Who invented the computers and software we use daily?
(No, the answer is not Al Gore)
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 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 the wrong typically people get the credit for ideas other people made first.
With appropriate respect, those who Imagine and Inspire an idea (such as H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury and Gene Roddenberry) are vital because without new ideas – we wouldn’t have fire or aircraft.
Those who Popularize (think Steve Jobs) are valuable because maybe an invention’s value is too obscure or complex for many people to appreciate. (As much of an impact as IBM has had, even IBM’s Chairman lacked vision when he infamously said “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” in 1943.)
Funders are important to help spread ideas rapidly (whether the ideas are good for you or not — as in “Can I serve you a glass of Thalidomide?”).
But the key people are those who actually make new working things, called Inventors, because without them — there is nothing to popularize or fund.
This article celebrates the inventors of computer technology. Sometimes an inventor needs to take on all these roles.