Happy Columbus Day! Or not. I don't know. That really depends on your opinion of the holiday and Christopher Columbus himself.
Today is designated to be a day for celebrating the anniversary of Columbus's arrival in the Americas. The man – as we've all surely been told in our primary school days – was responsible for discovering the New World; hence, the argument follows, that without Columbus, the very existence of the United States of America could not be possible or, at the very least, could not have been possible until a much later date. Now, to be fair, this event in history is also celebrated across several Latin American countries, as well as Italy and Spain, but like many people in the history of human existence, we tend not to mention the flaws of those for whom we hold high regard. In Christopher Columbus's case, we forget that he was kind of a dick.
Prior to his landing in this New World, there were already natives living in the Americas – Columbus merely pioneered European colonization in the Western lands. He enslaved and exterminated the natives in an effort to, like, civilize them and turn them into more productive members of society. Columbus, man – what a cool dude…ugh. Whatever. My whole point: he was kind of shitty, even if he did contribute to the movement towards worldwide modernity. (For more on Christopher Columbus and how kinda terrible he was, look at this really great comic from The Oatmeal).
In protest of celebrating Christopher Columbus, instead I think we should celebrate these 20 tech pioneers whose contributions to our society are inevitably essential to our everyday lives, or have changed our expectations for what technology can accomplish.
The so-called “father of the computer” himself. Babbage created the very first mechanical computer.
The inventor of the World Wide Web. He also invented the very first Web browser (Nexus), the hypertext markup language (HTML), and the hypertext transfer protocol (HTTP).
Borenstein invented the Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME) protocol that gave users the ability to format e-mail and allow for the creation of the e-mail attachment.
Sergey Brin & Larry Page
The ones responsible for creating the Google search engine, and consequently turning that into a much, much larger and wider venture.
The “father of the cell phone”. While working for Motorola, Cooper created the Motorola DynaTAC – the world's very first handheld mobile phone.
Cofounded Microsoft in 1975 with Paul Allen, was responsible for creating Microsoft's first program (BASIC), and is essential for turning Microsoft into the leading software company in the world.
Richard Greenblatt and Bill Gosper
They are often considered the founders of the hacker community. Greenblatt wrote Mac Hack, the very first computer software to play tournament-level chess.
Founded Apple Computing Inc. in 1976 with Steve Wozniak. Oversaw the development of the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, and turned Apple into one of the world's leading companies.
Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf
We literally would not have the Internet without these two. They're the ones responsible for creating the Transmission Control Protocol and the Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).
He created the Ethernet, y'all!
Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
One of the very first programmers, she developed the COmmon Business Oriented Language (COBOL), created the first compiler program, and popularized the term “debugging” after finding the first computer [literal] bug – a moth stuck in the contactors of the giant Mark II calculator.
John von Neumann
The man responsible for a computer architecture in which the program should be stored in the computer's memory along with the data, in the same address space.
He was the co-inventor of the integrated circuit/microchip. He cofounded Fairchild Semiconductor and the Intel Corporation, essentially giving Silicon Valley its name.
Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie
They were the guys responsible for the creation of UNIX. Today, UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems, such as Linux, Android and Mac OS, are built on the the initial work created by Thompson and Ritchie.
The father of computer science and artificial intelligence, the Turing machine essentially formed the concepts of “algorithm” and “computation”.
Started Apple Computing Inc. in 1976 with Steve Jobs. He invented the Apple I and Apple II computers, which set the stage for the personal computing revolution.