Glossary of Historical IT Personalities

A Dictionary Compiled by Michael Grant


Abramson, Norman (born 1932)

Author of the concept of (data) packet radio transmission and leader of the University of Hawai team that put it into execution in the ALOHANET, with his multiple access ALOHA protocol (1970). This technology was adapted to cable transmission, in 1973, by Bob Metcalfe at Xerox PARC (Xerox Palo Alto Research Center), to become known as Ethernet, the best known network connection and transmission technology.

Abu Ali Hasan Ibn Al-Haytham or “Alhazen” (965-1040)

Mathematician, astronomer and author of important works on astronomy, mathematics, physics and optics, he is usually seen as one of the authors of modern science.

Aiken, Howard (1900-1973)

Inventor, with his IBM-backed team, of the ASCC Mark I (Automatic Sequence-Controlled Calculator Mark I) at Harvard, in 1943. This was an enormous, fixed-point, electro-mechanical, programmable calculator capable of 1 multiplication a second and an addition in a third of a second, with input and output on paper tape.

Allen, Paul (born 1953)

Co-founder of the Microsoft software company with Bill Gates in 1975. He obtained the rights to QDOS (“Quick and Dirty Operating System”) for the sum of $50,000 and Microsoft offered it to IBM as the operating system for their new microcomputer, the PC. Nowadays a rich philanthropist, Allen resigned from the Microsoft board in 2000 but is still one of its strategy consultants.

Andreesen, Mark (born 1971)

One of the inventors of the first Web browser programme, Mosaic, and co-founder, with Jim Clark, of the Internet software company Netscape; he designed the Web browsers “Navigator” and “Communicator”.

Atanasoff, John Vincent (1903-1995)

Co-inventor, with Clifford Berry of the ABC (Atanasoff-Berry Computer) binary calculator, built in 1937-1942 at Iowa State University. It used a mechanical clock, but valves made up the logic circuits and the memory was an electrical charge, held in two rotating drums containing capacitors, able to store sixty fifty-bit words. It ran at 60 Hz and could carry out one addition per second. Punched cards were used for entering data. J. V. Atanasoff communicated his ideas to J. W. Mauchly, who used them in the design of the better-known ENIAC, built in 1945.

Lexical Aid

Browser : a software programme that enables Internet users to visit the Web and to go from site to site. It operates by interpreting HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), responding to a user clicking on one of the hyperlinks planted in a Webpage, and taking them to another page in the site, or to another site altogether.

Capacitor : a device consisting of at least two conductors, or semi-conductors, separated by a dielectric (an insulator) capable of storing a certain electric charge, its “capacitance”, measured in farads.

Data packet, or datagram : a small block of data circulating within a computer network and containing code for its destination address and route.

Fixed-point : a representation of numbers in which the position of the decimal point and the digits is fixed, thus limiting their manipulation.

Input : the transfer of data from outside the computer to its main memory or CPU.

Internet : the “Net”, the global network of computer networks and of individual computer users, in which all the users can communicate and use the Net’s services because they use common telecommunication protocols. The services available include: e-mail (electronic mail); the World Wide Web; IRC (Internet Relay Chat) chatrooms; FTP (File Transfer Protocol) for downloading large files and programs; Usenet newsgroups; multi-user games; peer-to-peer exchange of audio and video files, using the MP3 format; Internet telephony; real-time audio and video streaming.

Output : the transfer of data from the main memory or CPU of the computer to another device.

Protocol : agreed rules or codes for data exchange over a network.

Software : logical code, written by a programmer, that instructs a computer how to carry out a given task according to a programme of operations.

Valve : another word for vacuum tube, in electronics.

Web : contraction of the term “the World Wide Web”, or “W3”, this is the Internet service that allows its users to publish “pages” of information at a specific location on the Internet, called a “Website”. Other users, who have the right software, can visit the site and read the information published there. They can go directly to other pages held on the site, or to another site altogether, by activating, with one click of the mouse, special “dynamic” link points , called “hyperlinks”, in the page they are reading. There are now millions of sites located on servers, the big computers that deal with network traffic, all over the world and they make up the Web.

Babbage, Charles (1792-1871)

Inventor of the calculating machines, the Difference Engines No 1 (1832) and 2 (1847-9), and his Analytical Engine (1834), ancestors of today's computers. In 1906, his son, Henry Babbage, with the help of the firm of R. W. Munro, completed the “mill”, the equivalent of today's CPU, of his father's Analytical Engine, showing that it would have worked.

Bacon, Francis, Lord Verulam (1561-1626)

Philosopher and inventor of the Biliteral Code (1623) which allowed its user to encode the alphabet using 5 characters.

Bardeen, John (1908-1991)

John Bardeen shared in the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956, with W. Schockley and W. Brattain, his colleagues at Bell Laboratories, for his contribution to the invention of the transistor. He shared in a second Nobel Prize in 1972, with L. N. Cooper and J. R. Schrieffer, for their work on superconductivity.

Berners-Lee, Timothy (born 1955)

Inventor of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), in 1989, and thus inventor of the World Wide Web, when working as a computer scientist at the CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva. He wrote the first web client (browser) and server in 1990. A graduate of Oxford University, he now holds the 3Com Founders’ chair at the Laboratory for Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He directs the World Wide Web Consortium, an open forum of companies and organizations whose mission is to make the Web work as efficiently and harmoniously as possible.

