As quickly as you can, name five to ten famous software engineers who have made a profound impact on society and technology. Not as easy as you thought, was it?
While countless individuals, companies and other organizations have benefited in many different ways from the use of software and computer programs, we use these technological advances without giving too much of a thought to the individuals who helped create them.
Sure, you’ve heard of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, but what do you know about some of the other names behind many of the technologies you use on an everyday basis? We polled our custom software experts at Miles Technologies to get their thoughts on some game-changing software engineers both present and past. Here are some of the top names from their lists:
1. Dan Bricklin
Raise your hand if you’ve ever used a spreadsheet to get something done. If so, you have Bricklin to thank. “The Father of the Spreadsheet,” Bricklin, together with Bob Frankston, created VisiCalc which was the first spreadsheet computer program. It was originally released in Apple II computer in 1979. Bricklin is a bit of a cautionary tale, as VisiCalc had difficulty competing in the market after the launch of spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3.
2. Dennis Ritchie
Ritchie, who passed away in 2011, was the creator of the C programming language and the co-creator of the UNIX operating system. C is one of the most widely used programming languages, used in the development of applications and operating systems. Multiple other languages have borrowed elements from it. Unix-based operating systems have had a major influence in the computer world, especially seen in Mac OS X, which is a Unix-based system. “Ritchie was under the radar. His name was not a household name at all, but... if you had a microscope and could look in a computer, you’d see his work everywhere inside,” computer historian Paul Ceruzzi said of Ritchie.
3. Tim Berners-Lee
While you may not know his name, what you are reading right now—and anything you read online—is brought to you courtesy of Berners-Lee. He is the inventor of the World Wide Web (perhaps you’ve heard of it). He created the first successful communication between an HTTP client and server via Internet in 1989. Director of W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), Berners-Lee is also credited with creating HTML, the standard markup language used to create web pages.
4. Linus Torvalds
Torvalds is the developer of the Linux kernel which powers the Linux operating system. The Linux operating system was created as open-source software, meaning its source code is available and the software can be freely utilized by anyone in any way. The Linux kernel continues to have a prominent impact on technology to this day from powering a good portion of the Web to operating systems on devices like routers and video game consoles. Google’s popular Android operating system—found on mobile devices across the world—is based on the Linux kernel.
5. Edgar Codd
Edgar Codd developed the model for relational databases, which has had a profound impact on business software among other areas. “Most users don’t see the impact that relational databases have on their everyday lives, but they sit at the heart of a great deal of business and internet software,” says Wayne Rossi, Systems Architect at Miles Technologies. “The relational database concept makes everything from CRM and ERP systems to social networks and blogs work. The modern database is one of the most powerful tools for storing and accessing information, and users may touch dozens of them without even recognizing it.”
6. Dave Hyatt & Blake Ross
Hyatt and Ross are the co-creators of the Mozilla Firefox browser, which is currently the third-most popular web browser. “While this browser has been significantly losing market share in the past several years, they broke open the door of challenging Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as ‘the’ web browser people had to use, and, I believe, paved the way for Google to create and deploy the now-dominant web browser Chrome,” says JP Lessard, President of Business Software Solutions at Miles Technologies.
7. Larry Page & Sergey Brin
While these two individuals may not necessarily be household names, the company they co-founded certainly is. What started as a research project by these two Stanford University PhD students eventually turned into the technology giant Google. We don’t have enough space here to list all the products and services Google offers, but it is important to note the profound impact Page and Brin made in developing the modern search engine. Thanks to them, information on the Web can be found as easy as it is today.
So, there you have it. These are just a few of the many software engineers who have made immense impacts on the way we use technology today.
Who are some others that you think should be on this list? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
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