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Java IoT: Article

The i-Technology Right Stuff

Searching for the Twenty Top Software People in the World

 

Dan Bricklin

 

Brief Description: Cocreator of VisiCalc, the first PC spreadsheet

Further details:

The co-creator (with Bob Frankston) of VisiCalc, the first PC spreadsheet, Dan Franklin has been a developer, inventor, entrepreneur, and business person, with both a degree in Computer Science from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.

The idea for the electronic spreadsheet came to Franklin while he was a student at the Harvard Business School, working on his MBA degree, in the spring of 1978. Here's how he tells the story himself:

 

"Sitting in Aldrich Hall, room 108, I would daydream. 'Imagine if my calculator had a ball in its back, like a mouse...' (I had seen a mouse previously, I think in a demonstration at a conference by Doug Engelbart, and maybe the Alto). And '..imagine if I had a heads-up display, like in a fighter plane, where I could see the virtual image hanging in the air in front of me. I could just move my mouse/keyboard calculator around, punch in a few numbers, circle them to get a sum, do some calculations, and answer "10% will be fine!"' (10% was always the answer in those days when we couldn't do very complicated calculations...)

The summer of 1978, between first and second year of the MBA program, while riding a bike along a path on Martha's Vineyard, I decided that I wanted to pursue this idea and create a real product to sell after I graduated."

 

That's just what he did, though his vision became more realistic, and the heads-up display gave way to a normal screen. He and Bob Frankston decided to form a company under which to do business: Software Arts, Inc., incorporated on January 2, 1979.

VisiCalc was first shown to the regular personal computer press in a special room at the West Coast Computer Faire in San Francisco in May of 1979. The first "real" release, version 1.37, shipped in mid-October 1979. In 1985, though, Software Arts' assets were sold to Lotus Development Corporation, the creators and publishers of the 1-2-3 spreadsheet, and Lotus decided not to continue publishing VisiCalc.

"If I invented the spreadsheet today, of course I would file for a patent," Bricklin says on his incredibly candid Web site documenting the rise and fall of VisiCalc. In 1979, however, when VisiCalc was shown to the public for the first time, patents for software inventions were infrequently granted. Programs were thought to be mere mathematical algorithms, and mathematical algorithms, as laws of nature, were not patentable.

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.

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An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...