API Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Derek Weeks, Pat Romanski, Rishi Bhargava

Related Topics: Agile Computing, Microservices Expo

Agile Computing: Article

Who Are The All-Time Heroes of i-Technology?

From Ada, Countess of Lovelace to Jamie Zawinski

 I wonder how many people, as I did, found themselves thrown into confusion by the death last week of Jean Ichbiah (pictured), inventor of Ada. 

Learning that the inventor of a computer programming language is already old enough to have lived 66 years (Ichbiah was 66 when he succumbed to brain cancer) is a little like learning that your 11-year-old daughter has grown up and left home or that the first car you ever bought no longer is legal because it runs on gasoline in an age where all automobiles must run on water. How can something as novel, as new, as a computing language possibly already be so old-fangled that an early practitioner like Ichbiah can already no longer be with us?

The thought was so disquieting that it took me immediately back to the last time I wrote about Ichbiah, and indeed about Ada Lovelace for whom his language was named. It was in the context of my quest a couple of years ago to identify the Top Twenty Software People in the World.

It began as an innocent enough exercise, inadvertently kick-started by Tim Bray writing in his popular "Ongoing" blog about how he rated Google's Adam Bosworth as "probably one of the top 20 software people in the world."  Already famous for Quattro Pro, Microsoft Access, and Internet Explorer 4 even before he joined BEA as VP of engineering in 2001, when BEA bought Crossgain, the company he'd by then cofounded after leaving Microsoft, Bosworth went on to become BEA's chief architect before leaving to join Google. Definitely a shoo-in for the Top Twenty then. But the question naturally arose - or at least it did in my mind - who are the other 19?

I knew that it would not be easy to answer, and not because there are too few candidates but because there are too many. The names of today's leading i-technologists - whose collective smarts Internet technologies rely on for their unceasing innovation and ingenuity - trip off most people's tongues in a heartbeat: just think of Sergey Brin, Bill Joy, Linus Torvalds, Tim Berners-Lee, James Gosling, Anders Hejlsberg, Don Box, Nathan Myhrvold, W. Daniel Hillis, Mitch Kapor... all clear members of the "technorati" or "digerati" - call them what you will - the undisputed aristocrats of the online world.

But what about those who came before, the precursors of the current crop of talent? I wrote at the time:

"Can a list of the Top 20 i-Technologists possibly be compiled that doesn't cause the online equivalent of fistfights when published? Obviously not. But that shouldn't deter us from trying."

My inbox soon began to fill up with a deluge of nominations, and within days I was able to list forty mind-bogglingly gifted candidates, as follows (click on the name for a brief description of the individual concerned):


