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10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

Updated October 3, 2017 53.5k views10 items
These are the people I think had the biggest hand in shaping the development of what we know of as computers today.
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  • 1
    Charles Babbage is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    Charles Babbage

    Dec. at 80 (1791-1871)

    BirthplaceTeignmouth, United Kingdom

    Father of Computing. See the Difference Engine and Analytical Engine. Way ahead of everyone else.
  • 2
    Claude Shannon is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    Claude Shannon

    Dec. at 85 (1916-2001)

    BirthplacePetoskey, Michigan

    Wrote a paper in '37 that showed that electrical application of Boolean algebra could be used for computation (digital calculation). It's been called the most important master's thesis of all time. Also established the field of Information Theory in the 1948. According to Neil Sloane, Shannon's information theory is the foundation of the digital revolution, and every device containing a microprocessor is a descendant of Shannon's 1937 and 1948 publications: "Without him, none of the things we know today would exist. The whole digital revolution started with him."
  • 3
    Alan Turing is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    Alan Turing

    Dec. at 42 (1912-1954)

    BirthplaceMaida Vale, London, United Kingdom

    Father of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. 'Nuff said.
  • 4
    John von Neumann is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    John von Neumann

    Dec. at 54 (1903-1957)

    BirthplaceBudapest, Hungary

    Wrote a paper on the idea that programs should be stored in memory along with the data. Previous to this, programs were "hardwired" into the architecture of the computer. This became known as the von Neumann architecture and is the basis for virtually all modern computers.
  • 5
    William Shockley is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    William Shockley

    Dec. at 79 (1910-1989)

    BirthplaceLondon, United Kingdom

    Co-Inventor of the transistor and Nobel Prize winner. Created Shockley Semiconductor. Eight employees left to form Fairchild Semiconductor which spawned Intel, AMD, National Semiconductor, etc... Within 20 years, his company and employees formed the nucleus of what became Silicon Valley. As such, he's considered the founder of Silicon Valley.
  • 6
    Douglas Engelbart is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    Douglas Engelbart

    Dec. at 88 (1925-2013)

    BirthplacePortland, Oregon

    The Mother of All Demos in 1968. Don't know what it was? A live demonstration that featured the introduction of the computer mouse, video conferencing, teleconferencing, hypertext, word processing, hypermedia, object addressing and dynamic file linking, bootstrapping, and a collaborative real-time editor. All fairly commonplace today, but in 1968 it was mind-blowing stuff. And he was the visionary who put it all together.
  • 7
    Robert Noyce is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    Robert Noyce

    Dec. at 63 (1927-1990)

    BirthplaceBurlington, Iowa

    Co-Inventor of the integrated circuit and Nobel Prize winner. Among the employees who left Shockley Semiconductor, co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel. Oversaw the development of the microprocessor.
  • 8
    Steve Wozniak is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    BirthplaceSan Jose, California, United States of America

    The Woz invented the Apple I and Apple II personal computers. By doing so, he was vastly important to ushering in the PC revolution.
  • 9
    Grace Murray Hopper is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    Grace Murray Hopper

    Dec. at 86 (1906-1992)

    BirthplaceNew York City, New York

    Rear Admiral "Amazing Grace" Hopper was among the first programmers, created the first compiler, and popularized the term "debugging". She envisioned machine-independent programming languages, and led the creation of the first widespread programming language - COBOL. She was also instrumental in the development of the Harvard Mark I, II, and III computers, as well as the UNIVAC.
  • 10
    Vint Cerf is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list 10 Most Influential People in the History of Computers

    Vint Cerf

    Age: 77

    BirthplaceNew Haven, Connecticut

    Father of the Internet, among many, many other things.
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