Weekend Open Forum: Tech innovators who deserve more attention

By Lee Kaelin on July 27, 2012, 7:00 PM

With the rapid advancement of modern technology, it's increasingly humbling to look back at the computer industry's beginnings. Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds, Tim Berners-Lee and the late Steve Jobs are all famous for their contributions, but there are hundreds of scarcely-recognized individuals who fundamentally changed the course of history and laid the foundation for later generations.

Bob Kahn along with the better-known Vint Cerf co-invented two crucial protocols, the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP), both of which are at the heart of the Internet. Meanwhile, Bell Labs researcher Dennis Ritchie is regarded as the father of C, the forerunner for nearly every modern programming language. Sadly, he passed away shortly after Jobs last October.

These are just two people who greatly influenced the world but never became household names. What other technology innovators deserve more attention and why?

User Comments: 29

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Ranger12 Ranger12 said:

I would have to say Douglas Engelbart. He did a lot of early work with computer input devices and networking. I could write more but fortunately its all already written for me here:


I definitely dont hear his name much but I think he was pretty foundational to the development of computers as we know them.

TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

John Ambrose Fleming. Started it all with the invention of the vacuum tube and it's ability to manipulate electric currents.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I think I deserve more credit, I stayed out of their way.

Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

Håkan Lans fror his inventions for the color display for computers

Zoltan Head said:

How about Taylor, Cranston, and Longstaff - pioneered the trackball back in the 'fifties (later shrunk & turned upside down for mouse)?

Guest said:

John von Neumann. [link]

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Douglas Engelbart (with assistance of Bill English) invented first mouse, perhaps that is one of the most important computer related innovations.

John Logie Baird (development of first tv, although it was partially mechanical) and Vladimir Zworykin and Philo Farnsworth for the development of purely electronic television.

John Backus for inventing Fortran.

James Fergason for inventing much improved LCD.

TS-56336 TS-56336 said:

Ada Lovelace as the world's first computer programmer.

Guest said:

Nikola Tesla - besides obvious work he was the first one working on wireless energy transfer.

On matter how powerful Your laptop or smartphone is - each and every one would kill for decent energy source, to sustain more than a couple of hours


Marnomancer Marnomancer said:

Well, there are practically many guys out there whose code is probably running on a large number of machines ATM, but were never known.

I think I deserve more credit, I stayed out of their way.

lol, +1!

Stay outta my way too! Another great pioneer inbound! :p

m4a4 m4a4 said:

Douglas Engelbart, who made a precursor to the GUI. Then Alan Kay for being the main guy at Xerox to actually take that and make the first GUI...

Guest said:

Chuck Peddle. http://tiny.antville.org/stories/189659/

Steve Wozniak built his computer from parts available on the market, but Chuck Peddle built his machines starting with raw sand.(Brian Bagnall)

Guest said:

I can tell who deserves less credit and that would be wait for it....




steve jobs

ghasmanjr ghasmanjr said:

+1 for Nikolai Tesla! He also contributed alternating current. I believe Edison fried cats with AC in the middle of the street to show everyone how harmful it is so he could push direct current. Selfish asshat. Tut tut

Guest said:

WTF is Jobs famous for contributing, except the incessant patent trolling ? He hasn't done anything worth mentioning alongside those other great names listed.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

WTF is Jobs famous for contributing, except the incessant patent trolling ? He hasn't done anything worth mentioning alongside those other great names listed.

Come on, you have to be fair to the guy. He was a great salesman, and he made people want to buy his products and he pushed competitors to try to match his sales figures. When I was growing up computers were seen as this super nerdy thing, nobody wanted to touch them. People who never wanted to touch a computer started buying iPhones, which were basically computers.

When I was in high school you would NEVER find a girl who knew anything about computers. Some of my classmates are relatively fresh out of high school, they know how to root phones, install warez, etc. Jobs was one of the people who made that happen.

I couldn't stand the guy myself and was vocal about it, but he had a vision, and people with a vision are always polarizing, and very often they're dicks.

Guest said:

for me :

1.All Person Who's Make ENIAC!