  • Tim Berners-Lee: "Father of the World Wide Web" and expectant father of the Semantic Web
  • Joshua Bloch: Formerly at Sun, where he helped architect Java's core platform; now at Google
  • Grady Booch: One of the original developers of the Unified Modeling Language
  • Adam Bosworth: Famous for Quattro Pro, Microsoft Access, and IE4; then BEA, now Google
  • Don Box: Co-author of SOAP
  • Stewart Brand: Co-founder in 1984 of the WELL bulletin board
  • Tim Bray: One of the prime movers of XML, now with Sun
  • Dan Bricklin: Co-creator (with Bob Frankston) of VisiCalc, the first PC spreadsheet
  • Larry Brilliant: Co-founder in 1984 of the WELL bulletin board
  • Sergey Brin: Son-of-college-math-professor turned co-founder of Google
  • Dave Cutler: The brains behind VMS; hired away by Microsoft for Windows NT
  • Don Ferguson: Inventor of the J2EE application server at IBM, now with Microsoft
  • Roy T. Fielding: Primary architect of HTTP 1.1 and a founder of the Apache Web server
  • Bob Frankston: Cocreator (with Dan Bricklin) of VisiCalc, the first PC spreadsheet
  • Jon Gay: The "Father of Flash"
  • James Gosling: "Father of Java" (though not its sole parent)
  • Anders Hejlsberg: Genius behind the Turbo Pascal compiler, subsequently "Father of C#"
  • Daniel W. Hillis: VP of R&D at the Walt Disney Company; cofounder, Thinking Machines
  • Miguel de Icaza: Co-founder of Ximian, now with Novell
  • Martin Fowler: Famous for work on refactoring, XP, and UML
  • Bill Joy: Co-founder and former chief scientist of Sun; main author of Berkeley Unix
  • Mitch Kapor: Designer of Lotus 1-2-3, founder of Lotus Development Corporation
  • Brian Kernighan: One of the creators of the AWK and AMPL languages
  • Mitchell Kertzman: Former programmer, founder, and CEO of Powersoft (later Sybase)
  • Klaus Knopper: Prime mover of Knoppix, a Linux distro that runs directly from a CD
  • Craig McClanahan: Of Tomcat, Struts, and JSF fame
  • Nathan Myhrvold: Theoretical and mathematical physicist, former CTO at Microsoft
  • Tim O'Reilly: Publisher, open source advocate; believer that great technology needs great books
  • Jean Paoli: One of the co-creators of the XML 1.0 standard with the W3C; now with Microsoft
  • John Patrick: Former VP of Internet technology at IBM, now "e-tired"
  • Rob Pike: An early developer of Unix and windowing system (GUI) technology
  • Dennis Ritchie: Creator of C and coinventor of Unix
  • Richard Stallman: Free software movement's leading figure; founder of the GNU Project
  • Bjarne Stroustrup: The designer and original implementor of C++
  • Andy Tanenbaum: Professor of computer science, author of Minix
  • Ken Thompson: Co-inventor of Unix
  • Linus Torvalds: "Benevolent dictator" of the Linux kernel
  • Alan Turing: Mathematician; author of the 1950 paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence"
  • Guido van Rossum: Author of the Python programming language
  • Ann Winblad: Former programmer, cofounder of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners

It was at this point that the name of The Father of Ada was thrown into the hopper, along with that of Ada Lovelace herself. How could I possibly not have already included Jean Ichbiah, many wrote to say? Indeed the one new submission was more indignant than the next, and I soon expanded the list of candidates from forty to one hundred, by adding the following sixty:

Gene Amdahl: Implementer in the 60s of a milestone in computer technology: the concept of compatibility between systems

Marc Andreessen: Pioneer of Mosaic, the first browser to navigate the WWW; co-founder of Netscape

Charles Babbage: Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge in 1828; inventor of the 'calculating machine'

John Backus: Inventor (with IBM) of FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslator) in 1956

Kent Beck: Creator of JUnit and pioneer of eXtreme Programming (XP)

Bob Bemer: One of the developers of COBOL and the ASCII naming standard for IBM (1960s)

D J Bernstein: Author of qmail

Fred Brooks: Co-creator of OS/390, helping change the way we think about software development

Luca Cardelli: Implementer of the first compiler for ML (the most popular typed functional language) and one of the earliest direct-manipulation user-interface editors

Vincent Cerf: "The Father of the Internet," co-inventor with Robert Kahn of the first Internetworking Protocol, TCP

Brad Cox: Father of Objective-C

Alonzo Church: Co-creator with Alan Turing of the "Church-Turing Thesis"

Alistair Cockburn: Helped craft the Agile Development Manifesto

Edgar (Ted) Codd: "Father of Relational Databases," inventor of SQL and creator of RDBMS systems

Larry Constantine: Inventor of data flow diagrams; presented first paper on concepts of structured design in 1968

Ole-Johan Dahl: Developer (with Kristen Nygaard) of SIMULA, the first object-oriented programming language.

Tom DeMarco: A principal of the computer systems think tank, Atlantic Systems Guild

Theo de Raadt: Founder of the OpenBSD and OpenSSH projects

Edsger W. Dijkstra: One of the moving forces behind the acceptance of computer programming as a scientific discipline; developer of the first compilers

Brendan Eich: Inventor of JavaScript; Chief Architect of the Mozilla Project

Robert Elz: University of Melbourne Department of Computer Science

Richard P. Feynman: Legendary physicist and teacher, teacher of Caltech course 1983-86 called Potentialities and Limitations of Computing Machines

Bill Gates: Chief Software Architect (and Lord High Chief Everything Else) of "the world's #1 company" (Hoovers.com)

