Top Techies Who Changed the World
Creativity is serious business, as we all know. The following people, however, made it seem like cakewalk. The mundane never appealed to them and the best never satisfied them. Their constant quest for excellence led them to defy commonplace standards, and set their own. These people marched to a different tune altogether, and altered the course of technological history in a manner that was never imagined. Let us take a look at the very best brains in the world of technology.
Top Techies of the World
Technology has contributed to the betterment of human lifestyle over a period of time. These stalwarts of technology, however, have made sure that their contribution made an everlasting impact on people’s minds. What makes these people stand out, then?
Well, for starters, they had a zeal for doing things that regular people never thought of. And second, their diligence is what made them the legends they are today. Achievement, for them, was never counted in terms of bank balances; rather it was the impact of their invention which took the front seat. Humble beginnings did not deter them, and that also happen to be a common factor for most.
These gentlemen together revolutionized the way the world looked at technology. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were your average dropout nerds, albeit with the ability to “think different”. The first home of the ubiquitous iDevices was Jobs’ garage in Los Altos, California. While Steve Jobs was constantly credited for his unmatched creative brilliance, that “other Steve” brought to the table his technical expertise. The rest, as they say, was history. As the co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple Inc., Steve Jobs was a legend in his own right. Matching up to his nitpicking habit for perfection was part of the job description for every Apple employee. With more than 300 U.S. Patents or patent applications to his credit, Steve Jobs was relentless in his creative pursuits, until he succumbed to cancer in October 2011. He leaves behind a legacy of the most beautiful gadgets ever; beauty being the most unlikely adjective to be associated with gadgets. The Macintosh, iPods, iPhones and iPads bear testimony of his long association with Zen Buddhism. This iCon in the trademark black turtleneck will be sorely missed.
The head honcho of Microsoft needs no introduction. Volumes have been written about Bill Gates’ early life, with the Harvard University dropout chapter being the most interesting one. Computer programming came naturally to Bill Gates, who along with Paul Allen created the BASIC interpreter for the Altair 8800 microcomputer. This led to the birth of Microsoft in 1975. However, the introduction of DOS (Disk Operating System) marked the beginning of Microsoft’s dominance in the world of computer operating systems. This was followed by MS Windows and MS Office, and what is now called Microsoft’s world domination. Having confronted several allegations regarding Microsoft’s monopolistic policies, Bill Gates is now more focused on his philanthropic endeavors. Along with topping the list of The World’s Richest People more often than not, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which he has been heading along with his wife is heralded as one of the largest charitable foundations in the world.
Long before people understood the various facets of the word ‘technology’, there was a company that created it. Akio Morita’s Sony Corporation is the technological giant that gave us transistor radios, Walkmans, video cassette recorders and Trinitron portable color televisions. Akio Morita is the reason Steve Jobs wanted to make Apple “the Sony of computers”. Morita started the Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation in May 1946 along with Masaru Ibuka in war-ravaged Japan. The Sony Walkman, by far the grand daddy of portable music players, was born out of Morito’s need to listen to music on his long transpacific flights. Morita singlehandedly led the Japanese domination of the electronic goods market in America with Sony’s pioneering inventions. Today, Sony Corporation is making its presence felt with brands like Vaio, PlayStation, Cyber-shot, Bravia and Xperia; names synonymous with cutting-edge quality, and pay a glowing tribute to its founder, the master who defined excellence.
Tim Berners-Lee’s contribution to the world of communication is as dramatic as it is understated, not too different from the organization he created it for. As a scientist, working in the haloed precincts of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Berners-Lee thought of writing a computer program that could facilitate communication within the 10,000 people who worked for CERN. In the year 1980, he built ENQUIRE, the predecessor to the World Wide Web. But it was almost ten years later, that he thought of adding hypertext to Transmission Control Protocol and domain name system, which gave us what we now casually refer to as the ‘Web’. What began as a primary means of communication within CERN, became the biggest technological splash of our times. Sir Tim Berners-Lee was a student of The Queen’s College, Oxford, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.
These two bright programmers, born to academicians, met at Stanford University as Ph.D. students. It was here that they decided to collaborate on designing a search engine, that made information available on the web more accessible. Sergey Brin’s experiments soon pushed the boundaries of Stanford’s computing systems, and he realized he’d created a winner. Google Inc. had managed to get funds worth one million dollars from Sun Microsystems, even before it was actually incorporated. What followed was “the most ground breaking invention since Gutenberg’s printing press” that spearheaded the concept of information accessibility. It didn’t stop there. With Google’s constant quest for providing quality information, Larry Page invented PageRank, the algorithm that monitors the content on Google with an iron fist. Controversy came in the form of Google closing its operations in China, refusing to channel a censored version in the Communist country, which was viewed as a bold move by many in the pro-democracy circles.
