The world was awash with news of the death of Prince (or the Prince?). I hear people who didn’t even know him claimed to have been raised on his music. I don’t know him, but I probably know his music simply because I love music.
Of course no life is greater than the other, we should all have the right to mourn or pay respects as we see fit. But permit me to say that the world tends to honour the ephemeral. Creativity is not only in the arts. If we want to encourage development, we need to begin to honour tech icons equally.
As a result, I bring to you six (6) individuals who have died within the past year, people who affected everyone globally in one way or another via technology, but didn’t get more than a passing mention.
1. Charles H. Townes
Do you use dvds, cds? Do you browse the internet? If so, then you have used lasers. Nearly everyone on earth uses lasers everyday for one purpose or another. You wouldn’t be able to tweet, chat or post about Prince, or probably listen to his music, without lasers.
Charles H. Townes is credited to be the inventor of the laser. He shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics for that invention.
He died on 27th January 2015, aged 99.
2. Ian Murdock
Ever heard of Linux? Linux is a powerful operating system software. If you use an android phone, then you’re using Linux. Several other everyday devices run on Linux. Debian is a popular, very reliable version of Linux. It was developed by Ian Murdock in 1993. This message most likely passed through a number of Debian servers to get to you.
Ian Murdock died on 28 December 2015 aged 42.
3. Tony Verna
Sports fans love to see replays of their magic moments, goals and highlights. Replays are used to end, or in some cases fuel, arguments about what happened during the soccer match, or whatever other sport interests the audience.
Tony Verna ‘invented’ instant replays in December 1963. A great majority of the world’s avid sports fans haven’t even heard of him. I didn’t know his name before this campaign started.
He died on January 18, 2015 at age 81.
4. Ray Tomlinson
Email! Does anyone need an introduction to email? An email address is now the de-facto unique identity on the internet. You can’t get a Facebook or Twitter account (or any other for that matter) without an email account. Corporations and businesses would be severely affected without email. Most of my generation got an email address before a mobile phone.
Ray Tomlinson created the first email program for ARPANET (the internet precursor) in 1971. This program enabled users to send messages to other computer users on other servers. Tomlinson chose the @ symbol to connect the username with the destination address and it has become part of the international language of communication.
He died on 5th March 2016 aged 74.
5. Gene Amdahl
Whenever you deposit or withdraw cash from your bank, take out insurance, or book a flight, the transaction was probably handled by an IBM mainframe or similar computer. This machine was originally designed by a former South Dakota farm boy, Gene Amdahl. Amdahl’s System/360 mainframes, announced in 1964, transformed IBM, and transformed computing. They became such an essential part of large-scale data processing that most Fortune 500 companies are still using them 50 years later. (ref. The Guardian)
Design and engineering companies, and academic institutions use mainframes for number-crunching tasks such as modelling systems, geologic/seismic data, weather, etc
Gene Amdahl died 10 November 2015, at the age of 92.
6. Matti Makkonen
SMS!! Another ubiquitous piece of technology. Modern culture won’t be complete without SMS. It influenced virtually every new form of text-based communication (except perhaps Yahoo Messenger-in my opinion). SMS catalysed new ways of writing words, abbreviations, etc because of the aim to remain within the 140 character limit. Twitter’s 140 character limit is based on the same limit for sms.
Matti Makkonen was a Finnish engineer working with Nokia. He developed the idea of sending messages via mobile networks in 1984. Although the first sms wasn’t sent until 1992, his work is seen as being critical to the success of sms technology. As a result he became known as the father of SMS. However, he was often quick to point out that he did not invent the technology single-handedly, giving credit to all other engineers who contributed to the SMS standard.
He died on 26 June 2015 aged 63.
These are just a few icons who have touched our lives in no small measure. if you know of any others, please let us know by dropping their names in the comment section below.
Author: Ikechukwu Uche
Image Credit: Karwansaray