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Windows IT Pro Hall of Fame

From the garage to Wall Street

Hall of Fame Inductees
Paul Allen Grace Hopper
Marc Andreessen Steve Jobs
Bill Atkinson Robert Kahn
John Backus John Kemeny
Tim Berners-Lee Thomas Kurtz
Rod Canion Robert Metcalfe
James Clark Gordon Moore
Vinton Cerf Bill Murto
Edgar Codd Robert Noyce
Alan Cooper David Packard
David Cutler Dennis Ritchie
Michael Dell Ed Roberts
Doug Engelbart Al Shugart
Bill Gates Ken Thompson
Andrew Grove Ray Tomlinson
Jim Harris Linus Torvalds
William Hewlett Steve Wozniak

See associated timeline

In garages, dorm rooms, and university laboratories, technology pioneers tinkered and dreamed. Although their ideas and inventions might have been modest at first, their imaginations knew no bounds, and their innovations dramatically changed the world.

The first-ever Windows IT Pro Hall of Fame honors those innovators. The list of people who have contributed to the development of the IT industry is a long one, and selecting the inductees for the 2004 Hall of Fame wasn't an easy task. We picked 34 people whose contributions have significantly shaped the IT industry that you, the IT pro, are part of today. Several of our inductees are National Medal of Technology recipients. (To find out who received the medal, see the Web sidebar, "National Medal of Technology Laureates,", InstantDoc ID 44449.) Our list is broken down into four categories of innovations: programming languages, hardware, software, and networking and communications.

Programming Language Innovators
John Backus
John Backus' father wanted him to be a chemist, and although he studied chemistry for a while, Backus didn't like the lab work. After a stint in the Army, he enrolled at Columbia University to study math. In 1949, IBM hired him to work on the Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator (SSEC). In 1953, Backus proposed an idea for a programming language for IBM's newest computer, the 704, and in 1954 published a paper called "Preliminary Report, Specifications for the IBM Mathematical FORmula TRANslating Systems, FORTRAN." Considered the first high-level computer programming language, FORTRAN remains the preeminent programming language for physicists and mathematicians.

Grace Hopper
Grace Hopper was a mathematics professor at Vassar College when World War II broke out. She entered the Naval Reserve in 1943 and was assigned to the Bureau of Ordnance Computation Project at Harvard University, where she worked on the Harvard Mark I, Mark II, and Mark III computers. At Eckert-Mauchley Computer, she developed the A-0 and B-0 compilers. In 1959, she designed COBOL (from Common Business-Oriented Language), the first standardized, universal computer language which is still in widespread use. Hopper reached the rank of Rear Admiral in 1985 and became a senior consultant at Digital Equipment Company (DEC).

John G. Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz
In the early 1960s, Dartmouth College Professors John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz decided to develop a simplified programming language to help nonscience students use computers. Their language, BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instructional Code), was so simple that they thought students should be able to write a program after just three lectures. But after two lectures, their students decided that the third was unnecessary. Kemeny and Kurtz never copyrighted or patented BASIC, so it remained in the public domain. Many companies, including Microsoft, have used the language to make millions of dollars.

Alan Cooper
Alan Cooper, known as the father of Visual Basic (VB), intended to create a Windows shell construction set, not a programming language. Cooper expanded his idea, which he originally called Tripod and renamed Ruby, to let developers customize and deploy a Windows-based interface to groups of users. He sold Ruby to Microsoft, which used the shell program as the visual part of a new development language and replaced the back-end language with QuickBasic. The result was VB.

Hardware Innovators
William Hewlett and Douglas Packard
A camping and fishing trip in the Colorado mountains in 1934 launched the friendship of Stanford University graduates William Hewlett and Douglas Packard. In 1938, Packard and his wife moved into a house in Palo Alto, California; Hewlett rented the cottage behind the house. In Packard's garage, the two men, who started with $538 in working capital, built their first product—a resistance-capacitance oscillator. The following year, they founded HP, which is recognized as the symbolic founder of Silicon Valley.

Andrew Groce, Gordon Moore, and Robert Noyce
Three men, all innovators in their own rights, came together in 1968 to form Intel, the company that would become the microprocessor giant and revolutionize the industry. Robert Noyce invented the IC and founded Fairchild Semiconductor. Gordon Moore is widely known for Moore's Law, which states that the number of transistors on an IC will double every 2 years. In 1997, Andrew Grove was named TIME's Man of the Year for being the "person most responsible for the amazing growth in the power and innovative potential of microchips."

Doug Engelbart
In 1968, Doug Engelbart gave what industry legend now calls the "mother of all demos" when he demonstrated interactive computing at the Fall Joint Computer Conference. The demo was the first to feature Engelbart's invention—the computer mouse device, hypermedia, and on-screen video; he received a standing ovation. A man ahead of his time, Engelbart was known for his "far-out" ideas, which often didn't see commercial application until decades later.

