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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.

24. Vic Hayes

Wi-Fi has long been one of technology's messiest standards and without Vic Hayes, it might never have come together at all. In the Hayes-less universe we might be left to wallow in a morass similar to the Blu-ray vs HD-DVD swamp with multiple incompatible wireless standards. In 1990, Hayes formed the Wireless LAN working group and rallied some 130 companies to work together to develop open standards. The result: 802.11, and the cutting of a very firmly attached cord. Hayes continues to be actively involved in Wi-Fi development today.

25. Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston

Accounting departments around the world would be lost without the work of Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, who worked together in 1979 to develop VisiCalc, the world's first spreadsheet and arguably the first 'killer app' written for a personal computer. The 27KB program can run on PCs today, and its simplicity is a big reason why early PCs sold in droves, especially to business customers. But never mind the bean-counters: you probably owe a lot to VisiCalc yourself. After all, if it weren't for Bricklin and Frankston, you might not be getting your pay packet regularly.

26. Grace Murray Hopper

That's Admiral Hopper to you. Naval officer 'Amazing' Grace Hopper was a computing pioneer who cut her teeth in the calculator era. Later she worked on the team that developed the UNIVAC, the world's first commercial computer, and wrote the compiler software for it (the first such software ever developed). Hopper was instrumental again in the development of the COBOL and FORTRAN programming languages, and she remained a major figure on the technology scene until her death in 1992. Even our language owes a debt to Hopper: she popularised (and possibly coined) the term 'bug' after a moth was found in a computer relay during her years at Harvard.

27. Jeff Hawkins

Portable computing was shaped in large part by Jeff Hawkins, who invented the acclaimed PalmPilot, and then followed that up by spearheading development of the Treo six years later. Both Palm and Treo became household names, though Palm as a company has suffered numerous setbacks in recent years. Hawkins is now working on a startup called Numenta with his longtime partner Donna Dubinsky, focusing on the subjects of machine learning and neuroscience, which Hawkins has long had a deep interest in.

28. Fujio Masuoka

Fujio Masuoka developed flash memory during his tenure at Toshiba (Masuoka says that the company initially tried to demote him after he came up with the technology). The technology is now seen as a possible way around the fragility of hard drives, as capacity ramps up and prices fall. For smaller gadgets, Flash has become essential... or would you prefer to be saving your digital pictures on floppy disks still?

NEXT PAGE: Apple vice president Jonathan Ive and Amazon creator Jeff Bezos take their places in our top 50 tech heroes

  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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