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Multi-Touch: Article

The i-Technology Right Stuff

Searching for the Twenty Top Software People in the World

Related Links:

  • Wanted: 19 More of the Top Software People in the World
  • Sung and Unsung i-Technology Heroes
  • Who's Missing from SYS-CON's i-Technology Top Twenty?"
  • Our search for the Twenty Top Software People in the World is nearing completion. In the SYS-CON tradition of empowering readers, we are leaving the final "cut" to you, so here are the top 40 nominations in alphabetical order.

    Our aim this time round is to whittle this 40 down to our final twenty, not (yet) to arrange those twenty in any order of preference. All you need to do to vote is to go to the Further Details page of any nominee you'd like to see end up in the top half of the poll when we close voting on Christmas Eve, December 24, and cast your vote or votes. To access the Further Details of each nominee just click on their name. Happy voting!

     

    In alphabetical order the nominees are:

     

  • 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: Coauthor of SOAP
  • Stewart Brand: Cofounder in 1984 of the WELL bulletin board
  • Tim Bray: One of the prime movers of XML, now with Sun
  • Dan Bricklin: Cocreator of VisiCalc, the first PC spreadsheet
  • Larry Brilliant: Cofounder in 1984 of the WELL bulletin board
  • Sergey Brin: Son-of-college-math-professor turned cofounder of Google, Inc.
  • Dave Cutler: The brains behind VMS; hired away by Microsoft for Windows NT
  • Don Ferguson: Inventor of the J2EE application server at IBM
  • Roy T. Fielding: Primary architect of HTTP 1.1 and a founder of the Apache Web server
  • Bob Frankston: Cocreator 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: Now with Novell, cofounder of Ximian
  • Martin Fowler: Famous for work on refactoring, XP, and UML
  • Bill Joy: Cofounder 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: Coinventor 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

    Do vote, and we'll bring you the full results - including a selection of such additional comments on the nominations as you may care to leave via our feedback system - in the January 2005 issue of JDJ.

    Related Links:
  • Wanted: 19 More of the Top Software People in the World
  • Sung and Unsung i-Technology Heroes
  • Who's Missing from SYS-CON's i-Technology Top Twenty?"
  • 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.

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    Most Recent Comments
    Rev Aaron 12/11/04 05:26:55 PM EST

    No Alan Kay?! Half of the folks here wouldn't achieved what they had if it weren't for the work that Alan Kay and his partners at Xerox PARC had done. It has nothing to do with how much you like Smalltalk- it's still the base for so much of modern programming. You may not like to use a GUI, but the work they did- the invention of the GUI- has been incredibly important. Helluvan oversight.

    Industry Perspective 12/11/04 05:26:05 PM EST

    If the list is from an Industry perspective (it seems to be a mixed biased perspective) it should include:

    OS/390 creators, particularily Fred Brooks for changing the way we think about software development

    Bill Gates for revolutionizing the industry and achieving world dominance while beating giant IBM into submission, he also had a bit to do with webapps

    Alan Kay and team for having all the good ideas

    Steve Jobs for bringing good ideas into the software realm (mouse, GUIs)

    The VisiCalc dude for the first killer app

    John Carmack for the first killer app video game (killer in more than one sense) and changed, revived the video game landscape

    The inventor of Pong

    The inventor of the RDBMS

    Mark Andressen for Netscape (which changed the software world as we know it)

    Linus Torvalds for Linux

    Richard Stallman for GNU and its influence on the way software is built today

    The creators of EJB for creating a standardized appserver companies could go for

    Of course my list is industry oriented, not development oriented. For a development oriented approach I'd include:

    Fred Brooks for contributions to Software Engineering

    Alan Kay for OO

    Pascal creator for popularizing structured programming

    C creator for popularizing high level languages

    Lisp creator for functional programming

    Booch for UML and stuff

    XP people for XP

    RDBMS creator for the most successful storage mechanism to date

    Martin Fowler for refactoring book

    Gang of Four for Design Patterns

    James Gosling for finally bringing OO to the masses (no such credit for C++ creator)

    Steve Jobs for GUI programming for industry ...

    isj 12/11/04 05:09:31 PM EST

    It seems that the list favors practitioners and not those who researched the theories. I am missing Codd, Dijkstra and deMarco.

    dpilot 12/11/04 04:54:16 PM EST

    Randy Waterhouse invented one of the early computers, complete with accoustic delay lines.