Berry, Clifford E. (1918-1963)

Co-inventor while still a student, with J. V. Atanasoff of the ABC binary calculator, built in 1937-1942 at Iowa State University.

Boole, George (1815-1864)

Mathematician and author of the work “An Investigation Into the Laws of Thought, on Which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities”, published in 1854, in which he claimed that logic is subject to mathematical laws that can be represented in algebraic terms, that all operations can be carried out by one of the three logical operators : AND, OR, NOT, and, finally, that “the respective interpretations of the symbols 0 and 1 in the system of Logic are Nothing and Universe”.

Brattain, Walter Houser (1902-1987)

John Bardeen shared in the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956, with W. Schockley and J. Bardeen, his colleagues at Bell Laboratories, for his contribution to the invention of the transistor.

Bricklin, Daniel (born 1951)

Co-inventor, with Bob Franston, in 1979, of the first spreadsheet programme, Visicalc, designed for the Apple II.

Brin, Sergey (born 1973)

Co-inventor, with Larry Page, of the world’s best-known browser, Google. The son of Russian mathematician and economist Mihail Brin, who left the Soviet Union for Palo Alto in the USA in 1979, he first met Larry Page at Stanford University in 1995. The two had gone there to study for their PhD’s in computer science, having already obtained their Master’s degrees there. Although they initially clashed, they became friends and co-inventors, devising firstly the BackRub experimental browser and then the Page Ranking system, which is Google’s particularity and which, by counting the links used to get to a web page, makes it possible to rank the sites according to their popularity, since the multiplicity of links constitutes a type of “voting” for the quality of the content of a site. Google became operational for the public in 1998 and caught on with spectacular rapidity.

Bush, Vannevar (1890-1974)

Science Advisor to President Roosevelt during World War II and author of a visionary article, published in The Atlantic Monthly in 1945, entitled “As We May Think”, in which he foresaw much of what is now Information Technology, including a kind of hyperlink system, in the form of a machine he called the Memex. He also led the team at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) that designed (1925) and built (1930) an analogical calculating machine on the Babbage model, known as the Differential Analyser.

Burroughs, William S. (1857-1898)

Inventor of an office calculator of a stronger design than that of Felt and the ancestor of the office calculating industry.

Byron, Ada Augusta (Countess of Lovelace) (1815-1852)

Mathematician, only daughter of the poet Lord Byron, and the first computer programmer, since she made the punched cards for Babbage's Analytical Engine and conceived the computation of Bernoulli numbers, a programme for the calculation of specialised calculus operations.

Lexical Aid

Binary : a numerical system that uses only the digits “0” and “1” to represent all other numbers.

CPU : or Central Processing Unit, the “brain” of the computer, comprising the control unit, the arithmetic/logic unit and the input/output unit.

Hyperlink : special “dynamic” link points in a webpage, that lead the user directly to other pages held on a website, or to another site altogether, once activated by one click of the mouse.

Information technology : also known simply by its initials “IT” is the science, practice and phenomenon of computing, that used to be called “data processing”.

Punched cards : perforated cards whose pattern of holes makes up the data to be processed by a program, or may constitute the program itself, on earlier, more primitive machines, such as weaving looms.

Spreadsheet : a software programme that carries out tasks of complex mathematical calculation.

Caillau, Robert (born 1947)

Belgian collaborator with Tim Berners-Lee in the composition of “Hypertexte et le CERN”, the key-document in the development of the World Wide Web.

Čapek, the brothers Karel (1890-1938) and Josef (murdered in 1945, in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp)

Czechoslovak authors of the science fiction play “R. U. R.” (Rossum's Universal Robots - 1921) in which the word “robot” was coined (from the Czech “robotník” - drudge).

Cerf, Vinton G. (born 1943)

Pioneer of the Internet and co-inventor, with Robert Kahn, of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) (V. Cerf and R. Kahn, “A protocol for packet network interconnection”, IEEE Transactions on Communications) and president of the Internet Society.

Chappe, Claude (1763-1805)

Inventor of the Aerial Telegraph, composed of a network of towers, within sight of each other, each equipped with articulated, wooden arms, capable of transmitting a message by sight, using coded signals. The first line in the network was set up in 1794, between Paris and Lille.

Clark, James H. (born 1944)

Inventor of the “Geometry Engine” chip, at Stanford Research Institute, he later founded the Silicon Graphics company and co-founded the Internet software company Netscape, with Mark Andreesen.

Codd, Edgar F. “Ted” (born 1923)

Former IBM research scientist who developed a theory that became Relational Database technology and invented the special-purpose database language that became known as SQL (Structured Query Language), pronounced “sequel” in the early 1970s. It is the international standard database language and is used in all RDB applications.

Cray, Seymour R. (1925-1996)

Electrical engineer and designer of the first supercomputers during the 1950s, the Cray series of machines, each of which was faster than its predecessor. The Cray 2, introduced in 1985, set a record for its time, performing at 1 billion floating-point operations per second (1 GigaFLOP).

Crocker, Steve

Internet pioneer and director of the Network Working Group (NWG) that established the first communication protocols between host computers, from 1969. He edited the famous “Request For Comments” (RFC) the ARPANET pioneers' working notes. In 1977, with John Vittal, he set out the standards for e-mail communication with the “ Complete Email Specification”.