Al Shugart
Known as the Disk Drive King, Al Shugart got his start designing hard disks when he joined IBM the day after he graduated from college. At IBM, he helped develop a rigid disk drive, the 305 RAMAC, the first commercial disk drive with moving read/write heads. In 1973, he started Shugart Associates, a floppy disk manufacturing company. He went on to form Seagate Technologies in 1979 and built the company into the world's largest manufacturer of disk drives.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak
Two California teenagers, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, were regular attendees at meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club, where Altair computer enthusiasts shared ideas. Inspired by the group, they built the first Apple I computer in Jobs' garage. After HP turned down the machine, Jobs and Wozniak teamed up to form Apple Computer in 1976. They sold Jobs' VW bus and Wozniak's HP calculator to raise the funds to start production on the Apple I. A later Apple computer, the Macintosh, released in 1984, launched a revolution with its innovative OS.

Ed Roberts
Many diverse events and developments throughout history played a part in building the industry as we know it today. But two events clearly sparked the desktop PC revolution and the IT industry that sprang up around it: the 1974 release of the Intel 8080 microprocessor and the 1975 launch of the first commercial microcomputer, the Altair 8800. The Altair was the brainchild of Ed Roberts, president and cofounder of an Albuquerque, New Mexico, calculator company called Micro Instrumentation Telemetry Systems (MITS). The Altair was a kit—you had to build it yourself, and it didn't have a way to connect any peripherals such as a keyboard or a monitor. But enthusiasts snapped up Altair kits by the thousands and started devising ways to use them. Within 5 years, the PC moved from a hobbyist toy to a mainstream tool.

Rod Canion, Jim Harris, and Bill Murto
In 1982, three senior managers left Texas Instruments and invested $1000 each to form their own company, Compaq. They sketched the idea for their first product, the first portable IBM-compatible PC, on a paper placemat in a Houston pie shop. When Compaq released the 28-pound computer, one engineer described the suitcase-sized portable as "a luggable that would fit under an airline seat provided no one too heavy was sitting there." Compaq shipped 53,000 portable PCs in 1983. The company acquired DEC in 1998 and merged with HP in May 2002.

Michael Dell
When Michael Dell was 15, he bought an Apple II computer and promptly took it apart. Then he put it back together again and used it to set up a bulletin board. In 1984, when Dell was 19 years old, he founded Dell Computer in his dorm room at the University of Texas. The following year the fledgling company released its first computer system, the Turbo. The company went public in 1988 with a unique concept: selling computer systems directly to customers and eliminating the middleman. Today, Dell is the largest computer company in the world. In 1992, Dell became the youngest CEO to earn a spot on the Fortune 500.

Software Innovators
Dennis M. Ritchie and Ken Thompson
Soon after Dennis Ritchie joined Bell Labs in 1967, he and Ken Thompson began work on UNIX, a general-purpose timesharing OS for the DEC PDP-7. Originally developed by programmers for programmers, UNIX's power and versatility soon made it a standard in business, academia, and industry. Ritchie also wrote the C programming language, and Thompson wrote the B language on which C is based.

Edgar Codd
In 1970, when Edgar Codd worked at IBM's San Jose Research Laboratory, he published a mathematical theory that proposed replacing hierarchical and navigational structures with simple tables containing rows and columns. Codd believed that computer users should be able to work at a "natural-language level" and not worry about where or how the data was stored. The relational database was thus born. In 2002, Forbes Magazine listed Codd's relational model of data as one of the most important innovations of the previous 85 years.

Paul Allen and Bill Gates
When Intel released the 8080 processor and MITS announced the Altair, two young men in Cambridge, Massachusetts, realized the significance of those pivotal events. Bill Gates, then a student at Harvard, and Paul Allen, who was working as a programmer at Honeywell, realized that the Altair would need software to make it usable. In 1975, they set to work on a BASIC interpreter that converted the BASIC programming language into a useable language for the Altair. At that time, no companies existed that sold only software. By 1980, Microsoft was the largest supplier of PC software in the industry. The company released its first GUI-based Windows OS in 1983.

Bill Atkinson
As a member of the original Macintosh team at Apple, Bill Atkinson designed much of the Mac UI and wrote the original QuickDraw, MacPaint, and HyperCard software. In 1990, Atkinson and Apple veteran Andy Hertzfeld founded General Magic, a handheld computer software company. Today Atkinson is a successful nature photographer and still uses HyperCard every day. He's written custom applications to manage his photography and Web site.

David N. Cutler
Now a Microsoft Senior Distinguished Engineer, David Cutler holds more than 20 patents and is considered one of the top programmers in the world. After graduating from Olivet College with an "overwhelming desire to be an engineer and build things," Cutler went to work for DuPont, where he developed and ran computer simulations and acquired a lifelong interest in OSs. At DEC, Cutler designed the VAX/VMS, RSX-11M, and VAXELN OSs. When he joined Microsoft in 1988, Cutler helped launch the Windows NT group and was eventually responsible for three iterations of the OS, including Windows 2000. These days, Cutler concentrates on 64-bit versions of Windows and on his nonwork-related pursuit—racing cars.