    Snort 12/11/04 04:09:34 PM EST

    How about Martin Roesch whose software became the industry standard for network-intrusion detection? He wrote an open-source program in 1998 called Snort designed to examine data traffic coursing over a network and sound an alarm if hackers are trying to break in. Snort quickly became popular among computer-security geeks and in 2001 he turned it into a commercial venture, Sourcefire, which is now worth $100 million.

    Duhavid 12/11/04 03:15:24 PM EST

    Lee Brody wrote:
    All you assholes are basically working in the computer industry because of him and a few other pioneers that saw the writing on the wall back in the late 70's.

    What tripe! There was a computer industry *before* Bill Gates. If he hadnt come along things would be *better*, not worse. He is the biggest stifler of innovation around, bar none. Try this on, think of a great software idea, a modestly big one. Now imagine you need to go get funding. First question? How are you going to keep Microsoft from taking the market from you with a simple marketing campaign stating they are going to produce what you are? And how many companies have gone out of business because of Microsoft?

    Isn't is amazing how success breeds contempt! Talk about the continuing 'dumbing down' of America!

    No, success is not the issue here. Ethics, specifically the lack thereof are. The thing that is dumb is that he gets public support for breaking the law. In my book, as a businessman, Bill Gates belongs in bottom 20 list. As a programmer, I dont know, I dont agree with the poster that thought he was "brilliant", all machines of that day where constrained, he was probably average for that time.

    ron 12/11/04 03:03:20 PM EST

    The nice thing about the article is that it's not just a list of 40 software greats, it has a biography for each one.

    One other note, if SYS-CON is going to (rightly) include Bill Joy, Tim O'Reilly, and Ann Winblad, then you've got to include Steve Jobs and/or Steve Wozniak.

    Wendy 12/11/04 02:45:13 PM EST

    Larry Wall, inventor of Perl. Large parts of internet work because Perl takes care of them. If Guido van Rossem, creator of Python, is on your list, than Larry Wall should be on it as well! Darn! I'm not voting untill Larry Wall is on that list.

    Yes Gosling 12/11/04 02:32:37 PM EST

    Honestly, what the hell did Torvalds even do? Took minux, rewrote it from scratch, and started passing off the result as the next great silver bullet

    I sound like a moron don't I?

    C-sharpshooter 12/11/04 02:29:00 PM EST

    >>> Honestly, what the hell did Gosling even do?

    Well for one thing he isn;t just the Father of Java, he's also the Father of C# - and that guy Anders from Microsoft is just the kidnapper of the child!

    Gosling??!! 12/11/04 02:26:59 PM EST

    Kay definitely deserves mention if Gosling does. Honestly, what the hell did Gosling even do? Took C++, removed a bunch of shit from it, added garbage collection, and started passing off the result as the next great silver bullet.

    Update2 12/11/04 02:13:17 PM EST

    here's a further update on the current top 10 rankings:

    1 217 Torvalds
    2 174 Turing
    3 159 Stallman
    4 157 Ritchie
    5 139 Berners-Lee
    6 114 Thompson
    7 89 Stroustrup
    8 75 Joy
    9 77 Van Rossum
    10 72 Kernighan

    gaming software developers 12/11/04 02:07:13 PM EST

    Who'd be on your equivalent list for games? I'd definitely have Peter Molyneux, John Carmack, Chris Crawford and Mike Burnham...

    ratboot 12/11/04 02:04:24 PM EST

    Where are the GUI people? Without them, forget Windows, Mac OS X, KDE, Gnome, etc.

    - Douglas Engelbart, for the mouse and many other widgets
    - Alan Kay, for Smalltalk (one of the 1st OOP) and the modern GUI (icons, etc.)
    - Steve Jobs, for System 1.0 (Mac OS 1), NextStep and Mac OS X
    - Bill Gates, for BASIC and Windows

    where's DJB? 12/11/04 02:01:05 PM EST

    Where's D. J. Bernstein (DJB), who wrote Qmail by as a replacement for Sendmail?

    mark 12/11/04 01:47:04 PM EST

    The people in my top twenty don't make a name for themselves by popularizing derivative works. They synthesize, innovate, are involved in many aspects of their "product" and followup on their work

    Larry Wall: Perl, design of computer programming languages using principles of linguists, ...