Lexical Aid

Chip : common nickname for a microcircuit, a miniaturised circuit engraved upon a small piece, or chip, of treated silicon, e.g. a microprocessor.

Database : a collection of information organised by a specialised software programme into files in such a way that they are easy to retrieve and manipulate.

E-mail : electronic mail is a system that allows computer users connected to each other through a network to send and receive messages, in the form of text, like an office memo, or other types of files, such as images or sounds. It is still the most used service of the Internet.

Host computer : a large computer in a network or distributed system that controls or provides services to the other computers connected to it.

Supercomputer : a computer is said to be a supercomputer when it is capable of more than one Gigaflop (109 floating point operations) per second. Certain personal computers are now capable of this.

Davies, Donald

Cf Watts-Davies, Donald

De Colmar, Charles-Xavier Thomas (1785-1870)

Inventor, in 1820, of the Arithmometre, a calculator based upon the same principles as the Leibnitz machine but capable of division, as well as being both portable and reliable.

De Forest, Lee (1873-1961)

Inventor of the Audion, the first triode (1907), as well as other important devices in the field of radio, for which he usually failed to obtain the patents in time!

Dijkstra, Edsger Wybe (1930-2002)

Dijkstra is famous for his shortest-path algorithm, otherwise known as the Dijkstra algorithm, for which he received the Turing award in 1972. He also designed and coded the first Algol 60 compiler and was well known as the leading abolitionist of the GOTO statement from programming, publishing the article on the subject “Go To Statement Considered Harmful” in 1968.

Drummer, G. W. A. (born 1909)

Engineer at the Royal Radar Establishment in England, who, in 1952, first proposed “electronics equipment in a solid block with no connecting wires”, now known as integrated circuits (ICs).

Lexical Aid

Triode : any electronic device equipped with three electrodes.

Eccles, William Henry (1875-1966)

Physicist, pioneer of radio technology, and inventor, with F. W. Jordan, in 1919, of the flip-flop circuit.

Engelbart, Douglas Carl (born 1925)

Engineer at SRI (Stanford Research Institute, Massachusetts, USA) and ARPANET scientist who pioneered and demonstrated, in 1968, an elaborate hypermedia-groupware system called NLS (for oNLine System). Most of the NLS now-common features were conceived of, fully integrated, and in everyday operational use by the early 1970s, and included the “windows”, or graphical user interface, and the now ubiquitous mouse. The ARC mouse actually had three buttons which could be used for typing, so the user's hand never had to leave it. He was strongly influenced by reading Vannevar Bush's article “As We May Think”, in 1945.

Estridge, Philip D.

IBM engineer and one of the architects of the company's Personal Computer.

Lexical Aid

Graphical user interface : the part of an operating system that is visible to the user on screen, providing convenient visual tools, e.g. windows, menus, pointers, icons and other symbols, with which the user can manipulate programmes and data, and thus operate the computer easily and profitably.

Groupware : a software programme that co-ordinates the work of a group of users on a network, e.g. Lotus Notes

Mouse : a small input device that, when its user slides it across the desktop, will move a cursor on the computer screen.

Falcon, Louis

Inventor, in 1728, of the first programmable loom, using punched cards.

Felt, Don E. (1862-1930)

Inventor of the Comptometre (Chicago 1886), the first keypad calculator and, in 1889, of the first office calculator with built-in printer.

Fleming, John (1849-1945)

Inventor of the first vacuum tube, to be known as the Fleming diode (1904).

Flowers, Thomas Harold “Tommy” (1905-1998)

Engineer and leader of the team, at the secret British wartime codebreaking department at Bletchley Park, that built the first Colossus (Dec 1943), an entirely electronic machine, that incorporated 2,400 vacuum tubes as logic relays. It had 5 paper tape loop readers, that each worked at 5,000 characters per second. Its principles were based upon the “bomby”, developed by the Polish team of Marian Rejewski and was used to decode Enigma, the German machine-generated, military code.

Frankston, Robert (born 1949)

Co-inventor, with Dan Bricklin, in 1979, of the first spreadsheet programme, Visicalc, designed for the Apple II.

Fukuyama, Francis (born 1952)

Philosopher known for his speculations on the ethical problems raised by information technology.

Lexical Aid

Loom : mechanical device used for weaving yarn (that is, twisted strands of fibre) into textile.

Gassée, Jean-Louis (born 1944)

One of the founders of the company Apple Computers, later CEO of the computer and software company Be and the designer of the BeOS operating system which could have been the basis of the new OS that Apple was looking for in the 1990s, had Gassée not asked too much money for it. Instead Apple chose Steve Jobs’ NeXTSTEP OS and Jobs himself.

Gates, William “Bill” (born 1955)

Co-founder, with Paul Allen, of the software company Microsoft that marketed the PC operating system MS-DOS (a re-working of QDOS) and, later, the Windows operating system.

Gernelle, François

Inventor, in 1973, of the world's first microcomputer, the Micral, when he was the leading engineer at André Truong's company, R2E.

Goldberg, Adèle

Pioneer in the development the first graphical user interface, for a computer's operating system, at Xerox PARC at the end of the nineteen seventies.

Gosling, James

Engineer at the computer and software company, Sun Microsystems, who led the “Oak” project, which resulted in the cross-platform programming language “Java”.

Lexical Aid

CEO: Chief Executive Officer, the fashionable term for the Chairman or President of a company.

