Modern computers have been on the forefront of technology for decades and continue to change the world. Many celebrated innovators will be remembered for their work in creating a technological infrastructure that altered the course of history. Although they have varying levels of education and different backgrounds, all of the influential people in computer science share the same type of curiosity and drive. Computer science continues to grow as a field that is shaping humanity every day.
Sir Tim Berners Lee
The way we seek out knowledge, share information and even communicate with our friends wouldn’t be the same if this computer scientist hadn’t invented the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee was a telecommunications engineer who wanted to simplify sharing and updating information between researchers. Although technologies like the Internet, hypertext and multifont text objects already existed, they weren’t connected. Berners-Lee pulled these together and established the World Wide Web in 1989. He continues to manage the development of the Web through the World Wide Web Consortium and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth for his groundbreaking work in 2004.
The world wouldn’t be the same without the work of Bob Kahn, who invented the essential necessary communication protocols that transfer information within and among networks on the Internet. An electrical engineer, Kahn demonstrated the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network, or ARPANET, at the International Computer Communication Conference in 1972. This packet-switching network allowed several computers to connect and communicate with each other, and when Kahn connected 20 computers at the conference, the importance of the technology did not go unnoticed. Kahn went on to help create the TCP/IP protocols for linking distinct computer networks along with computer scientist Vint Cerf.
A Finnish-American software engineer, Torvalds invented the Linux kernel, the crucial aspect of a modern computer’s operating system. The Linux kernel became the foundation for Linux, the most widely used operating system in the world. Although Linux is not as well-known by personal computer users, it is the backbone of the Internet. Linux servers are known for their stability and security. The Linux kernel also became the kernel for the Android and Chrome OS operating systems. Torvalds has won more than 10 major awards and was one of the first people inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame, in 2012.
Wozniak invented the Apple I computer, which launched the technology titan Apple Inc. Wozniak became friends with Steve Jobs when they were both working a summer job at Hewlett-Packard. In 1976, Wozniak designed the Apple I computer and built it by hand, and he founded Apple Computer with Jobs. Although he went on to help create the Apple II computer and develop the company, he left Apple in 1985. Wozniak is still an Apple employee and shareholder and has gone on to join other ventures and give motivational speeches.
Mullenweg is an entrepreneur, inventor and musician who, at 19 years old, helped come up with the free, open-source software called WordPress. The WordPress platform allowed just about anyone to easily create and customize websites, leading to an explosion of stay-at-home bloggers and entrepreneurs. He also developed Akismet, a service that helps prevent spam on blogs and websites. Listed in 2012 as one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 in Media, Mullenweg has won several awards and also supports a number of charities, including Free Software Foundation and Archive.org.
Life would not be the same without the Internet, social media, tablets and smart phones. However, without the influencers who come up with innovative ideas, write code and invent machines, the evolution of modern technology would have been very different. There have been many other influential people in computer science over the years and there will be many more to come in the future.