    Stephen Wolfram: Mathematica, ...

    these pioneers don't continue to improve some of their "products":

    Don Knuth: TeX, literate programming, METAFONT, TOACP, ...

    Ted Nelson: Xanadu (precursor to WWW), ...

    I'm waiting on the semantic wob to see if Berners-Lee
    makes the list.

    Mr. Reality 12/11/04 01:37:26 PM EST

    How did "Nathan Myrhvold" get on this list?

    Kristopher 12/11/04 01:36:54 PM EST

    I believe DJB should be added to the list. In 20 years he has revamped the way a lot of us look at computer security. Plus he wrote some useful stuff like qmail, tinydns, etc.

    Matt 12/11/04 12:54:00 PM EST

    I also consider Don Knuth to be a glaring omission. Claims that he didn't actually build any major systems are ludicrous -- TeX by itself played an extremely important role in the development of machine-independent markup, publishing, open source, yada yada yada.

    Perl Hacker 12/11/04 12:41:01 PM EST

    Gurusamy Sarathy, Perl 5 pumpkin and the force behind bringing Perl to Windows belongs on this list!

    electro 12/11/04 12:23:14 PM EST

    Actually Knuth really is the father of wordprocessing, as most if not all took algorithyms out of Tex to use in their own wordprocessing programs.

    Not to mention he is also the father of codifying algorythm research.

    sangudu 12/11/04 12:22:10 PM EST

    I agree. Knuth is the worlds best programmer ever and creator
    of TeX and metafont systems in which most of
    academic publications are done.
    His works have taugth todays software engineers
    algorithms data structures and algorithm analysis.
    Bad that he missed out.

    Sellam Ismail 12/11/04 12:21:34 PM EST

    If you are a moron like me and put your real e-mail address in the editing form and are now getting inundated with pointless alerts whenever a new message gets posted, you'll notice that the "removal" URLs are completely bogus. Here's the actual URL you should use:

    http://www.linuxworld.com/features/remove.htm?re=sellam%40vintage%2Eorg

    But of course you should replace the part after "re=" with your own e-mail address.

    Knuth Missing! 12/11/04 12:19:30 PM EST

    What an appalling list, heavily biased to the fashionably recent. Sergei Brin may be clever, but he hasn't contributed a tenth of what Don Knuth has, who isn't even on the list.

    There are also complete fields that have been ignored, what about the founding gods of Graphics? Scientific programming? Logic programming? AI?

    Parzival52 12/11/04 12:19:22 PM EST

    How could John Backus? He led the team that created FORTRAN and the first compiler (for FORTRAN), proving that machine-generated code could compete with hand-assembled code.

    How could you omit Donald Knuth? He wrote the Bible on algorithms.

    Lastly, no list would be complete without John McCarthy, who with his graduate students, created Lisp (LISP?), the antipode to assembly/FORTRAN/C, and a language that the others have been slowly moving towards ever since (Thank you, Paul Graham).

    As usual, our historical timeline is only about twenty years long.

    an early WebLogic customer 12/11/04 12:15:25 PM EST

    You included Don Furgueson, but left out Bob Pasker, the founder of WebLogic, who wrote and invented the first Java Application Server and actually invented J2EE.

    Update 12/11/04 12:14:05 PM EST

    here's an update on the current top 10 rankings:

    1 169 Torvalds
    2 135 Turing
    3 121 Stallman
    4 119 Ritchie
    5 115 Berners-Lee
    6 92 Thompson
    7 69 Stroustrup
    8 61 Van Rossum
    9 60 Kernighan
    10 49 Oreilly

    Ramki 12/11/04 12:13:18 PM EST

    Larry Wall deserves more than a nomination. If we talk about REAL software that works on REAL life situations, to help REAL people, that is.

    rn, patch and perl. There is not a single major software construction team in the world that has not benefited from
    atleast one of these tools.

    perl has singlehandedly been responsible for the "CGI" web
    revolution that presaged the current internet web programming models.