Cross-platform : an adjective meaning “able to function with computers of various types, using operating systems of different origins”.

Operating system : also known simply by the initials “OS”, it is the fundamental piece of software that manages the operation of the computer and all its electronic and mechanical parts. It interprets the user’s instructions to the machine through intermediary of the specialised application programme, e.g. a spreadsheet programme, that the user has chosen to work with.


Name of the on-board computer of the spaceship in the science fiction film “2001 : A Space Odyssey”, directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Hahn, Phillip Mathieus (1730-1790)

Inventor, in 1773, of the first functional calculator, extending the principle of the Leibnitz Stepped Drum by using twelve drums. The manufacture of these machines continued into the early 19th century.

Hertz, Heinrich Rudolph (1857-1894)

Physicist and inventor of an oscilloscope that allowed him to produced electromagnetic waves and show that they were part of the same spectrum as light, thus making wireless telegraphy a possibility. The unit of frequency (one cycle per second) was named the hertz in honour of his work. He also discovered the photoelectric effect.

Hartree, Douglas (1897-1958)

When he had just been appointed Plummer Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, Hartree was sent to the USA to assist ENIAC scientists and he taught them how to take advantage of the device’s great rapidity of action through his programming methods and understanding.

Herzstark, Curt (1902-1988)

Inventor, in 1938, of the smallest, mechanical, four-function calculator to be mass-produced. Capable of calculating up to 15 positions, his patented Curta machine is still more accurate than most of today's electronic, pocket calculators and weighs only 300 grammes.

Hoelzer, Helmut (1912-1985)

A member of the Wernher Von Braun team of rocket scientists in Nazi Germany, he was the inventor of an all-electronic, dedicated, analogue computer, built as part of a simulation device of the A-4 rocket control system (Peenemünde, 1941). This rocket became the infamous V2 (V for “Vergeltungswaffe” – “Vengeance Weapon”) which Hitler used against London, Antwerp in 1944-1945, in his vain attempt to stop the Allied advance from the West. Hoelzer continued working with the Wernher Von Braun team, but this time for the Americans, when, at the end of the war, the team was spirited off to Fort Bliss, in the USA, in “Operation Paperclip” in May 1945.

Hoerni, Jean (born 1924)

Physicist at the Fairchild Semiconductor company and developer the new planar process (so called because the surface remained flat) to build the first ICs with silicon as the semiconductor.

Hoff, Marcian Edward “Ted” (born 1937)

Engineer at Intel who, in 1969, proposed a single-chip, general-purpose CPU that could be programmed to perform most desired functions. The result was the first microprocessor, the 4004, containing 2,300 transistors, capable of 60,000 operations per second and costing $200, introduced by Intel at the end of 1971.

Hollerith, Herman (1860-1929)

Inventor of the Electric Tabulating Machine, a machine for processing punched cards used in the United States for the 1890 population census.

Hopper, Grace Murray (1906-1992)

Inventor (1951) of the modern concept of the compiler in the computer operating system.

Lexical Aid

Analogue computer : a computer that represents data in analogue form, i.e. as a continuously varying signal instead of by digital increments, as most modern computers do.

Compiler : the software that converts programme code into machine code, the code that actually operates the computer’s mechanism.

Oscilloscope : an instrument for producing a visible display of variations in electrical quantities, usually by means of a cathode-ray tube.

Patented : granted, by the government, sole rights to make use of and sell an invention.

Transistors : a small semi-conductor device, usually made of silicon, consisting of a number of electrodes, and capable of modulating a current flowing between them when a certain voltage is applied to one or more specified electrodes.

Jobs, Steven Paul “ Steve” (born 1955)

Co-founder of the company Apple Computers, with Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the world’s first desktop or home computer to use a VDU (initially a TV set), a sound card and a keyboard, the Apple I and II. Jobs mostly handled the production and marketing of the Apple computer. He has had tumultuous career at Cupertino, where Apple’s HQ is to be found, having, in 1985, been pushed out of the company’s board of directors by John Sculley the CEO whom he recruited himself! Jobs then founded the NeXT computer company, which, though not a commercial success, produced a revolutionary design, a model being used by Tim Berners-Lee at the CERN laboratory, when the latter was inventing HTML and thus the World Wide Web itself. The NeXT’s system’s main value was its operating system NeXTSTEP, a reworking of the UNIX OS for a small system. This provided the basis for the new Mac OS X, which Jobs introduced when he was invited back to a moribund Apple in 1996. Also the founder of the highly successful and innovative Pixar animation company, he initially styled himself as “adviser”, then “interim CEO” of the Apple. Now, however, he is Apple’s official CEO and media-savvy representative and has led the company back to financial success, thanks to striking innovations and designs, as well as a highly stable OS with its attractive user interface.

Jordan, F. W.

Inventor, with Eccles in 1919, of the flip-flop circuit, a switch based on two triodes.

Lexical Aid

Desktop computer : another term for a microcomputer or a personal computer (PC).

VDU: means Visual Display Unit or computer monitor.

media-savvy: knowing how to manipulate and exploit the mass media.

Kahn, Philippe

CEO of the software company, Borland International, and designer of the Turbo Pascal progamming language.