Linus Torvalds
He keeps such a low profile that you might not realize what an impact Linus Torvalds has had on the IT world. Inspired by the teaching system Minix, Torvalds decided to develop a version of UNIX that he could use on his home computer, which became known as Linux (Linus' Minix). Although Torvalds wrote only about two percent of the current Linux kernel, he remains the ultimate authority on the open-source development project. He's the inspiration for Linus' Law, which states that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

Networking and Communications Innovators
Robert Metcalfe
Bob Metcalfe was so fascinated with technology and gadgets that by the age of 10 he already knew he wanted to be an electrical engineer. In 1972, at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), he was asked to build a network that would connect the hundreds of PARC computers that resided in one building. And the network had to be fast enough that the networked computers could use the extremely fast laser printer that Xerox was developing at the time. The result was Ethernet. In 1979, Metcalfe formed 3Com and started working to promote PC LAN and Ethernet as standards.

Ray Tomlinson
In 1972, Ray Tomlinson developed SNDMSG, a timesharing system that let 20 or 30 users share a mailbox on a single computer and leave messages for each other. But electronic mail between computers didn't exist. Tomlinson, who was working for BBN Technologies, wrote a simple file-transfer program that carried a file from one machine and dropped it onto another machine. He "hacked together" SNDMSG and the file-transfer program to send email messages from one computer across a network to another computer. Tomlinson also came up with the idea of using the @ sign in email addresses.

Vinton G. Cerf and Robert E. Kahn
In 1973, Robert Kahn approached Vinton Cerf with a problem: finding a communications protocol that could span dissimilar networks and let host computers communicate across multiple packet networks without knowing the underlying network technology. The solution was a protocol: TCP/IP. Although they developed the protocol before PCs and workstations, before LANs, and before the Web, TCP/IP is still a fundamental Internet protocol.

Tim Berners-Lee
During a 6-month stint at CERN, Tim Berners-Lee wrote a program to help him remember connections between various people and projects. The program, Enquire, was never published. In 1984, Berners-Lee began a fellowship at CERN, and in 1989 he proposed a global hypertext project based on Enquire. The result of this work, WorldWideWeb, was first used internally at CERN in 1990 and on the Internet at large in 1991. In 1994, Berners-Lee formed the World Wide Web Consortium (WC3). His creation is so pervasive to modern culture that TIME hailed him as one of the 100 greatest minds of the 20th century.

Marc Andreessen and James Clark
When Marc Andreessen was a student at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, most of the available Web browsers ran on expensive UNIX machines. He decided to develop an easy-to-use, graphically rich browser. In 1993, he posted Mac, PC, and UNIX versions of his browser, Mosaic, to NCSA's servers, where it was a huge hit. When Andreessen graduated and moved to Palo Alto, he met James Clark, founder of Silicon Graphics. They formed Mosaic Communications (later Netscape Communications) in 1994. Just weeks after Andreessen and Clark released Netscape, it became the browser of choice for most Web users.


Marc Andreessen:
What we were trying to do was put a human face on the Internet. The Internet at that point was a tool for researchers and scientists. You had to be a UNIX hacker if you were to use it.*

Vinton Cerf:
We began doing concurrent implementations at Stanford, BBN, and University College London. So effort at developing the Internet protocols was international from the beginning.

Dave Cutler:
Little did I know that I would be fortunate enough to develop several operating systems in my lifetime; developing one is a rare opportunity for anyone.

Michael Dell:
Our industry is more like an ecosystem where you have lots of companies working together. Some create ingredients, some create systems, some have distribution and sales, some have a combination of all of the above.

Doug Engelbart:
I had thought if we show this to the world, within a matter of months the research community would say, 'Let's go after this kind of online flexible work.' What happened? Nothing. One guy thought it was a hoax and got very upset and angry.*

Bill Gates:
It was a wild time. It was a very exciting time. We started when I was 19, and so we had a lot of energy.*

Steve Jobs:
It was remarkable—especially for a 10 year old—that you could write a program in BASIC, let's say, or FORTRAN, and this machine would take your idea, execute your idea, and give you back some results. If they were the results that you predicted, your program really worked.*

Bob Metcalfe:
I wanted to be a professor at MIT. They would not have me, so they forced me to take much more money to move to Palo Alto, California, to be surrounded by some of the world's best computer scientists with no students to deal with and no teaching load and an infinite budget for capital equipment. It was horrible.*

Gordon Moore:
In a business like this, the people with the power are the ones \[who\] have the understanding of what's going on, not necessarily the ones on top.*

Ray Tomlinson:
It was just a hack. And the next step was to get other people to try using it, because so far I'd only sent mail to myself first and then to the other people in my group.*

Linus Torvalds:
(post on the comp.os.minx Usenet newsgroup): Hello everybody out there using minix. I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like GNU) for 386 (486) AT clones. This has been brewing since April and is starting to get ready. I'd like any feedback on things people like/dislike in minix, as my OS resembles it somewhat.*

Quotes from Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet by Stephen Segaller, copyright 1998, Oregon Public Broadcasting. Reused with permission.

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