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12 Tech Greats: Where Are They Now?

What happened to Rod Canion, Andy Grove, and their peers who shaped modern technology? Catch up on some original tech visionaries.
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Sadly, many of the early pioneers of the computer industry, from Admiral Grace Hopper to Digital Equipment Corp.'s Ken Olsen, are no longer with us. Even some second-generation pioneers, such as Apple's Steve Jobs and the reengineering guru Michael Hammer, have passed in the prime of life.

But what about the inventors and entrepreneurs who built on the work done by the first generation? They are the leaders who helped drive the PC industry, who packed computers into smartphones, and who innovated not just in how computers were built and operated, but also in how they changed the way modern business operates. Their technologies have changed our lives.

We plucked a handful of names from the technology history books to revisit. The faces that follow certainly don't comprise a definitive list of all-time great living tech leaders; that's a project for another day. Rather, these are examples drawn from a cast of thousands: engineers who created the next great thing, thinkers who sought a better way of utilizing IT, entrepreneurs who risked it all -- including their life savings and credit ratings -- to bring a startup to commercial success, and businesspeople who took charge of a tech company, driven by an inner confidence that better days were ahead.

In many cases, these second-generation tech pioneers have long outlived the companies for which they are known. And there's no shame in that; it's how technology progresses and business works. The technologies offered by those companies not only served a purpose back in the 1980s, 1990s, or later, but they also set a foundation for the capabilities that we enjoy today.

Take the example of the PC, which provided the arena where many of these folks operated. The traditional PC may be heading for the boneyard, but the concepts it introduced in terms of power and miniaturization -- an information device that's under the control of an average worker, and eventually, mobility -- are the bricks with which today's business is built.

You'll notice that this list is male-dominated. Frankly, so was the technology sector in the 1980s and 1990s. However, women are making great strides today as entrepreneurs in startups and through the corporate ranks to CEO of giant tech companies. This list will look very different 10 or 15 years from now.

Since this list is far from comprehensive, we'd love to know who we missed -- and what they are doing today. So share a comment or two and update us on a tech great you admire.

Jim Connolly is a versatile and experienced technology journalist who has reported on IT trends for more than two decades. He has written about enterprise computing, the PC revolution, client/server, the evolution of the Internet, networking, IT management, and the ongoing ... View Full Bio

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Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/26/2014 | 11:03:48 PM
Re: Where Are They Now?
@James     I thought I was missing something so I reviewed the list a number of times and I still don't see Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google .  

Surely debatable if they are Tech Greats at all but I would think (they are ) worthy of a mention.
Jamescon
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Jamescon,
User Rank: Moderator
7/23/2014 | 8:03:28 AM
Re: Where Are They Now?
Thanks, Technocrati. Any suggestions for people that we missed?
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
7/23/2014 | 3:45:24 AM
Re: Where Are They Now?

This was a really interesting look at tech giants and where they are now.  Thanks James !

Jamescon
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Jamescon,
User Rank: Moderator
7/11/2014 | 9:01:14 AM
Re: Where Are They Now?
@Brian Dean. Right, Lanier isn't a household name but he's had an impact on many fronts.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
7/11/2014 | 7:02:56 AM
Re: Paul Allen
I wonder if computational power needs to increase in order of SETI to deliver results, meaning that data has been collected but not yet processed. Or are computers already fast enough to process all the data that has already been collected and the primary need is to collect more data. Overall, SETI is an extremely interesting project.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
7/11/2014 | 6:53:38 AM
Re: Where Are They Now?
@James, it is amazing how a pioneer can revolutionize a number of disciplines. For example, Jaron Lanier, virtual reality helps so many engineers to test products and concepts in a controlled environment (simulations) -- has helped students to learn at a quicker pace. Universe Sandbox is a good example, and many video games also have a learning aspect to them.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
7/10/2014 | 4:07:03 PM
Re: Where Are They Now?
That's right! Thanks for the refresher... I should have remembered that Sculley was there when Woz left.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/10/2014 | 12:54:24 PM
Re: Where Are They Now?
@jamescon- I was jsut talking about this with someone and they asked what Maverick's middle name was. Turns out it is Scott (I was hoping that was where Goose came in). But in looking up the middle name I discovered that McNealy named all of his kids after cars. His dad was Vice Chairman of American Motors and he grew up in Detroit. 

All the names are cars with native American connections. 

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2002-03-31/a-talk-with-scott-mcnealy

 

 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
7/10/2014 | 12:45:45 PM
Re: Where Are They Now?
@Jamescon- That's cool, too. But then I'm sad he didn't name a kid "Rooster."
Jamescon
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Jamescon,
User Rank: Moderator
7/10/2014 | 9:08:52 AM
Re: Where Are They Now?
@Alison. Everything I've heard about Woz indicates that he wanted to do engineering rather than run a big company. It seems like he is more of a hands-on techie with a leaning toward running a startup if being the CEO of anything. Also, when Woz left Apple it wasn't under Jobs but John Sculley. Jobs left in 1985 to do NeXt, and Sculley stayed on until 1993. I didn't realize until I just looked it up that Sculley was there for 10 years.
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