Kahn, Robert

Originator, with Vinton G. Cerf, of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) (V. Cerf and R. Kahn, “A protocol for packet network interconnection” IEEE Transactions on Communications) and pioneer of the Internet. He defined what he called the “open network architecture”, the foundation of today's Internet (i.e., minimalism, autonomy, best effort service, stateless routers, and decentralized control).

Kemeny, John G. (1926-1992)

Co-inventor, with Thomas E. Kurtz, of the high-level programming language BASIC in 1963. It was designed to be an easy-to-use programming language and it was widely used for home microcomputer kits in the 1980s, and continues to live on in a variety of IT dialects. Professor Kemeny pioneered the introduction of IT into universities.

Kernighan, Brian W. (born 1942)

Co-author with Dennis Ritchie, of the first book on the high-level programming language “C” and inventor of the AWK scripting language and the AMPL modelling laguage for mathematical optimisation while working at Bell Labs.

Kharezmi (Abu Abdullah Mohammad Ibn Musa Al-Khawarizmi, died circa 840)

Mathematician, astronomer and geographer, he is the founder of algebra, and indeed the very name of the science has its origins in his most famous book “Al-Jabr wa-al-Mfuqabilah”.

Kilby, Jack St Clair (born 1923)

Electrical engineer and inventor, when working at Texas Instruments, of the integrated circuit (1958), in which all of the components, not just the transistor, were held upon one slice of silicon (germanium). He headed teams that built both the first military system and the first computer incorporating integrated circuits. He later co-invented both the hand-held calculator and the thermal printer that was used in a portable data terminal.

Kildall Gary (1942 - 1994)

Inventor of CP/M-DOS, the operating system on which QDOS was based. The “QD” in QDOS is said to have stood for “Quick and Dirty” and it was the OS exploited by Gates and Allen to put PC-DOS and MS-DOS together.

Kleinrock, Leonard

One of the fathers of the Internet and the inventor of data packet switching, whose theory was published in the paper “Information Flow in Large Communication Nets” (July, 1961). He laid out some of the key functional specifications for the ARPANET (predecessor to the Internet), and directed its installation. On 20th October1969, he directed the sending of the first electronic message over the ARPANET and he later published the first book describing its workings. At present, as founder and chairman of Nomadix Inc. and of the Technology Transfer Institute, he is one of the leading IT scientists developing nomadic computing.

Kurtz, Thomas (born 1928)

Co-inventor, with John G. Kemeny, of the high-level programming language BASIC in 1963/4. It was designed to be an easy-to-use programming language and it was widely used for home microcomputer kits in the 1980s, and continues to live on in a variety of IT dialects.

Lexical Aid

Architecture : internal structure and typical arrangement of devices connected together in a network.

CEO : initials of Chief Executive Officer, a fashionable way of saying Managing Director or President of a company.

Minimalism : an IT system having only minimal features in order to be more productive in the hands of an expert user. The converse is the feature-rich GUI which the ordinary IT user likes to use because of its greater facility, but which makes greater demands on the processor, merely for the purposes of display.

Stateless : that does not record all the routing information for a data packet, only its departure and arrival points.

Router : a network device that determines the route a data packet will take to reach its objective.

Leibnitz, Gottfried Wilhelm von (1646-1716)

Philosopher, mathematician, co-inventor of differential calculus and inventor, in 1672/4, of the Stepped Reckoner, a calculating machine, developed from Pascal's ideas, which used a cylinder called the Stepped Drum, with nine teeth in the form of ridges of increasing length running parallel to the drum's axis. As well as performing additions and subtractions, it could multiply and divide, and was capable of producing 16 digit answers. A prototype was built by a craftsman from Paris, named Olivier.

Lelan, Gérard

Leading researcher, with Hubert Zimmerman and Louis Pouzin, in the development of the “Cyclades” system, a French attempt to create an Internet-like network of computer networks, launched in 1972 and abandoned in 1978, for lack of government funding. However, the “Cyclades” team played an important role in the creation of ISO-OSI and the TCP/IP protocols, and Lelan himself worked with Vinton Cerf at his Stanford laboratory in 1973.

LEO (Lyons Electronic Office) (1951-1981)

The world’s first computer to be designed for managing a business, that of J. Lyons & Co., a famous British catering company, best-known for its chain of high street teashops. LEO was put into operation on 29th November 1951. The last of the LEO series, the LEO 326, was finally taken out of service with the Post Office in 1981. The LEO design was pioneered by John Pinkerton, its system by Derek Hemy and its programming by Leo Fantl.

*Bibliographie: “A Computer Called LEO” Georgina Ferry, édit. Fourth Estate 2003

Licklider, J.C.R. (“Lick”) (1915-1990)

Co-author, with Welden Clark, of the first paper, in 1962, on the Internet concept On-Line Man-Computer Communication (the work that inspired the Internet pioneer Larry Roberts). He was the first director of the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) of the ARPA, where he coined the nickname Intergalactic Network (contracted to Internet) for the group of scientists who worked there.

Lexical Aid

ARPA : the initials of the Advanced Projects Research Agency, a scientific research organisation, set up and funded by the Pentagon in 1957 in order to catch up with the advances in Soviet rocketry and space science represented by Sputnik and the sending of the dog Laïka and the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into orbit.

Catering company : a company that makes and sells prepared foods.

Coin : to invent a new word or saying.

Craftsman : an artisan, member of a skilled trade.

Prototype : the original model from which improved, or production versions can be made.

