As you know well, Thomas Alva Edison invented the light bulb.
He didn’t. He was not the first in two different ways. Not only did Edison lose a patent battle to Sir Joseph William Swan, but they were both beaten by Sir Humphry Davy – who 77 years earlier made an arc-lamp using platinum wire.
Similarly, you may believe in some computer invention myths. Which this article is intended to correct.
Who invented the computers and software we use daily?
(No, the answer is not Al Gore, though I was surprised at how much he did help get the web going.)
There are large and sharp distinctions between conceptualizing or inspiring a technology, making a working version of it, funding it and popularizing it.
This annotated list is about those few who created the first physical equipment and software landmarks in computer technology we all depend upon today.
It is not about those who may have inspired, funded or popularized technology. In a sense this article is an attempt to correct the errors in the computer field due to Stigler’s Law – where typically the wrong people get the credit for ideas other people made first.
“As you know, ideas are cheap and it’s the doing that counts.“
— Barry Palmer quoted by Dan Poynter in Hang Gliding by Martin Hunt & David Hunn, 1977
I have no dispute with claims that those who Popularize are valuable (think Steve Jobs contrasted with Steve Wozniak who actually built the physical stuff) because often an invention’s value is too obscure or complex for many people to appreciate.
But the peak, key, vital people are those who actually make the first physical examples of working things, called Inventors, because without them — there is nothing to popularize or fund. Sometimes an inventor needs to take on all these roles.
This article celebrates the true inventors of computer technology.