Top 5 tech innovators you should remember

Learn about tech innovators in 3D graphics, satellite imagery, collaborative editing, and other fields.

We owe a lot to our tech history. Without those who innovated before, we wouldn’t have the platforms we have now upon which we innovate further. 

But there are many deserving people to remember. A few–Jobs, Gates, etc.–get more than their fair share of attention, so let’s take a moment to remember a few other tech innovators who don’t. 

SEE: Hacking the Nazis: The secret story of the women who broke Hitler’s codes (cover story PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. Mark Dean. Have you ever connected computers to each other? If so, thank Mark Dean. He co-created the ISA bus, allowing multiple machines to connect to a computer. He also helped create IBM’s color PC monitor, and led the team that created the first 1GHz RISC CPU. 

2. Marc Hannah. How about 3D graphics? You must remember Silicon Graphics, right? Well, you may not have heard of Marc Hannah, the cofounder and Chief Scientist of SGI. Hannah developed the Geometry Engine at Stanford with Jim Clark–early SGI systems were based on that engine. Hannah was not only a pioneer in 3D effects, but he also created an MP3 player for the Game Boy Advance. 

3. Clarence “Skip” Ellis. Do you ever do any collaborative editing? If so, the next time you do, keep Clarence “Skip” Ellis in mind. He was the first African-American person to earn a PhD in Computer Science at the University of Illinois in 1969. He then pioneered OfficeTalk at XeroxPARC and Operational Transformation for real-time collaborative editing, paving the way for collaborative apps like Google Docs. 

4. Valerie Thomas. You like those satellite images you use on your nav program, right? Well, Valerie Thomas developed the digital media formats image processing systems used in the early years of the Landsat program. She spearheaded the development of the first satellite to send images from space. She also patented the “Illusion Transmitter,” which simulates a real-time, three-dimensional viewing of an object using parabolic mirrors. 

5. James Edward West. Ever talk into a telephone? If so, then get to know James Edward West. He developed more than 250 patents for the production and design of microphones and techniques for creating  polymer foil electrets. His compact efficient mic designs are still used in telephones today.

That is not by any stretch all the forgotten pioneers in technology out there, but I’m hoping this makes them less forgotten and maybe inspires you to look around and find more–they’re not that hard to find. 

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Valerie Thomas developed the digital media formats image processing systems used in the early years of the Landsat program. This photo of Valerie Thomas was taken in 1979.

Image: NASA

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