Stanford : the Stanford Research Institute, California, USA.

Mauchly, John W. (1907-1980)

Engineer and builder, with J. Presper Eckert, of one of the first electronic computers, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), ordered by the US Defense Department in 1946.

Maxwell, James Clerk (1831-1879)

Physicist who defined the electromagnetic field's laws (1873) and proved that light was part of the same spectrum.

Metcalfe, Bob

Inventor, in 1973 at Xerox PARC, of the Ethernet networking technology and also founder of the 3Com electronics and communications company.

Minsky, Marvin

One of the originators of artificial intelligence.

Mockapetris, Paul

Inventor of the Domain Name System (DNS), a scalable, distributed mechanism for resolving hierarchical host names into Internet addresses.

Moore, Gordon E. (born 1929)

Chairman Emeritus of Intel Corporation and its co-founder, with Robert Noyce in 1968. In the mid-1970s he rejected as useless an idea for what would have been a Personal Computer, but he is more widely known for his axiom known as “Moore's Law”, in which he predicted that the number of transistors that the industry would be able to place on a computer chip would double every year. In 1995, he updated his prediction to once every two years.

Moreland, Samuel (1625-1695)

Secretary to Oliver Cromwell and later Master of Mechanics to King Charles II, he invented a calculating machine, the Moreland Adder, in 1666.

Morse, Samuel (1791-1872)

Inventor of the electric telegraph and the code that bears his name (1832).

Müller, Johann H.

Officer in the army of the German state of Hesse and designer (1786) of a “difference engine”, a special-purpose calculator for tabulating values of a polynomial. His project failed to attract funding and was forgotten.

Lexical Aid

Artificial intelligence : computer software and hardware that imitates human reasoning to carry out tasks and solve problems.

Axiom : a saying that expresses some fundemental principle or rule.

Hierarchical host name : the address of a server that has a specific rôle assigned to it within a structured network.

Scalable : adaptable to, and able to function upon large or small systems

Update : to bring up to date

Napier, John (Baron of Merchiston) (1550-1617)

Scottish mathematician and inventor of logarithms and of the calculation system known as Napier's Bones based on rods bearing a multiplication table for a particular digit (1614).

Nelson, Ted (born 1937)

Author of the Xanadu concept (1960), an online, universal, electronic publishing system, selling copyrighted materials stored in a hypertext database, an alternative to today's World Wide Web. He also coined the word “hypertext” itself (1965).

Noyce, Robert (1927-1990)

Physicist, co-founder of Intel Corporation and inventor, while working at Fairchild Semiconductor, of the integrated circuits, at almost the same moment as J. Kilby, in 1958. The first working IC was a phase-shift oscillator that operated at about 1.3 megahertz.

Occam or Ockham, William of, (c.1285-c.1349)

Philosopher-theologian and who, in his theological reasoning, used a principle sometimes called Occam's razor : “A plurality (of reasons) should not be posited without necessity”.

Œrsted or Ørsted, Hans Christian (1777-1851)

Physicist who, in 1820, discovered the existence of magnetic fields created by electric currents.

Oikarinen, Jaarko

Originator, in 1988, of the protocol for Internet chat-rooms, IRC (Internet Relay Chat).

Oughtred (Owtred), William (1575-1660)

Inventor of the circular and rectilinear slide rules (1632).

Lexical Aid

Chat-room : an Internet service, using IRC protocol, that allows a number of users to converse together live on the same channel of communication.

Slide rule : a mechanical calculating device made of sliding pieces marked with graduations allowing the user to make logarithmic or trigonometric calculations.

Page, Larry (born 1973)

Co-inventor, with Sergey Brin, of the world’s best-known browser, Google. Larry Page was awarded his bachelor of science degree in computer engineering at Michigan State University, where his father, Dr. Carl Page, is a computer science professor. He obtained his Master’s degree at Stanford University, embarked upon his PhD studies there and it was at Stanford that he first met Sergey Brin. Although they held differing opinions on nearly everything, they became friends and co-inventors, devising firstly the BackRub experimental browser and then the Page Ranking system which is Google’s particularity. The principle of the ranking system is that, by counting the links used to get to a web page, it is possible to order the sites according to their popularity, since the multiplicity of links constitutes a type of “voting” for the quality of the content of a site. Google became operational for the public in 1998 and caught on with spectacular rapidity.

Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)

Mathematician, physicist, philosopher, author and inventor, aged 18 (1642), of the 5-figure calculating machine known as the Pascaline, to assist his father, who was the tax collector at Rouen. The device was extendable to 8 digits and is much better known than Schickard's machine, but was less reliable and unable to subtract.

Postel, Jon (d. 1988)

One of the founders of the Internet and the editor of the key documents for its development, exchanged in the form of communications, the Request For Comments (RFC) which established the Internet's standards and protocols. He was the inventor of the IP (Internet Protocol) addressing system, as well as of the domain name system's authority, IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority).

Pouzin, Louis

Leading researcher, with Hubert Zimmerman and Gérard Lelan, in the development of the “Cyclades” system, a French attempt to create an Internet-like network of computer networks, launched in 1972 and abandoned in 1978, for lack of government funding. However, the “Cyclades” team played an important role in the creation of ISO-OSI and other protocols, particularly Pouzin and Lelan in the development of TCP/IP protocols

Presper Eckert, John Jr (1919-1995)

Engineer and builder, with John W. Mauchly, of one of the first electronic computers, the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Calculator), ordered by the US Defense Department in 1946 (built at the Moore School of Electrical Engineering of the University of Pennsylvania).