Adele Goldberg: Developer of SmallTalk along with Alan Kay; wrote much of the documentation

Andy Hertzfield: Eazel developer and Macintosh forefather

Grace Murray Hopper: Developer of the first compiled high level programming language, COBOL

Jordan Hubbard: One of the creators of FreeBSD; currently a manager of Apple's Darwin project

Jean D Ichbiah: Principal designer, Ada language (1977)

Ken Iverson: Inventor of APL, later J

William Kahan: "The Old Man of Floating-Point;" primary architect behind the IEEE 754 standard for loating-point computation

Robert Kahn: Co-inventor with Vincent Cerf of the first Internetworking Protocol, TCP

Mike Karels: System architect for 4.3BSD

Alan Kay: Inventor of SmallTalk

Gary Kildall: Author of the archetpical OS known as CP/M (control Program for Microcomputers)

Donald Knuth: "Father of Computer Science" - author of The Art of Computer Programming; inventor of TeX, allowing typesetting of text and mathematical formulas on a PC

Butler Lampson: Architect of Cedar/Mesa; Implementer of Xerox Alto

Robert C. Martin: Agile software development proponent; CEO, president, and founder of Object Mentor

Yukihiro Matsumoto ("Matz"): Creator of Ruby

John McCarthy: Creator, with his graduate students, of Lisp

Doug McIlroy: Head of department at Bell Labs where UNIX started

Bob Metcalfe: Creator of Ethernet

Chuck Moore: Inventor of Forth, a high-level programming language

Andrew Morton: Linus's No. 2 in the kernel group

Ted Nelson: Creator of the Xanadu project - universal, democratic hypertext library; precursor to the WWW

Kristen Nygaard: Developer (with Ole-Johan Dahl) of SIMULA, the first object-oriented programming language.

Peter Pag: Pioneer of 4GLS (1979); developed Software AG's Natural

Bob Pasker: founder of WebLogic, author of the first Java Application Server

Benjamin Pierce: Harvard University faculty member for 49 years; recognized in his time as one of America's leading mathematicians

P J Plauger: Chair of the ANSI C committee

Jon Postel: "The 'North Star' Who Defined the Internet"

John Postley: Developed Mark IV (1967), the first million dollar software product, for Informatics

Martin Richards: Designer of the BCPL Cintcode System

Martin Roesch: Author of the open-source program Snort in 1998

Gurusamy Sarathy: Heavily involved in maintaining the mainstream releases of Perl for the past 7 years

Carl Sassenrath: Author of REBOL, a scripting language

Guy L. Steele: Author of athoritative books and papers on Lisp

W. Richard Stevens: "Guru of the Unix Gurus"; author and consultant

Ivan Sutherland: Considered by many to be the creator of Computer Graphics

Avadis (Avie) Tevanian: Chief Software Technology Officer, Apple

Guy (Bud) Tribble: One of the industry's top experts in software design and object-oriented programming

Patrick Volkerding: Creator of Slackware Linux

Larry Wall: Author of Perl

John Warnock: Inventor of PostScript; CEO of Adobe Systems

Michael "Monty" Widenius: Creator of MySQL

Nicklaus Wirth: Inventor of Algol W, Pascal, Modula, Modula-2, and Oberon

Stephen Wolfram: Scientist, creator of Mathematica

Jamie Zawinski: Instrumental in the creation of Lucid Emacs (now XEmacs)

Now we all know that there are others, that this list of 100 candidates barely scratches the surface, so....have at it: who's been left out? Once I have compiled a definitive list of, say, 150, I will devise a means by which we can vote and decide once and for all which 99 should join Adam Bosworth (who, for the record, loathes the whole idea of any such exercise, as does Tim Bray - who calls such popularity contests "moronic"; both would I am quite certain wish me to record here that this entire exercise owes nothing to their actual input, only to Tim's blogged remark en passant all those years ago...)

Over to you!

