Top 50 Tech Visionaries

A Buddhist monk before becoming invovled in the tech world, Peter Norton has been a major figure in the computer industry for three decades, having made his mark early in the DOS era with Norton Utilities, the first major data recovery tool for the PC. Norton went on to produce a gaggle of related utilities for the PC and write a series of essential technical manuals before selling his company to Symantec in 1990. Symantec still uses his name on its utility apps.

40. Phil Zimmermann

Courtesy of Wikimedia CommonsPhil Zimmermann fought the law so you don't have to. His Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) application, the first mainstream encryption software, published in 1991, made Zimmermann a pariah in the eyes of the U.S. government. The feds spent three years investigating the possibility that Zimmermann had violated rules forbidding the export of cryptographic tools. The case was ultimately dropped, however, paving the way for everyday people to protect the material on their hard drives and in their e-mail with the same encryption standards that the government itself uses.

41. Jon Postel

Courtesy of Irene Fertik, USC News Service. Copyright 1994How do you move from one IP address to another? Easily, thanks to Jon Postel, the so-called Father of DNS--the system that translates 70.42.185.10 into http://www.pcworld.com/. Postel also did substantial work on the TCP/IP and SMTP protocols, authoring some 200 Internet spec documents overall. But Postel didn't just envision the DNS system; he ran it himself for years as founding head of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (a position that led him into a memorable conflict with President Bill Clinton's science advisor when he tried to move control of DNS from Network Solutions to IANA). Postel died in 1998.

42. Alan Emtage with Bill Heelan and Mike Parker

Courtesy of Michael RhodesBefore Google--before the Web even--people had to find a way to locate files and programs hiding out on FTP servers around the world. The answer: Archie (a derivative of "archive"), a 1990 application devised by McGill University student Alan Emtage, who was assisted by Bill Heelan and Mike Parker. In its original incarnation, Archie contacted far-off FTP servers regularly and kept a local list of the files they contained, for easy indexing. That may sound like simple stuff by today's standards, but it inspired everything about the way we currently work with search, from the Web to the desktop.

Trip Hawkins (#43) to Udi Manber (#50)

43. Trip Hawkins

Courtesy of Digital ChocolateElectronic Arts is one of the few pure software companies that continues to be important 25 years after its founding--and it wouldn't have existed at all if not for gaming pioneer Trip Hawkins, a Harvard and Stanford grad and Apple alumnus who in 1982 saw the future in consoles and computer-based games. Hawkins's foray into hardware--he left EA to launch the 3DO in 1991--met with considerably less success, but his first baby continues to thrive. Just ask John Madden.

44. Arianna Huffington 

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