Technology has the ability to do a lot of things, and transforming the world is one of them. It is safe to say that we are fortunate enough to be living in a time where science and technology can support us, make our lives simpler and revaluate the ways we lead our day to day lives.
Throughout the course of history, there have been prominent innovators, dubbed as the Fathers of Modern Technology that have changed the world for the better. As a society, we look upon them with respect and admiration, deeming them as geniuses. On the occasion of Father’s Day, let’s honor the men that have contributed immensely towards reshaping IT with their ground-breaking innovations:
Douglas Engelbart (1925-2013)
“The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing.” – Douglas C. Engelbart
Doug Engelbart was a computer visionary way ahead of his time. He is widely celebrated for his work in the field of human-computer interaction which ultimately resulted in the creation of the Computer Mouse in 1963. It was designed by an American computer, Bill English, from the prototype created by Douglas Engelbart. Unfortunately, by the time the mouse became commercially accessible; Engelbart’s patent had already expired and he did not earn royalties for this innovation.
When Dr. Engelbart entered the realm of computing, computers were merely room-sized calculating machines that could be accessed by only one person at a time. In December 1968, at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, his revolutionary demonstration of how a mouse could be used to control a computer took the industry by storm. In the same conference, he was also able to successfully exhibit text editing, hypertext, windowing and video conferencing.
He is credited as one of the pioneers of modern technology innovations because his invention, mouse, is still cited as the most commonly used peripheral of the past three decades, even with the availability of touch screens and trackpads. Even though Dr. Engelbart considered as many as 10 buttons to be useful, the original version of mouse featured three buttons.
Martin Cooper (born 1928)
“The best technology is when you are free to do what you want.” – Martin Cooper
Martin Cooper’s contribution to the wireless communication industry is endless, with him being the inventor of the world’s first portable cellular phone in 1973. In November of 1972, he along with his team of experts at Motorola Company started toiling on a prototype of the DynaTAC phone. After five months, Cooper was able to place the world’s first phone call from a mobile phone while closely followedby reporters on his way to a press conference at the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan.
Holding a B.S. and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering and an honorary doctorate from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Cooper was always a tinkerer, taking things apart to see how it worked and inventing new things. When it comes to the coveted question of who is the father of modern technology? Cooper’s name shines brighter than many. This is because, as an inventor, he understood what people needed was the freedom that comes from anywhere, anytime telephony as compared to being restricted to the proximity of a car or a desk.
Fondly referred to as The Brick, The original handset was a bulky, gray 2-pound box which had a 20 minute of talk-time before needing a 10-hour recharge. The top management at Motorola paid heed to his galactic vision and invested $100 million into his division which was later fully recovered. Martin Cooper laid the foundation for much of the modern telecommunications industry with his name forever etched in the history as the Guinness Book of Record holder for making the first cellular telephone call ever.
Timothy Berners-Lee (born 1957)
“The Web as I envisaged it, we have not seen it yet. The future is still so much bigger than the past.” – Timothy Berners-Lee
Sir Tim Berners-Lee is a British computer scientist, recognized as the inventor of the World Wide Web. While working at CERN, the European Particle Physics Laboratory in Geneva as software engineering consultant, Berners-Lee was able to conceive an Internet-based hypermedia imitative for global information – World Wide Web (WWW). Berners-Lee’s initial intention was to help scientists share data across the Internet which was back then, an unknown territory, an incomprehensible platform. But owing to his decision to release the source code for free to make the Web an open and democratic platform for all, his innovation soon sprouted wings and took flight.
With both of his parents being involved in the creation of Ferranti Mark I, the first commercial computer, Berners-Lee was born with a knack of computing which later resulted in him inventing a tool capable of driving modern technology to greater heights. He held several positions in the computer industry including a stint at CERN. When he was working at CERN, he built for himself, Enquire, a program which could stockpile data in files that possessed connections (“links”) both within and among separate files, a technique which is now widely known as hypertext. His many accolades include being the recipient of the first Queen’ Elizabeth Prize for Engineering in 2013, selection as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004 and in 2009, being knighted by H.M. Queen Elizabeth.
Nathaniel Borenstein (born 1957)
“The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident. That’s where we come in. We’re computer professionals. We cause accidents.” – Nathaniel Borenstein
The world of Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME) that we use in our everyday lives is the courtesy of Nathaniel Borenstein. Owing to his pivotal role in inventing the MIME protocol which, to this day is used in every email attachment and has spread to host content all over the web, he is accredited as being the father of email attachment. In 1991, researcher Nathaniel Borenstein emailed a photo and recording of his barbershop quartet, the Telephone Chords. These two files were the first-ever attachment that could cross the borders of specific email systems, thus, making them a feasible form of communication.
He was a visionary right from the start, which became evident when he helped in developing one of the first campus-wide networks, while in graduate school. Just like his revolutionary creation, Borenstein has been one of the Web’s utility players ever since. Despite its popularity now, in 1991, the invention was considered downright ridiculous by the masses as they failed to understand why anyone would prefer to scan and transmit a picture over a slow modem rather than posting a film photograph in the mail. What they couldn’t comprehend was that Borenstein was thinking way ahead of his time, a time when people would use a digital camera instead of scanners and fast Internet instead of a slow modem.
Even after almost three decades of his invention, Borenstein is still bristling over the name ‘attachment’. In an interview with The Guardian, he revealed that if there was one thing he would have done differently while naming his brainchild, he wouldn’t have named it as ‘attachment’ because he never wanted the attachment to be an attachment, he wished for pictures and audio to be included within the body of an email.
Ivan Sutherland (born 1938)
“The screen is a window through which one sees a virtual world. The challenge is to make that world look real, act real, sound real, feel real.” – Ivan Sutherland
Virtual and Augmented Reality have undoubtedly been two of the most talked about technologies in the recent years. Although there have been many developments in the realm of computer graphics, led by various contributors, Sutherland is widely credited as being the pioneer of graphical user interfaces. This is due to his colossal contributions towards bringing in the graphics revolution in 1963 with his highly-interactive program, Sketchpad that allowed users to design and draw directly on the computer monitor, using a light pen, all in real-time.
Born to middleclass parents of Scottish and New Zealand decent, Sutherland’s first hands-on experience with a computer was on SIMON, a relay-based mechanical computer that was borrowed by the family from its designer, Edmond Berkeley. From there, he started working on his first project, which was to make SIMON divide. He was able to do so by introducing a conditional stop to the SIMON’s instructional set.
Sutherland, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Harvard University,along with his student Robert Sproull, invented the first-ever virtual reality head-mounted display system. This would later go on to become a stepping stone for the future tinkerers when it came to inventing and innovating tech related to computer graphics. The first U.S. National Academy of Engineering Zworykin Award (1972) and a Smithsonian Computer World Award (1996) are a few names among the numerous awards won by Sutherland for his exceptional work and his progressive vision of impregnating the world with high tech, interactive graphics.
To wrap it up..
When it comes to the technological revolution, there have been many luminaries throughout the history that have made a huge impact. Certain men, celebrated as the fathers of modern technology, have breathed life into pioneering technologies that we use in our day to day lives as a second nature.On this father’s day, let us remember all such visionaries, without whom, our world would have been filled with challenges.