Thursday, December 1, 2011

10 Nerds You Should Be Thankful For

I decided it was time to give thanks to the lords of nerdism.  Those who bravely paved the way for you to sit on your lazy ass all day and bitch online about things you have absolutely no control over.  Those who made it possible for your to share your expert opinion of politics, economics, religion, fashion, movies, music, food, and TV shows, even though you are quite likely technically unqualified to even speak about any of those subjects.  Those who made it possible for you to tweet with one hand, with a drink in the left hand, while driving 60 MPH with your knee on the steering wheel.  Those who made it possible for every member of your family to immerse themselves into their own isolated worlds of game consoles, smartphones, media players, tablets and computers, rather than sitting together in one place and having a real conversation.  Those who made it possible for you to spend half your life's savings on music and movies you will never actually own.   You know:  all the good stuff technology has brought us.  Here they are...

1 - Grace Hopper

What this nerd did

Grace was an American computer scientist and United States Navy officer. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language.  She also coined the term "debugging", and was credited for having said "it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission".

What you got for it

Modern programming languages, which are what all of your current time-destroying toys are built with.  Yes, kids, without C++ you wouldn't have Windows, OSX, iOS, Android, Linux, UNIX or any modern computers, tablets, phones, game consoles, and nifty digital dashboards in your nifty little cars.  Yes, even your dumbass "Sync" in your Ford car, and your OnStar GM crap are the recipients of compiled programming.  Thank you Grace!  You kicked ass like a rock star!

2 - Tim Berners-Lee

What this nerd did

That's actually "Sir Tim", as he was knighted.  A British computer scientist and MIT professor, he invented the "World Wide Web" and co-invented the HyperText Transfer Protocol, aka "HTTP", upon which "the Web" is possible.

What you got for it

Unlimited access to 10% useful information, and 90% useless information, mixed with advertisements, porn, games, gambling, medication, and more porn.  You also got Amazon, online banking and bill payments, Hulu, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yelp, FourSquare, UrbanSpoon, Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, and of course: thousands of porn sites.


3 - Jonathan Ive

What this nerd did

Jonny is Senior Vice President of Industrial Design at Apple.  He is the person who was able to articulate the ideas of Steve Jobs into award-winning, industry-leading, technologically revolutionary product designs.

What you got for it

The iMac, titanium and aluminum PowerBook G4, G4 Cube, MacBook, unibody MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.  Did I mention the iPhone?  Oh yeah, you know, that phone that everyone either loves or hates, but without which there WOULD NOT be a touch screen phone market at all.  You'd have Nokia and Blackberry clones piled up on every store shelf.


4 - John Walker

What this nerd did

Founded Autodesk in 1982.  Was the primary person behind the push to incorporate an extensible programming platform within the product to allow customers to enhance the product to suit their needs.  The language he chose was LISP and the specialized version built into their flagship AutoCAD product was AutoLISP. (he's pictured in center)

What you got for it

The first significant move from ridiculously expensive mainframe and workstation Computer Aided Design (CAD) products to much more affordable IBM/PC capability.  The result was an explosion of personal computer design products, modeling and simulation products, visualization and animation products, all of which were previously only available on expensive UNIX hardware at very expensive prices, and without much end-user customization capabilities.  Now you have a robust PC market that includes AutoCAD, Revit, Inventor, 3DS Max, Integraph, MicroStation, Maya, NX-CAD, CATIA (used to only be on UNIX), NASTRAN (same), SolidWorks, ANSYS, ALGOR, and much more.

5 - Vint Cerf

What this nerd did

Help create the "Internet" from DARPANET.

What you got for it

Need I say more?   You're welcome.  Now, just try to not f*** it up, mmmkay?


6 - Marc Andreeson

What this nerd did

Marc Andreessen is an American entrepreneur, investor, software engineer, and multi-millionaire best known as co-author of the NCSA Mosaic, the first widely-used web browser, and co-founder of Netscape Communications Corporation.

What you got for it

Lul Cats, YouTube, Reddit, LiveLeaks, Google, Yahoo!, IMDb, YouPorn, Netscape, Internet Explorer, Opera, Webkit (Safari, Chrome), IRS.gov, and of course: ComedyCentral.com.  Anyone remember Lynx?  How about WAIS, Veronica, Gopher, Telnet and archie?  Good times.  Not really.  Thank God for Marc's work and for giving us the web browser.

7 - John Von Neumann

What this nerd did

Devised the "Von Neumann architecture" model, on which all modern computer systems are based.

What you got for it

You're reading this on a device that wouldn't exist without it.  I would rank John up their with Grace actually, but he didn't exert the same flair for personality that she did.  Nonetheless, awesome.


8 - Dennis Ritchie

What this nerd did

Dennis was an American computer scientist who "helped shape the digital era."[1] He created the C programming language and, with long-time colleague Ken Thompson, the UNIX operating system.[1] Ritchie and Thompson received the Turing Award from the ACM in 1983, the Hamming Medal from the IEEE in 1990 and the National Medal of Technology from President Clinton in 1999

What you got for it

The basis of most modern programming languages, from C++ to Java and .NET.  For that you got operating systems, software, firmware (still a lot of it done in ANSI C), mobile device software, automotive software, aircraft software, satellite communications software, oh yeah: and all the games you waste most of your day playing.  RIP Dennis.

9 - George Boole

What this nerd did

Boole formalized Boolean algebra, the basis for digital logic and computer science.  You know: AND, OR, NOT, etc.

What you got for it

Every single programming language known to mankind depends on Boolean logic.  Dare I say, you're stupid beer-stained flat-panel TV couldn't exist, much less be turned on, were it not for his efforts.  Now, say it with me: "Boole Rules!"



10 - John McCarthy

What this nerd did


McCarthy was an American computer scientist and cognitive scientist. He coined the term "artificial intelligence" (AI), invented the Lisp programming language and was highly influential in the early development of AI.  McCarthy also influenced other areas of computing such as time sharing systems. He received the Turing Award for his major contributions to the field of AI, and many other accolades and honors, including the United States National Medal of Science.

What you got for it

I wouldn't be writing this if it weren't for him.  My first programming language involvement was with Common LISP and then AutoLISP.  Thanks to John Walker (see above), for making combining McCarthy's work with the graphical design aspect.  That was the bug that bit me in the ass (ok, my brain, same thing) and hooked me into programming.  Beyond that, his efforts to explore the world of "AI" have led to all sorts of derivative technologies from voice recognition, to traffic management systems, to language parsing, to encryption methods, to statistical analysis.  RIP.

Sources:

Yeah, I used a lot of web sites, but most of them were nearly identical with Wikipedia, at least as far as the basic stuff I was looking for, and it had the others linked as well, so, whatever...

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_berners-lee
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Ive
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Walker_(programmer)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autodesk
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vint_Cerf
  6. http://www.ibiblio.org/pioneers/andreesen.html
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_von_Neumann 
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Ritchie
  9. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Boole
  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_McCarthy_(computer_scientist)
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