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Sung and Unsung i-Technology Heroes

Our search for the Top Twenty Software People in the World continues

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  • Wanted: 19 More of the Top Software People in the World

    When I asked in a previous editorial who the Top Twenty Software People in the World were, I knew there would be a widely divergent response from readers. As promised, here's a preliminary update on the identity of some of your nominees.

    The exercise was promoted, if you recall, by XML pioneer Tim Bray, who nominated as a "Top Twenty" candidate Adam Bosworth, famous for Quattro Pro, Microsoft Access, and Internet Explorer 4 even before he went on to become BEA's chief architect before recently leaving the Java app server company to join Google, Inc.

    Readers very soon nominated another Google staffer (since 2002), namely Rob Pike, an early developer of Unix and the windowing system (GUI) technology, and a long-serving member of the Unix team at Bell Labs before he joined Google.

    Pike joined Bell Labs in 1980, the same year he won the Olympic silver medal in archery. Since he received several nominations, there is clearly something deeply appealing about a world-class archer going on the following year to hit the bull's eye by writing the first bitmap window system for Unix systems (since then he has written 10 more).

    Pike became well known for his appearances on "Late Night with David Letterman," which ranks him, profile-wise, right up there with Linus Torvalds, another nominee (no surprise there).

    Hero of the open source movement, geek made good, thorn in Bill Gates' side, Torvalds, it has been said, "embodies the idea that there is always another way, an antidote to the Microsofts of this world, evidence that the idea of the 'community' within IT is still there." As one wit expressed it, "If it wasn't for the presence of Lara Croft and Xena Warrior Princess, techies around the world would have posters of Linus on their walls."

    Anders Hejlsberg, another nominee originally from Scandinavia, is the Danish-born genius associated with Turbo Pascal, Delphi, C#, and the Microsoft .NET Framework. Hejlsberg is one of the industry's most charming and modest high achievers - a "serial success" and a worthy nominee.

    Arthur van Hoff, the programming legend who now works at TiVo, was another early nominee. One of the Java geniuses at Sun (he is said to have almost as many patents as Bill Joy), in 2002 van Hoff started Strangeberry, which TiVo bought in January of this year with the aim of ensuring that next-generation TiVos will be able to recognize Web content and direct it to the appropriate home device.

    Sam Ruby, nominated for being "probably the most widely read blogger on the planet," is a 21-year veteran of IBM who has been hailed as a "Web services visionary." Ruby is a member of the board of directors and vice president of the Apache Software Foundation; a developer on the Apache SOAP project; chairman of the Jakarta project; and a member of the PHP group, a select group of developers who contribute to core PHP.

    Some of the most interesting nominations thus far have been of the "unsung heroes" of i-technology - or the less-sung ones, if you will. Take for example one of the three creators of XP, Kent Beck. Author of the first book on the topic, Extreme Programming Explained, published in 1999, Beck was nominated by a reader: "For (arguably) pioneering, and certainly ruthlessly promoting, the notion that change (specifically, to requirements of commercial software) must be embraced (actively designed for), not avoided, and that trying to design everything once and for all up-front is an exercise in futility."

    There are those who believe excellence is not a skill but an attitude. Still others say that excellence is in the details. Whatever the truth, and it's most likely a mix of both, the search will go on. So far no fewer than 40 individuals have been identified by readers as possible candidates for the top 20 positions. Feel free to keep nominating; by the end of the year we shall be able to draw up the definitive list of whom readers consider to be The Top Twenty Software People in the World. The address for nominations, again, is [email protected].

    Related Links:

  • Wanted: 19 More of the Top Software People in the World

  • More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

    Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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