The world around us has been shaped by gifted men and women through the ages, and here we honour those luminaries who've made a discernible impact in our lives, but unfortunately passed away in 2013.
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Aaron Swartz: (1986 - 2013)
Aaron Swartz, a wunderkind who helped create Reddit and RSS, the technology behind blogs, podcasts and other Web-based subscription services, was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on January 11 as a trial in Boston loomed in his future.
An activist for the freedom of information on the Internet, Swartz had earlier been hounded for posting paid-access federal court documents online, and later, for downloading MIT articles with the intent to freely distribute them.
It is claimed that prosecutors had insisted he plead guilty for a commuted sentence, or go to trial and face up to 35 years. After the suicide, the US Justice department was accused of heavy-handedness in handling the case, and a rethinking of the punishment for white-collar 'crimes' of this nature in the Internet age.
Jim Horning: (1942-2013)
James ‘Jim' Horning is described by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), of which he was a Fellow, as "a leading figure in the evolution of computer science as a discipline and a profession." He died on January 18. Horning earned his BA in Physics and Mathematics at Pacific Union College, Master's in Physics at UCLA in 1965, and his Ph.D. in Computer Science from Stanford University.
Over the course of his career, Horning worked in several different computer science fields, from programming languages and compilers, to programming methodology, specification, formal methods, digital rights management, grammatical inference, operating systems, e-commerce technologies, and computer/network security. He is most famously known for his major contribution to the Larch approach to formal specification, along with John Guttag,
Jim Horning was founding member and senior consultant with Digital Equipment Corp.'s Systems Research Center, a founding member and chair of the University of Toronto's Computer Systems Research Group, a Research Fellow at Xerox PARC, and was also employed by McAfee, Silicon Graphics and Advanced Elemental Technologies.
Image courtesy: University of New South Wales
Ian Munro Ross: (1927-2013)
Ian Munro Ross is considered to be one of the pioneers of transistor technology, and served as the President of Bell Laboratories for 12 years. Born in Southport, England, he received his B.A, M.A and Ph.D degrees in electrical engineering from Cambridge University. He died on March 10.
Hired by William Shockley to work on semiconductors and transistor improvements, Ross along with G. C. Dacey contributed significantly to the early development of the field-effect transistor, and later, invented epitaxy, which led to a dramatic improvement of transistor switching speed. Rising through the ranks at Bell, he served as the sixth President of Bell Labs from 1979 to 1991, and oversaw its reorganization after the division of the Bell System.
Ross was a member of the National Academy of Engineering, National Academy of Sciences, and Royal Academy of Engineering, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. He received the 1963 IEEE Morris N. Liebmann Memorial Award, 1987 IRI Medal from the Industrial Research Institute, the 1988 IEEE Founders Medal, and the 2001 Bueche Award
Harry Pyle: (1949-2013)
A pioneer in electronics and computer science, Harry Pyle was considered to be one of the most important contributors to the development of the desktop computer (Datapoint 2200, 5500, 6600), the industry's first commercial microprocessor (Intel 8008 - seen above), the first commercial local area network, and more. He was awarded several patents for his inventions throughout his professional career. He died on March 11.
Described as having an insatiable appetite for developments in physics, electronics, computers, software, and media communication technology, Harry Pyle contributed to various fields, and was employed by several influential companies. Mentored by another pioneer in the field, Vic Poor, Harry Pyle made most of his contributions at Datapoint (formerly known as Computer Terminal Corporation), apart from Image Data, and Microsoft.
Pyle was also helped developed RMS Network-based Operating System and the source code editor EASL, and even pioneered remote video communication technology to aid in emergency reading of radiographs by physicians.
Image courtesy: Konstantin Lanzet, Wikimedia Commons
Michael Culbert: (1977-2013)
Vice President of Architecture at Apple, Michael Fleming Culbert, died on April 19 at the young age of 47, losing his battle with cancer. A hardware expert, Culbert began work at Apple over 25 years ago, and is said to have been a major contributor to the development of several of Apple's most revolutionary products, from the Apple Newton, to the iPhone and iPad.
Culbert joined Apple straight after completing his graduation from Cornell University. According to several industry experts and noted technology blogs, Culbert was a significant contributor of one of the first personal digital assistants, the Apple Newton. During his quarter of a century at Apple, he also contributed to patents such as iOS video screen rotation, power saving feature, ambient light sensor, and digital content escrow for iTunes purchases.