Lexical Aid

To catch on: to become popular and well-known.

Quetelet, Lambert Adolphe (Jacques) (1796-1874)

Belgian mathematician, astronomer, and statistician who laid the foundation for modern-day statistics and social physics with his paper “Sur l'homme et le développement de ses facultés, essai d'une physique sociale” (1835). He discovered the Normal Distribution theory and developed methods for the computation of probabilities, which he applied to population statistics.

Raskin, Jef (born 19? - )

Inventor of the first truly user-friendly, graphical user interface and of the whole Macintosh project, of which he was the team leader, at Apple Computers, Inc. Since he worked at Apple - he was their 31st employee - he had to continue the fruity theme and so named the machine after his favorite American apple, the McIntosh.

Rejewski, Marian (1906-1980)

Polish mathematician and cryptographer, recruited in 1930 by the Polish military code bureau, where he designed, assisted by mathematicians Jerzy Rózycki et Henryk Zygalski, the “bomby”, some of the very first digital electro-mechanical computing machines whose purpose was to decode German military code produced by latter's “Enigma” machine.

Rheingold, Howard

Author of numerous works on virtual communities and one of the founder members of “The Well”.

Ritchie, Dennis

Author, in 1969, of the second version, written in the “C” language, of the Unix operating system, originally created by Kenneth Thompson.

Roberts, H. Edward (born 1943)

Inventor of the “Altair” home computer kit in 1974, one of the first computing devices commercially available for amateurs. His MITS company employed Gates and Allen to devise software for the Altair, using BASIC, work they then used to found Microsoft.

Roberts, Lawrence

As scientific director of the ARPA (the Advanced Projects Research Agency), in 1966, he launched the construction of the ARPANET and directed its development, inspired by the vision of J.C.R. Licklider. In 1972, he designed the first e-mail management programmes, RD.

Rózycki, Jerzy (d. 1942)

Polish mathematician and collaborator with Marian Rejewski and Henryk Zygalski in the design and operation of the “bomby”, the first digital, electro-mechanical computing machines.

Lexical Aid

Virtual communities : associations of like-minded people who meet and converse with each other on the Internet

Shannon, Claude Elwood (born 1916)

Student of Vannevar Bush at MIT and author of a thesis, in 1937, in which he proposed the organisation of circuits in a computing machine be based upon Boolean principles. In 1948, he wrote “A Mathematical Theory of Communication”, seen as the basis of modern information theory.

Scheutz, father and son (19th cent.)

Produced a difference engine in 1843, based on the Babbage design, and, with funding from the Swedish government, went on to construct the Tabulating Engine, in 1853, operating on 15-digit numbers and producing printed output, as the Babbage machine was to have done.

Schickard, Wilhelm (1592-1635)

Inventor from Tübingen, Württemberg, and friend of Kepler. He invented the “Calculating Clock”, based upon the Napier's Bones approach, a 6-figure machine capable of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, indicating an excess sum with a bell chime. The machine was destroyed by fire but plans for an improved version, lost during the Thirty Years War but found in the twentieth century, made it possible for IBM Germany to rebuild it in 1960. It worked.

Schockley, William B. (1910-1989)

Physicist and inventor who shared in the award of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1956, with W. H. Brattain and J. Bardeen, his colleagues at Bell Telephone Laboratories, for his contribution to the invention of the transistor.

Schreyer, Helmut (1912-1985)

Electronic engineer, friend of Konrad Zuse and inventor (1938) of logic circuits using vacuum tubes and neon lamps. He persuaded Zuse to replace the mechanical relays in the latter's Z1 computer with electronic ones. The resulting machines, the Z2 prototype, and the Z3 (1942) are often considered as the world’s first digital, electronic computers. In 1940 he invented a 10-bit adder and designed a memory unit.

Stibitz, George (1904-1954)

Inventor of the one-bit binary adder, in 1937, using relays, that he called the K-Model, since he built it on his kitchen table! With Samuel Williams, at Bell Laboratories in 1939, he built the Complex Number Calculator, later known as the Model I Relay Calculator. The machine used telephone switching parts for its 450 relays and could be operated from remote, teletype keyboards.

Lexical Aid

Funding : supply of money.

Relays : electrical devices which control the switching on and off of other devices.

Remote : at a distance.

Tesla, Nikola (1856-1943)

Inventor of electric logic circuits (before relays, vacuum tubes or transistors), wireless radio (concurrently with Marconi), as well as the Polyphase AC motor (1882), the Induction motor (probably 1886/7), the Tesla Coil (1891), hydro-electric generators (1896), X-ray photography (before Röntgen), induction lighting, loudspeakers, and remote control (1898)! He discovered Alternating Current (1882), and terrestrial stationary waves (1899-1900). He also planned and began construction of (1900) the “Wardenclyffe” - a global, wireless broadcasting tower, supposed to be capable of uniting the world's telecommunications systems into a single medium, and of transmitting text and images over it, as well as connecting special terminals to it for electronic messaging! But funding for what could have been the first Global Network was withdrawn.