    Tim Bray 12/11/04 12:11:02 PM EST

    This idea is moronic and has nothing to do with me and they shouldn't be using my name in the headline. -Tim Bray

    4 More Additions 12/11/04 12:06:34 PM EST

    Peter Pagé - Developed Software AGs Natural, pioneered 4GLS (1979)

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

    Larry Constantine - Invented data flow diagrams, presented first paper on concepts of structured design in 1968

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

    Dr. Jean Ichbiah - Principal designer, Ada language (1977)

    murr 12/11/04 11:55:39 AM EST

    Another notable omission: Niklaus Wirth, designer of Pascal, Modula-2, and Oberon (to name only his most influential languages), author of "Algorithms + Data Structures = Programs".

    Here's who invented sQL 12/11/04 11:53:31 AM EST

    The basis for SQL can be traced down to Dr. Edgar Frank Codd (called
    "Ted") (1924-2003), a mathematician from Oxford (UK), and the
    inventor of relational databases, while working as an IBM researcher in
    the IBM San Jose Research Laboratory (USA).

    In June 1970 he published an article called
    'A relational model of data for large shared data banks',
    which appeared in the ACM (=Association for Computing Machinery)
    magazine, Vol. 13, No. 6, pp. 377-387

    Sellam Ismail 12/11/04 11:53:10 AM EST

    HOW DO YOU GET REMOVED FROM THIS FUCKING RETARDED FEEDBACK FORUM? I get an e-mail alert everytime someone posts a message, each including UTTERLY FUCKING USELESS links for removing myself from the alerts.

    After I get through educating the morons that came up with this list, I'd like to send them to remedial web development classes.

    I guess that serves me right for putting my real fucking e-mail address.

    success!=XML 12/11/04 11:52:08 AM EST

    >> I'd currently put both Tim Bray and Guido van Rossum
    <>>>(and perhaps Linus Torvalds) on your second list,
    <>>> but I'd seriously expect them to move to the first <>>>over the next 5-10 years.

    I doubt it (Bray that is). XML has done the industry more harm than good. What we need is a list of software "ogres" - Bray, Gates, Wall etc. And whoever invented SQL.

    julesh 12/11/04 11:50:48 AM EST

    Agreed. Although over time people with currently-hyped projects may pass over onto the first list, rather than drop off the second list. E.g., I'd currently put both Tim Bray and Guido van Rossum (and perhaps Linus Torvalds) on your second list, but I'd seriously expect them to move to the first over the next 5-10 years.

    finnw 12/11/04 11:49:27 AM EST

    Maybe the list should be split into two parts.

    1. Early pioneers (Turing etc), and possibly designers of the languages (C etc) that have stood the test of time.

    This list will probably be roughly the same this time next year.

    2. Inventors of recent, fashionable languages & technologies (better not mention them by name though)

    This list will probably look very different this time next year.

    Miguel? 12/11/04 11:44:53 AM EST

    >>attempted to bring the worst features of windows<>
    >>to linux

    That is not at all fair to de Icaza. Sure, .NET is crap, but until there's an equivalent available on Linux, there will be a lot of resistence to replacing MS windoze in many applications. It's just like WINE, or any other emulator or compatibility library.

    Bah 12/11/04 11:43:20 AM EST

    The list is mostly of "computer pop artists". Where's McCarthy? (discoverer of lisp, the single most influential language in computing). Where's Pierce and Cardelli? Where's Church? How can you have Turing but not Church? That's stupid. It's not called the Church-Turing thesis for nothing, you know.

    WTF is a shyster like de Icaza (attempted to bring the worst features of windows to linux) doing on a list with Mitch Kapor (discovered the spreadsheet)?

    BillJ 12/11/04 11:34:35 AM EST

    >Unbelievable that the inventor of Flash is included but
    >>none, that I can see, from the CSRG at Berkeley that
    >>designed and implemented TCP/IP, BSD etc. This list is
    >>just an expression of personal preferences rather than
    >>merits.

    Bill Joy is on the list; he counts, doesn't he?

