angle-left Before Jobs: other geniuses who changed the world of technology
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Before Jobs: other geniuses who changed the world of technology

The interaction with the computers changed radically with the introduction of the mouse, an invention of Douglas Engelbart that was popularized thanks to Apple. Credit: Digital Trends.

ISABEL RUBIO | Tungsteno

Steve Jobs is undoubtedly an icon of reference among technology lovers. With an unparalleled legacy, he was the visionary behind numerous inventions such as the Macintosh computer, the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. These devices are part of the daily lives of millions of users. But before this entrepreneur appeared on the scene and overshadowed other industry experts, there were other geniuses with remarkable talent. Although they are also the architects of some of the most widely used devices today, they have not had the same media impact as the co-founder of Apple.

Douglas Engelbart (1925-2013)

Douglas Engelbart is the inventor of an indispensable device for the multiple users of the computer: the mouse. The tests carried out showed that this device made it possible to interact with computers in a simpler and more practical way than other systems that had been designed to make selections on the screen, such as the stylus and the joystick. The mouse did not become popular until the 1980s with the release of Apple's revolutionary Macintosh. The American inventor barely took advantage of the patent, which entered the public domain in 1987.

Some of his other projects also left an indelible mark on the history of computing. He was involved in the development of teleconferencing, the use of multiple windows and hyperlinks and even ARPANet, the US government's research network that would lay the groundwork for what would evolve into the Internet. His only intention with all these initiatives was, in his own words, "to increase human intellect." This goal led him to win numerous awards, including the Turing prize, the world’s most important prize dedicated to information technology.

The visionary Gordon Moore anticipated the rapid growth of the technology industry in his Moore's Law, and was the co-founder of Intel. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Gordon Earl Moore (1929)

Gordon E. Moore had an insight. He was able to extract a maxim from the world of technology: the ability of industry to progress with ever smaller devices with lower production costs and higher performance. This observation, which gave rise to what is known as Moore's Law, noted in 1965 that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years.

Microprocessors or memory chips are some of the most complex examples of these integrated circuits, developed by engineer and Nobel Prize in Physics recipient Jack S. Kilby, and by Robert Noyce, the so-called "Mayor of Silicon Valley". These circuits are essential for the functioning of virtually all of today's electronic devices, from computers and mobile phones to virtual reality technology or the Internet of Things.

Moore’s vision went even further and, in 1968, he founded together with Noyce, after leaving Fairchild Semiconductor, the company Intel, with which they began to produce mass integrated circuits, taking advantage of the opportunity that was generated, becoming a model for entrepreneurs, with components that were increasingly miniaturised and composed of silicon, the material that would give its name to the valley that today hosts the world’s technological nerve centre.

Behind the protocol 'Spanning Tree' or STP there is a woman, Radia Perlman, a pioneer of programming who earned the nickname of "mother of the Internet". Credit: Wikipedia.

Radia Perlman (1951)

Anybody can surf the Internet today thanks to an American programmer named Radia Perlman. She has been named one of the 20 most influential people in information technology by Data Communications magazine and is known as the mother of the Internet. This alias is because in 1984 she created the Spanning-Tree Protocol (STP), which allows the network to deal with large amounts of data, and helped develop the Internet as we know it today.

In addition to inventing this protocol, she has registered more than 100 patents —many related to Internet security— and is a pioneer in the teaching of programming for children. Among other projects, she developed a programming system called TORTIS that allowed minors to press buttons to generate different actions. Throughout her career she has worked in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT and at companies such as Intel and Dell. In addition to Perlman, there are other women who are the architects of great inventions but have sometimes been shifted to the background. For example, Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler, better known as Hedy Lamarr and popular for her role as an actress in the 1930s and 1940s, was the co-inventor of the technology on which modern Wi-Fi is based.

Behind the world's first personal computer, the Altair 8800, is the engineer Ed Roberts, the American who encouraged BIll Gates and Paul Allen to found Microsoft. Credit: Wikipedia.

Henry Edward Roberts (1941-2010)

Every year thousands of computers are sold all over the world. They are also part of the daily lives of many users thanks to Henry Edward Roberts, an American engineer and entrepreneur who founded the company Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems in 1970 and created the Altair 8800. This device, which cost around $397, is considered the world’s first personal computer.

Its success in the market encouraged Bill Gates and Paul Allen to join the company. Later, in the 1970s, Roberts encouraged both young men to found the technology giant Microsoft. "Ed was willing to take a chance on us —two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace— and we have always been grateful to him," Gates and Allen explained in a statement in 2010 following Roberts’s death.

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Tungsteno is a journalism laboratory to scan the essence of innovation. Devised by Materia Publicaciones Científicas for Sacyr’s blog.

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