Tofler, Alvin

Futurologist who coined the term “The Third Wave” to designate the Information Society, the two preceding waves being that of the transition from the hunter-gatherer society to the agicultural one, and the transition from that to industrial society.

Tomlinson, Ray

Creator, in 1972, of the first e-mail programmes, SNGMSG and READMAIL.

Torvald, Linus

Creator of “Linux”, the version of the Unix operating system that is scalable, i.e. able to be used on a personal computer or to run an entire computer network. This free operating system has greatly re-inforced the Free Software movement and its popularity may lead to new, non-commercial relationships between software writers and computer users.

Turing, Alan Mathison (1912-1954)

Mathematician at Cambridge University, UK, where, in 1937, he published a paper in which he laid the groundwork for a digital computer system, today known as “the Turing machine”, capable of mathematical problem-solving by logical operations.

Lexical Aid

Futurologist : one who writes about the future.

Groundwork : foundation.

Ulam, Stanislaw (1909-1984)

Inventor of the “Monte-Carlo method” now widely used in computing, it solves mathematical problems by statistical sampling with random numbers. He also discovered the method of causing the atomic fusion process, i.e. the explosion of the hydrogen bomb.

Lexical Aid

Sampling : a random set of persons or items selected from a whole population for purposes of analysis and testing of hypotheses.

Van Dam, Andries “Andy”

Engineer, Director from 1996-1998, in the NSF Science and Technology Center for Graphics and Visualization and leader of the team that built the Hypertext Editing System, in 1967.

Von Neumann, John (1903-1957)

Author of the EDVAC (Electronic Discrete Variable Automatic Computer) concept, a stored progamme computer design, which he described in his paper of 1945 (origin of the term “Von Neumann computer”) and many other papers on algebra and quantum mathematics. He devised the mathematical model for the nuclear chain reaction of the first “A” bomb. A member of the ENIAC team, he was the only one to be familiar with the Turing Machine of 1937.

Watts-Davies, Donald

Creator, with Roger Scantlebury, during the nineteen sixties, of the technology of data packet switching at the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom.

Welchman, Gordon

Co-designer, with Alan Turing, of “the Bombe” (at the secret government communicationns centre, Bletchley Park, 1939-1940), later known as the Turing Bombe, a machine capable of breaking of the newest German military ciphers generated by the latters' “Enigma” device. It was an improved version of the Polish “bomby”, developed by Marian Rejewski's team, and its added logic circuits greatly reduced the number of false solutions.

Wozniak, Steve (born 1950)

Co-founder of the company Apple Computers and the inventor of the world’s first commercially successful desktop or home computer to use a VDU (initially a TV set), a sound card and a keyboard, the Apple I and II. He had been designing home computer kits to rival the Altair kit while he was still at school and also designed the first commercially-available terminal to access the ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor in 1974. In 1976 he began designing calculator chips for Hewlett-Packard, but gave up the job to launch Apple in 1979. The other co-founder, Steve Jobs mainly handled the production and marketing of the computer. In 1985, Steve Wozniak was awarded the National Medal of Technology by the President of USA, the highest honour given for technical innovation in that country. He teaches IT skills to children part-time in the Los Gatos high school, invests much time and energy in IT learning projects for children and students and, in 1990 founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that tries to protect civil liberties in an increasingly networked world.

Zimmerman, Hubert

Leading researcher, with Louis Pouzin and Gérard Lelan, in the development of the “Cyclades” system, a French attempt to create an Internet-like network of computer networks, launched in 1972 and abandoned in 1978, for lack of government funding. However, the “Cyclades” team played an important role in the creation of ISO-OSI and the TCP/IP protocols

Zimmerman, Phillip

Inventor of the freely available encryption system, PGP (“Pretty Good Privacy”), with its 128-bit key.

Zuse, Konrad (1910-1995)

Inventor of the Versuchmodell 1 or Z1 computer, which he built to his own “storage plan” programme designs, with no external funding, in his parents’ living-room in Berlin, in 1936/8. It was one of the first binary, programmable computing machines, all-mechanical, using sliding metallic plates. With the persuasion of his friend, the electronics engineer, Helmut Schreyer, th original mechanical relays were replaced with electrical or electronic ones in the later Z2, Z3 (1941), which are often considered as the world’s first digital, electronic computers. The most perfected Z4 (at the time it was called the V4) design (1945) was smuggled out of Bavaria into Switzerland at the end of the war and was used in Zürich up to the early fifties. Zuse also invented the first analogue-to-digital process control system, the S1, in 1942, used in the calculation of wing profiles of the V1 flying bomb, and, after the war, an algorithmic language he called Plankalkül (calculus of programmes). He re-founded his computer company Zuse KG after the war and produced a series of ever more sophisticated, general-purpose computers that were used in industry (e.g. Leitz Wetzlar GmbH, manufacturers of the Leica camera) in post-war Central Europe.

Zygalski, Henryk (d. 1978)

Polish mathematician and collaborator with Marian Rejewski and Jerzy Rózycki in the design and operation of the “bomby”, the first digital, electro-mechanical computing machines, that used perforated sheets called “Zygalski sheets” by the British during the Second World War in their “Colossus” ENIGMA decoding machine.

Lexical Aid

Encryption system : a system for putting messages into secret code that only the addressee can decode, thanks to the system’s key.

Smuggled out of : Taken out in secret (like contraband would be).

October 26th, 2005

© Michael Grant

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