2.Dennis Ritchie

3.Bill Gates

4.Linus Torvalds

Lurker101 said:

If you want a real unsung technological hero, look no further than Tommy Flowers, the father of modern computing.

aspleme said:

I have to agree about Tesla. A lot of technology that we are only just now starting to realize how useful it can be was originally pioneered by Tesla. Besides radio, wireless power transmission, and encrypted radio, Tesla also fought Thomas Alva Edison's push for direct current. The whole infrastructure of modern power owes Tesla. Yet he is still considered a crackpot and has his inventions overlooked. How many people still think Marconi invented the radio?

WithoutAnyMilk WithoutAnyMilk said:

I came here to mention Nikola Tesla, but I see that the matter has already been handled for me. The people of his time characterized him as a madman (in no small part thanks to Thomas Edison's slander) - and he very well may have been - but the raw genius behind his creations became much more clear as time went on. He discovered so many things that even now we do not know because he did not keep exhaustive paper records. A madman he may have been, and a dangerous one at that, but also clearest illustration of raw genius that humanity has ever seen (that is my opinion).

Guest said:

Edward Teller (for his contribution to the H-bomb)

1 person liked this | M1r said:

Einstein. He does receive a conspicuous amount of attention, but people fail to comprehend the fact that, without his notion of relativity, today wouldn't be the same. Especially in technology.

1 person liked this | Doctor John Doctor John said:

Einstein. He does receive a conspicuous amount of attention, but people fail to comprehend the fact that, without his notion of relativity, today wouldn't be the same. Especially in technology.

Seconded! He also discovered the photoelectric effect, which is handy.

spydercanopus spydercanopus said:

Whoever invented the Palm Pilot really changed my perspective on computers. When I first saw a hand-held computer with a touch screen, I was instantly blown away.

A lot of peeps think Microsoft's XP Tablet Edition set the stage for the iPad, but I think Palm set the stage for both. How they went downhill would be a good article to read.

Jos Jos said:

For the Tesla fans out there, here's a video I really enjoyed that covers his inventions and life. It was presented by Marco Tempest at TED:


Also, a homage by The Oatmeal calling him "the greatest geek who ever lived" (http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla), a rebuttal published by Forbes ( [link] ) and The Oatmeal's response (http://theoatmeal.com/blog/tesla_response)

Guest said:

Even my dog is more inventive than Steve Jobs. And far more likeable. Actually, he smells better too, esp now.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I honestly hope talking shit about someone that is dead, makes you feel like a man. Maybe you can provide examples of how you are contributing to mankind, next time you decide to spread negativity about someone that is known for their contributions.

RajeGera RajeGera said:

WTF is Jobs famous for contributing, except the incessant patent trolling ? He hasn't done anything worth mentioning alongside those other great names listed.

Are you insane or what??He is a well contributor to this modern gadget world.He revolutionised the industry by inventing iphones,ipads typa products..Let me know what other companies did in terms of creativity..??btw I am big big fan of Stephen Hawking..

Guest said:

RajeGera - You my good sir, are the crazy one. Steve Jobs didn't "Invent" anything other than the SCB - As in...the SelfishCreditAbsorber. Taking the spotlight, credit, and majority of money associated with it. The computer was already invented, the overly-patriotic fanbase of Apple "lovers" began when they called it an "Apple Computer" instead of "Computer by Apple" Steve Wozniak designed the first Apple Product. Steve Jobs could have made a whole lot more people happier in this world if he shared the wealth

http://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000984.htm - Notice how this article explains the first of every type of "Computer" then gives Apple it's own category. Not because of it's OS difference, but because it wasn't the real "First" of any "Real Computing Category".

Since then, we still hear about this obsession with "iAnything" for instance, two news articles about two different instances of someone's cell phone getting stolen. Yet in one, they emphasize that the "iPhone" was stolen instead of just calling it a "cell phone" like a normal media report would.

In my opinion, there's nothing wrong with being a fan of the OS. But don't hate on other products because yours looks cute and is over-priced. The majority of Apple fans have absolutely NO technology background, therefore obtain the products simply because "Someone said they liked theirs".

I've even read one writer mention that he thought Steve Jobs was "

da Vinci of our time." yet behind every engineering feat, every "Sleek Design" there were people that could take nearly full credit for it.

Please. Tell me this, if he was such a "Great guy" then why call rich people "Monopolist" when Steve Jobs hasn't even donated as much as 1% of his riches, yet those with less than half of what he was pledge to give away more than 50% of their riches?

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