The megastars in the IT industry over the past four decades are easy to name. The accomplishments of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Scott McNealy, Larry Ellison, Linus Torvalds and others are well known. But clearly there have been many more who have helped turn IT from the narrow back-office operation of yesteryear into the ubiquitous corporate necessity it is today.
Who: Carol Bartz
What/where: Executive chairman, Autodesk
Why: Changed a sleepy vertical application company into a diversified US$1.5 billion software industry powerhouse. Born in 1948, the Horatio Award-winning executive earned her computer science degree from the University of Wisconsin before joining 3M as a systems analyst in the 1970s, the only woman on a staff of 300.
Bartz became president, CEO and chairman of Autodesk in 1992 after rising through the ranks of Digital Equipment and Sun Microsystems Her favourite saying: "You have only one job in this life, and that is to be a great ancestor."
Who: Dan Bricklin
What/where: Co-founder, Software Arts
Why: Invented the electronic spreadsheet with the introduction of VisiCalc in 1979. The idea occurred to him while working on his MBA at Harvard. Written in Basic on an Apple II personal computer, VisiCalc continued to ship first on Apple machines instead on of IBM PCs, which helped Lotus 1-2-3 quickly eclipse the breakthrough software. Another factor in VisiCalc's demise was advice from a lawyer not to patent the program.
Who: Edgar (Ted) Codd
What/where: IBM fellow
Why: Father of the relational database with his seminal 1970 paper, "A Relational Model of Data for Large Shared Data Banks." English by birth and a graduate of Oxford University, Codd flew in the RAF during World War II. He first went to work for IBM in New York in 1953. He devised his famous 12 rules for what makes data relational in 1985.
Codd died at the age of 79 in 2003, leaving behind a $13 billion market.
Who: John J. Cullinane
What/where: Founder, Cullinet Software
Why: Creator of the packaged software market. He led a company that could claim many industry firsts: first packaged application, first report writer software, first database to seriously compete with IBM on mainframes, and first pure software company to go public. He sold the company to Computer Associates in 1989.
Who: Whitfield Diffie
What/where: Chief security officer, Sun Microystems
Why: Co-inventor with Martin Hellman of public key encryption software, with the publication of their paper "New Directions in Cryptography." It enables individuals who have never met to establish secure, nonauthenticated two-way communications. Although Diffie holds a bachelor's degree in science from MIT and an honorary doctorate from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, he never graduated from high school.
Who: Bill Inmon
What/where: CEO, Inmon Data Systems
Why: Coined the term "data warehouse" in 1990 and is considered the founder of the $28 billion industry. Inmom defined a data warehouse as a place where information is subject-specific, integrated, time-dependent and nonvolatile -- that is, more data can be added, but old data never changes. Advocates contend that businesses should have one data warehouse that creates data mart offspring. A prolific writer, Inmon has published more than 650 articles and 46 books -- so far.
Who: H. Ross Perot
What/where: Founder, Electronic Data Systems and Perot Data Systems
Why: Iconic business maverick who blazed trails to deliver IT services to corporate users. Perot took a $1000 loan in 1962 and parlayed it into a $2.5 billion payoff when he sold EDS to General Motors in 1984. He snagged more than eight million votes in a U.S. presidential bid for the Reform Party in 1996. Ever quotable, Perot once observed, "Inventories can be managed, but people must be led."
Who: John Postel
What/where: Director, computer networks division, University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute
Why: Helped create and document numerous standards and protocols for the Internet, including TCP/IP, SNMP and DNS. He is hailed as "the shepherd of the Internet." The Internet Society established the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award in his honor after his death in 1998. A firm believer in the value of content over presentation style, Postel never used Powerpoint in his career.
Who: Dennis Ritchie
What/where: Bell Labs fellow
Why: Developed the C programming language, the foundation for the portability of Unix to different hardware systems. Ritchie followed in his father's footsteps and joined Bell Labs in 1967, quickly aiding in the creation of Unix in 1969 with Ken Thompson, with whom he shares a Turing Award. In a Q&A with GeekChic.com, he listed "mouth-breathing" (sport), "brooding" (hobby) and Dr. Strangelove (movie) among his favorite things.
Who: Alan Shugart
What/where: Founder and CEO, Shugart Associates and Seagate Technology
Why: Led the IBM team in 1959 that gave us the first floppy disk, the 8-in., 5MB Ramac. While at IBM, he also oversaw the creation of the 50MB disk system for the first electronic reservation system, Sabre. He founded Seagate in 1979, which gave us the 5 1/2-in. disk drive that helped fuel the PC revolution. He ran a losing campaign to elect his dog, Bernice, to Congress in 1996; Shugart died 10 years later.