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

Comments (49)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@ThingsExpo Stories
"Matrix is an ambitious open standard and implementation that's set up to break down the fragmentation problems that exist in IP messaging and VoIP communication," explained John Woolf, Technical Evangelist at Matrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Sheng Liang to Keynote at SYS-CON's 19th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1-3, 2016 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential Internet of Things Brand by Onalytica in the ‘The Internet of Things Landscape 2015: Top 100 Individuals and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed Twitter conversations around the #IoT debate to uncover the most influential brands and individuals driving the conversation. Onalytica captured data from 56,224 users. The PageRank based methodology they use to extract influencers on a particular topic (tweets mentioning #InternetofThings or #IoT in this ...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Penta Security is a leading vendor for data security solutions, including its encryption solution, D’Amo. By using FPE technology, D’Amo allows for the implementation of encryption technology to sensitive data fields without modification to schema in the database environment. With businesses having their data become increasingly more complicated in their mission-critical applications (such as ERP, CRM, HRM), continued ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Streamlyzer will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Streamlyzer is a powerful analytics for video streaming service that enables video streaming providers to monitor and analyze QoE (Quality-of-Experience) from end-user devices in real time.
The IoT has the potential to create a renaissance of manufacturing in the US and elsewhere. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Florent Solt, CTO and chief architect of Netvibes, discussed how the expected exponential increase in the amount of data that will be processed, transported, stored, and accessed means there will be a huge demand for smart technologies to deliver it. Florent Solt is the CTO and chief architect of Netvibes. Prior to joining Netvibes in 2007, he co-founded Rift Technologi...
@ThingsExpo has been named the Top 5 Most Influential M2M Brand by Onalytica in the ‘Machine to Machine: Top 100 Influencers and Brands.' Onalytica analyzed the online debate on M2M by looking at over 85,000 tweets to provide the most influential individuals and brands that drive the discussion. According to Onalytica the "analysis showed a very engaged community with a lot of interactive tweets. The M2M discussion seems to be more fragmented and driven by some of the major brands present in the...
Established in 1998, Calsoft is a leading software product engineering Services Company specializing in Storage, Networking, Virtualization and Cloud business verticals. Calsoft provides End-to-End Product Development, Quality Assurance Sustenance, Solution Engineering and Professional Services expertise to assist customers in achieving their product development and business goals. The company's deep domain knowledge of Storage, Virtualization, Networking and Cloud verticals helps in delivering ...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Arch...
SYS-CON Media announced today that @WebRTCSummit Blog, the largest WebRTC resource in the world, has been launched. @WebRTCSummit Blog offers top articles, news stories, and blog posts from the world's well-known experts and guarantees better exposure for its authors than any other publication. @WebRTCSummit Blog can be bookmarked ▸ Here @WebRTCSummit conference site can be bookmarked ▸ Here
WebRTC defines no default signaling protocol, causing fragmentation between WebRTC silos. SIP and XMPP provide possibilities, but come with considerable complexity and are not designed for use in a web environment. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Matthew Hodgson, technical co-founder of the Matrix.org, discussed how Matrix is a new non-profit Open Source Project that defines both a new HTTP-based standard for VoIP & IM signaling and provides reference implementations.
Virgil consists of an open-source encryption library, which implements Cryptographic Message Syntax (CMS) and Elliptic Curve Integrated Encryption Scheme (ECIES) (including RSA schema), a Key Management API, and a cloud-based Key Management Service (Virgil Keys). The Virgil Keys Service consists of a public key service and a private key escrow service. 

In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, will discuss the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docke...
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life sett...
In the next five to ten years, millions, if not billions of things will become smarter. This smartness goes beyond connected things in our homes like the fridge, thermostat and fancy lighting, and into heavily regulated industries including aerospace, pharmaceutical/medical devices and energy. “Smartness” will embed itself within individual products that are part of our daily lives. We will engage with smart products - learning from them, informing them, and communicating with them. Smart produc...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Coalfire will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Coalfire is the trusted leader in cybersecurity risk management and compliance services. Coalfire integrates advisory and technical assessments and recommendations to the corporate directors, executives, boards, and IT organizations for global brands and organizations in the technology, cloud, health...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MathFreeOn will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MathFreeOn is Software as a Service (SaaS) used in Engineering and Math education. Write scripts and solve math problems online. MathFreeOn provides online courses for beginners or amateurs who have difficulties in writing scripts. In accordance with various mathematical topics, there are more tha...