    Jim S 12/11/04 11:32:51 AM EST

    This list will lack all credibility if the name of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper is absent. Never mind COBOL! She invented the compiler!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

    ChTh 12/11/04 11:30:25 AM EST

    Unbelievable that the inventor of Flash is included but none, that I can see, from the CSRG at Berkeley that designed and implemented TCP/IP, BSD etc. This list is just an expression of personal preferences rather than merits.

    jon crowcroft 12/11/04 11:29:13 AM EST

    whoever creates a perfect anti-spam technology

    GnuVince 12/11/04 11:25:57 AM EST

    Where is Alan Kay? Inventor of Smalltalk, the reference in terms of object-oriented languages, the inventor of overlapping windows, he worked on so many projects, visionner of the laptop computer, it's not even funny: ARPA, Ethernet, the laser printer, client/server networks, etc.

    I think Mr. Kay should positively be on that list. Where would all the Java, C# and C++ people be without Smalltalk?

    Sellam Ismail 12/11/04 11:25:54 AM EST

    This is complete nerd masturbation. The entire list is indicative of a total lack of knowledge of the history of software. It represents mainly contemporaneous candidates (i.e. within the last 15 years) some of which don't even fit the bill as "software people". Out of the 40 candidates proposed, I see only about 7 that are a solid "yes", about 10 that are a "maybe" and the rest a definite "no".

    I'd like to talk to whomever came up with this list and give them a long history lesson.

    cait56 12/11/04 11:21:41 AM EST

    The list is horribly tilted towards PC applications.
    It does not deal with the important roles of networking, embedded computing or methodology except in token ways.
    For example, including Booch as the sole methodologist is absurd. What about Dijkstra? Wirth? Yourdon? Mellor?

    The relational database and thrid normalized form also seem to be totally overlooked, even though they made the entire IT industry possible. How about Date?

    Then there's networking itself. Where's Jon Postel?

    It also favors originators over evolvers. K&R created a cute little macro-assembler for PDP-11s called "C". But Plauger had amore to do with its evoluation into ANSI C, the truly usable portable language with well documented and defined standard libraries.

    The way you really form a list like this is you gather a much larger list of top software developers, and fight out who influenced *them*.

    tkittle 12/11/04 11:17:08 AM EST

    For your convenience here is a sorted list of people according to the votes they have gotten so far:

      1 151 Torvalds
      2 120 Turing
      3 105 Stallman
      4 101 Ritchie
      5 101 Berners-Lee
      6 78 Thompson
      7 60 Stroustrup
      8 52 Kernighan
      9 47 Rossum
    10 45 Oreilly
    11 42 Joy
    12 41 Hejlsberg
    13 39 Gay
    14 33 Fielding
    15 30 Tanenbaum
    16 30 Gosling
    17 29 Booch
    18 28 Pike
    19 27 Brin
    20 25 Cutler
    21 23 Bricklin
    22 19 Knopper
    23 19 Fowler
    24 18 Icaza
    25 17 Bosworth
    26 15 McClannahan
    27 15 Frankston
    28 14 Kapor
    29 14 Bloch
    30 12 Ferguson
    31 12 Bray
    32 8 Brand
    33 6 Box
    34 5 Patrick
    35 5 Kertzman
    36 5 Hillis
    37 4 Winblad
    38 4 Myhrvold
    39 3 Paoli
    40 2 Brilliant

    oliverthered 12/11/04 11:03:25 AM EST

    Adam Bosworth!!!!!!

    >>Famous for Quattro Pro, Microsoft Access, and IE4;
    >>then BEA, now Google

    So that's who I have to blame. I hope google's a bit more solid.

    grant 12/11/04 11:00:06 AM EST

    Seriously, how can you elide Knuth?
    He directly advised the advisors of
    several names on this list and indirectly
    thousands more through "The Art of.." series.

    troll? 12/11/04 10:59:04 AM EST

    it's worth including [Dijkstra] not just for his contributions to the development of compilers but also for his wonderful contrarian comments, like this one about OO: "Object-oriented programming is an exceptionally bad idea which could only have originated in California."

    I'd be careful if I were you, California is just waking up and reading this!!!

    An00n 12/11/04 10:55:26 AM EST

    The "inventor" of C# ?!?!?!? WTF?A knock-off clone designed to kill a competitor just to ensure vendor lock-in?

    Talk about low standards. Why not go straight to the top of Microsoft and just put Bill Gates on the list? Gates's business model of "make crappy software ubiquitous and charge lots of money for it" sure has had more of an effect on the world of software than some toady he selected to help him kill Java.