the desktop.

22. Chuck Thacker

Chuck Thacker has had his hands in a surprisingly wide array of tech projects, from the development of ethernet to the first laser printers. His most enduring legacy, however, involves a product that never reached market: The fabled Xerox Alto. The Alto, which Thacker designed, was the first computer with a GUI (and a mouse); as the story goes, it directly inspired Apple to build the Macintosh after Steve Jobs paid a friendly visit to Xerox. Thacker now works for Microsoft.

23. Bob Metcalfe

Moore's Law may be better known, but the law formulated by Bob Metcalfe has wider general application. Posited around 1980, Metcalfe's Law conjectured that the value of a telecommunications network is equal to the square of the number of nodes on the network. In other words, even a small increase in the size of a network makes it worth far more because of the enlarged number of new connections that each user can make.

Metcalfe's invention of ethernet and his founding of 3Com are essential tech milestones as well, but his eponymous law, now in use to quantify value in the Facebook/MySpace age, will be around long after wired networking has passed on.

NEXT PAGE: Why we've got Vic Hayes and Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston to thank for our tech lives today

  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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