Top 50 Tech Visionaries

Courtesy of Hewlett-PackardNo company has touched so many facets of technology as the brainchild of Dave Packard (left) and Bill Hewlett, two titans of Silicon Valley who built a monster computing company out of nothing but spit and gumption. Originally responsible for building audio oscillators for Walt Disney in the 1940s, HP went on to create all manner of test equipment for electronics before jumping into computer servers, desktops, calculators, cameras, and of course printers. After a few rocky years, HP is back on top as the largest technology company in the world. And what other people have had their garage turned into a national historic landmark?

9. Shigeru Miyamoto

Courtesy of Makoto MishidaThe video game industry collapsed in the early 1980s, and for a while it looked as though the phenomenon would go down in history as just a quirky fad, like the pet rock. But Shigeru Miyamoto almost singlehandedly kept the industry alive with his creation of an animated character named Jump Man, who soon became known as Mario. Miyamoto's influence in the gaming business--he's now a senior director of Nintendo--has been crucial ever since. His latest creation: Wii Fit, arrives on U.S. shores this month.

10. Shawn Fanning

Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsWith Napster, Shawn Fanning introduced the technology that, some doomsayers warn, could spell the end of the Internet. Today traffic from peer-to-peer programs consumes an estimated 70 percent of all broadband bandwidth, and AT&T says that peer-to-peer is a major reason why it will have to radically upgrade its infrastructure if it is to avert the collapse of the Internet as we know it by 2010. All of this because a guy was looking for an easier way to share a few tunes with strangers? Sheesh.

Gordon Moore (#11) to Michael Dell (#18)

11. Gordon Moore

You can't go wrong with a guy who's got his own scientific law, can you? Moore's Law, posited in 1965, three years before Gordon Moore founded a little company called Intel, predicted that the number of components on a computer chip would double every year (later, he amended it to every two years). As Intel notes, Moore's Law remains the "guiding principle for the semiconductor industry"; but, in truth, every field of high-tech--from hard drives to TVs--validates to some degree the almighty Law of Moore. Moore remains involved with Intel, which--at 40 years old--may be number one on the list of companies that Silicon Valley could not exist without.

12. Bill Atkinson

Courtesy of Bill AtkinsonMouse up to your PC's File menu, open a new window, and thank Bill Atkinson for being able to do that. His early ideas regarding user interface design elements like the menu bar became graphical user interface standbys not just on Apple computers (where he worked), but on every major operating system that has followed. As a programmer, Atkinson designed MacPaint, QuickDraw, and HyperCard, a sort of proto-Web system that clearly inspired the creation of the World Wide Web. After starting his own company, General Magic, Atkinson mostly retired from tech to work as a nature photographer.

13. Steve Case

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