Computers have become a key thread in the fabric of daily lives for most families, companies, and individual throughout the world. As a tool, it can connect friends and companies across a digital bridge. Students use it for homework. Entrepreneurs build a business from the ground up. But none of this would be possible without the invention of the hardware to craft a full blown personal computer or the initiative to advance processing power. Here is a list of the five most influential people in the history of computers:
His contribution: The idea of the computer. If you ever wondered who deserved credit for thinking up the idea of an electronic box which would let humans email, build public dating profile, and surf the internet, this is the guy.
Unsatisfied with the high-degree of error from numerical tables calculated by humans, Babbage's idea was to craft a machine that would do the same job with more accurate results. Despite a few setbacks, Babbage finished his prototype, called the Analytical Engine, the first programmable computer ever, in the 1820's.
His contribution: Development of the first programmable electronic computer. And using it to defeat Nazi Germany. As a member of the Bletchley Park World War II team, he and others of his team were charged with breaking the Lorenz Cipher, a high-level German-based code sometimes used by the Führer himself. With such a heated task, the Bletchley Park World War II team built the Colossus, the first programmable, digital computer, the fastest and most flexible of its predecessor .
Stephen Wozniak/ Steve Jobs
His (Their) contribution: The founding of Apple computers. It would be nonsensical to mention Jobs without Wozniak, and vice versa, but neither would be the man they are today or have achieved their respective accomplishments if they had never met and fed off each others intellect and ideas. To list just a few of their achievements: the invention of a graphical user interface, user friendly mouse, a pre-CPU design, Apple I and II kits, the iPod and iPad.
Douglas Carl Engelbart
His contribution: The modern computer mouse. In the 1960's, Engelbart was employed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) and developed his own Augmentation Research Center employed with an agenda: create methods by which humans could interact more easily with computers. This led to a wooden shell with two wheels, in other words the first electronic computer mouse. He and his team also developed the first multiple-window GUI, precursor for Windows and Mac OS systems, and the first word processor, all developed in the 1960's.
Philip Don Estridge
His contribution: Development of the original IBM Personal Computer (PC). In the 1980's, IBM was itching to get on the same market as Commodore, Atari and Apple. Then, along came Estridge, who had a revolutionary new concept: to build his own computer from off-the-shelf parts available from OEMs. Not only did this cut IBM's overall costs, but because Estridge employed parts already made rather than crafting his own new technology, production time was also cut in half, meaning they could get a full functioning model on the market faster, and for a less competitive price.
Computers are a staple of first world countries, as common and as prevalent as televisions and cars. There is no question society would not be the same without these modern amenities, but without these masters of mathematics and technology fueled by individual drive, the computers we know and use today would not exist. Whether computers would even have been invented is a better question. Whatever the case, they did, they conquered, and computer enthusiasts everywhere should be thankful that they did.