Wonder kid? Check.
Experimental teen programmer? Check.
Harvard dropout? Check.
With all the makings of a programming genius, Mark Zuckerberg is the creator of the phenomenal social networking website, Facebook. With a whopping 845 million users and counting, Facebook has indeed set a benchmark in social networking and is one of the foremost websites that changed the Internet world. What started as an interaction forum for students is now Internet’s hottest meeting point. Having created a networking portal that aims to demolish emailing, the man behind it all remains an enigma. Known to steadfastly refuse all attempts to “buy him out”, Zuckerberg claims to be a long-run player.
Jimmy Wales along with Larry Sanger founded Wikipedia, the undisputed fairy godmother of students with unfinished projects. Humor aside, Wikipedia is now a massive knowledge portal that is an open platform, with approximately 365 million readers worldwide. In the mid-nineties, Wales designed Bomis, a Maxim-influenced search engine for gentlemen, which never really took off. Thankfully, he focused his energies on to creating an online encyclopedia, and Nupedia was born. Larry Sanger was the one who questioned Wales’ concept of an open forum that retained complete objectivity. A collaboration followed, and a few years later came Wikipedia, a knowledge portal that provided free information to Web users.
There was a time when proprietary software ruled the roost (read: monopolized), but it was Linus Torvalds, a Finnish-American software engineer who led the change. With Linux, the world got a taste of a software that was affordable, hassle-free and secure. Linux soon became the world’s best open source software, which, in Torvalds’ eyes, is an accidental invention. A great advocate of open source software, he was accused of using BitKeeper for version control in Linux. The criticism led to Torvalds creating Git, an open source software that replaced BitKeeper. Open source software reigned supreme. Today, Linux is flexible enough to be used in supercomputers, cable set-top boxes and cell phones. It is high time we start “fearing the penguin”.
Jeff Bezos was one of the initial few who nailed the dot-com boom, creating Amazon.com, a webholic’s shopping Mecca. Bezos was a student of computer science and electrical engineering at Princeton University. Having gained the required expertise in the field of international trade, he began working on the concept of Amazon.com. Originally an online bookstore, the website branched on to music, electronics, software, video games, clothing, home décor, food and toys, cementing its place as the world’s largest online retail store. His contribution to Amazon’s success is tremendous, with his notoriety as a micromanager being well-chronicled.
Shigeru Miyamoto is the creator of a very successful line of video games that include Mario, Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox, F-Zero, and Pikmin. Taking inspiration from his childhood that was spent in Sonobe, on the outskirts of Kyoto, the characters in Miyamoto’s games have a Disney-ish allure. For instance, in Mario, we had a rural hero, on a mission to rescue a princess, that captured the imagination of gaming enthusiasts worldwide, inspiring a slew of imitations as well. The quality that sets Miyamoto apart is the fact that he still remains a senior managing director at Nintendo, when in reality, he is the heart and soul.
Another techie who belied conventions, Michael Dell started small, with selling assembled computer kits. The inspiration probably came from the time he got his first computer at the age of 15, and promptly disassembled it to understand the technicalities. He felt that the indirect retail system was flawed when it came to selling computers, and it made better sense to reach out to the customers directly. In the year 1984, he got the chance to put his idea to test, and Dell Computer Corporation was born. To have his company become a part of the Fortune 500 exclusive clique at the age of 27 was a feather in this young CEO’s hat. He started the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation in 1999, which contributes to child welfare.
Lawrence “Larry” Ellison is the co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation. He acquainted himself with the field of computer design while he was a student at the University of Chicago. A string of jobs later, Ellison found himself working at Ampex Corporation, creating a database for the CIA named ‘Oracle’. He simultaneously worked on a commercial version as well. Appreciation came in the year 1980 when IBM began using Oracle for its mainframe. It wasn’t long before the revenue started pouring in, and Ellison’s company was christened Oracle Corporation, as an ode to the original program that launched them into the big league. A passionate flier, he has a large fleet of aircraft in his possession. Among cars, he is rumored to own a Lexus LFA and a Lexus LS600hL.
When we talk about brilliant minds, another thing that comes to our mind is ‘passion’. You’d have to be blind not to notice the passion that these wizards had in their minds for every little thing they created. Technical qualifications are reduced to dust when you set your heart and soul into creating something that you feel passionately for, and these geniuses are a testimony of it. This does not in any way disregard the contribution of formal education, but these leaders paved the way for a revolution, and let their work outshine their degrees, leaving a lasting imprint for years to come.