In Memoriam: 17 Tech Pioneers Who Died in 2011

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In Memoriam: 17 Tech Pioneers Who Died in 2011

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Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple

Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, passed away Oct. 5 after an eight-year battle against pancreatic cancer. The visionary who turned around Apple, teetering on bankruptcy in 1996, was responsible for changing how regular users viewed technology. He transformed computing with the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, and changed how people consume data.

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Dennis Ritchie, Founder of C and Co-Founder of Unix

Dennis Ritchie, former head of software research for Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, passed away Oct. 8 after a long illness. The co-inventor of Unix and the inventor of the C programming language, Ritchie's work laid the foundation for modern major operating systems and software programs. He also co-authored the text, "The C Programming Language," often considered the definitive work on C and still prized by many programmers. The Fedora team dedicated Fedora 16, the open-source Linux operating system, to Ritchie a month after his death, writing, "A humble man, not well-known outside his field, Dennis will always be remembered by those of us who practice the craft. "

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Kenneth Olsen, Co-Founder of Digital Equipment Corp.

Kenneth Olsen, a computer industry pioneer and co-founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) in 1957 with Harlan Anderson, passed away Feb. 6, a few days before his 85th birthday. DEC dominated the minicomputer era from the 1960s to the 1980s as the computing industry shifted away from large room-sized mainframes. While at MIT, Olsen directed the building of the first transistorized research computer. At DEC, Olsen popularized techniques such as engineering matrix management, which is now widely used in many industries.

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John McCarthy, Father of AI, Inventor of Lisp

John McCarthy, a research pioneer in artificial intelligence, passed away Oct. 24 of complications of heart disease. McCarthy's research ranged from computer time-sharing for mainframe computers, which allowed many people to work on a mainframe without having to own one, to implementing garbage collection to remove software code no longer being used from the computer's memory. He also invented the List Processing Language (LISP), which has become the standard tool for AI research and design.

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Robert Morris, Cryptographer, Helped Develop Unix

Robert Morris, a cryptographer who helped develop the Unix operating system, passed away of complications of dementia June 26. He contributed to the security capabilities in Unix, including the password system and encryption capabilities. He served as the chief scientist of the National Computer Security Center at the National Security Agency from 1986 to 1994. Morris also played a role in planning electronic attacks against Saddam Hussein's government to destroy Iraq's military command-and-control capability in the months before the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

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Paul Baran, Packet Switching Pioneer

Paul Baran, whose work with packaging data in the 1960s played a role in the creation of the Internet, passed away March 26 due to complications from lung cancer. As an engineer at RAND, he invented packet switching, or how data is split into smaller chunks before being transmitted across the network. Baran's work was a precursor to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency-founded ARPANET, a precursor to the modern Internet.

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Jean Jennings Bartik, One of the First Computer Programmers

One of the first women to work in computing, Jean Jennings Bartik passed away of congestive heart disease on March 23. Bartik was the last member of the group of women who programmed ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), the first all-electronic digital computer in 1946. She was also part of a group developing hardware and software for Univac, an early commercial computer, and for Binac, a small computer made for Northrop Aircraft.

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Charles Walton, father of RFID

Charles Walton, who pioneered work in radio frequency identification wireless technology, passed away on Nov. 6. Beginning with a key RFID design in 1973, Walton had 10 patents for various devices, including the radio-operated door lock, which used tags and a radio transceiver. He worked in IBM's research and development laboratories until 1970, before founding Proximity Devices.

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Robert Galvin, Former Motorola CEO, Cell Phone Pioneer

Robert Galvin, Motorola's CEO from 1959 to 1986, passed away Oct. 11. He led Motorola's pioneering work to make cell phones readily available to consumers. Motorola developed the first cellular phone in the 1970s, the DynaTrac. Pagers were another popular Motorola communications product in the 1970s and 1980s. Galvin also established Six Sigma, a set of manufacturing benchmarks and standards that have been since adopted by IBM, Boeing and Raytheon.

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Julius Blank, Founder of Fairchild Semiconductor

Julius Blank, one of the eight co-founders of computer chip company Fairchild Semiconductor, passed away Sept. 17. Blank, along with future Intel co-founders Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, developed an inexpensive method for manufacturing silicon chips. Blank worked with fellow co-founder Eugene Kleiner to set up the facility that manufactured these chips.

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Jack Wolf, Mathematician, Computer Theorist

Jack Keil Wolf, whose mathematics research in how data can be transmitted across networks helped shape modern computers, passed away on May 12 due to amyloidosis. Wolf used advanced algebra to devise ways to send, receive and store data, and refined the concept of using 0s and 1s in binary for computers. Wolf also worked on ways to remove errors and clarify fuzzy data on magnetic disks so that more data could be stored on less space. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) called him "one of the most productive cross-fertilizers in engineering research, successfully importing techniques used in one field to obtain unexpected results in another."

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M. Kenneth Oshman, Co-Founder of Rolm

M. Kenneth Oshman, co-founder of private branch exchange (PBX) manufacturer Rolm, passed away due to complications of lung cancer Aug. 6. After Rolm was acquired by IBM in 1984 for $1.25 billion, Oshman remained on board as vice president. At Rolm, Oshman embodied an informal management style that made work a fun place to be. His style, such as having exercise facilities and other fun amenities, has been copied by other technology companies and helped differentiate Silicon Valley from the rest of corporate America.

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John Opel, Ex-IBM CEO

John Opel, a former IBM CEO who transformed the company into a mainframe giant and oversaw its move into desktop computing, passed away Nov. 3. An IBM "lifer," Opel worked his way up from a sales representative at Big Blue in 1949 before landing in the top seat in 1981. Revenue nearly doubled under Opel's watch, and Time magazine featured him on the cover in 1983 under the headline "The Colossus That Works."

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Anthony Siegman, Laser Pioneer

Anthony Siegman, professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford who helped develop lasers, passed away Oct. 7. Along with his research in lasers and optics, he authored three textbooks, "Microwave Solid-State Masers," "An Introduction to Lasers and Masers" and "LASERS." He was a Guggenheim fellow at the IBM Research Labs in Zurich in 1969.

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Michael Hart, Founder of Project Gutenberg

Michael Hart, an early pioneer of digital archiving, passed away Sept. 6 of a heart attack. Founder of Project Gutenberg, Hart paved the way for free available digital texts of books in the public domain and was the inventor of ebooks. Project Gutenberg's first text was the Declaration of Independence, made available for public download in 1971.

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Gerald Lawson, Video Game Pioneer

Gerald A. Lawson, who created the first home video game system with interchangeable game cartridges, passed away April 9 due to complications of diabetes. As director of engineering and marketing in Fairchild Semiconductor's video game division, Lawson led the effort behind Fairchild Channel F, a home console that allowed users to play different games written on cartridges. Channel F predated Atari's Video Computer System by a year and had 26 cartridges with titles such as "Blackjack" and "Space War." His work paved the way for modern console systems such as PlayStation, Xbox and Wii.

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Jack Goldman, founder of Xerox PARC

Jacob Jack Goldman, the founder of Xerox PARC, the companys groundbreaking R&D facility, passed away Dec. 20 of congestive heart failure. He served as CTO and senior vice president for research and development at Xerox and established the Xerox Research Center of Canada and Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). Over the years, Xerox PARC researchers developed the laser printer, the concept of using windows and icons in a graphical user interface, Ethernet and other major technology innovations that are now part modern personal computing.

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