His death became public knowledge following a post by Les Vogel, a Google developer, on Twitter, which read: "RIP Mike Culbert- One of the people who helped Steve Jobs save Apple."
Image courtesy: oldcomputers.net
Jack Harker: (1926-2013)
John Mason 'Jack' Harker was a member of the IBM engineering team that pioneered the development of the first magnetic disk storage system in 1956, featuring a total capacity of 5 million characters. An inventor and mechanical engineer, he was credited with the air bearing slider and the Head Disk Assembly. He died on April 27.
Harker was at IBM for the next 35 years, and in that period, became once Director of Technology for IBM, twice Director of the IBM San Jose Storage Laboratories, an IBM Fellow, and an IEEE Fellow. Harker had once summarised his career: "It isn't often someone gets an opportunity to see an industry get born. Or to participate in its beginning, participate in its formative years, and then still be around to see it become a major worldwide industry."
Born in 1926 in San Francisco, he enlisted in the US Navy during World War II, and became an electronics repair specialist. He received his BA in Mechanical Engineering from Swarthmore, his Masters in Mechanical Engineering from Berkeley, and a Masters in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.
Image courtesy: Hu Yoshida, HDS Blog
Douglas C. Engelbart: (1925-2013)
Douglas Engelbart, a technologist who conceived of the computer mouse and laid out a vision of an Internet decades before others brought those ideas to the mass market, died on July 2. A proud visionary, Engelbart found himself intellectually isolated at various points in his life. But over time he was proved correct more often than not.
Engelbart arrived at his crowning moment relatively early in his career, on a winter afternoon in 1968, when he delivered an hour-long presentation containing so many far-reaching ideas that it would be referred to decades later as the "mother of all demos."
Speaking before an audience of 1,000 leading technologists in San Francisco, Engelbart, a computer scientist at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), showed off a cubic device with two rolling discs called an "X-Y position indicator for a display system." It was the mouse's public debut. He also demonstrated video conferencing, and spoke of the concept of text-based links, which would later form the bedrock of the Web's architecture.
Image courtesy: Associated Press
Amar Gopal Bose: (1929-2013)
Acoustics pioneer Amar Bose, founder and chairman of the audio technology company Bose Corp., known for the rich sound of its small tabletop radios and its noise-canceling headphones popular among frequent fliers, died on July 12.
Bose, who was born and raised in Philadelphia to parents who were natives of India, received his bachelor's degree, master's degree and doctorate from MIT, all in electrical engineering. After a Fulbright scholarship at the National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi, he was asked to join the faculty in 1956, where he continued as a member until 2001.
Bose founded the company, based in Framingham, just outside Boston, in 1964. The company's president, Bob Maresca, said the company will remain privately held
Ray Dolby: (1933-2013)
Ray Dolby, the engineer who pioneered the noise reduction in audio recordings that produced clearer sound for music and cinema, died on September 12. Dolby won an Oscar, a Grammy and two Emmys for his work, was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up in the San Francisco area.
He began his career in the audio and visual recording fields by helping to develop a videotape recording system for the Ampex Corporation in the 1950s. He then went on to complete his Ph.D. at Britain's Cambridge University and in 1965 founded Dolby Laboratories in London.
Dolby moved his company to San Francisco in 1976 and in 1989 was awarded an Oscar for his contributions to cinema, which he shared with Dolby executive Ioan Allen. "Though he was an engineer at heart, my father's achievements in technology grew out of a love of music and the arts," said Dolby's son, novelist Tom Dolby
Hiroshi Yamauchi: (1927 - 2013)
Former Nintendo Co Ltd President Hiroshi Yamauchi, who built the company into a video game giant from a maker of playing cards during more than half a century at the helm, died on September 19.
Yamauchi was the third-generation head of the family-run business, founded in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto in 1889 as a maker of playing cards, and served as president from 1949 until 2002. He was an executive adviser to the company at the time of his death.
Under his leadership, the company developed the Famicom home game console and the Game Boy handheld player that helped to usher in the era of home game machines, which in more recent years has been dominated by Nintendo's Wii, Sony Corp's PlayStation, Microsoft Corp's Xbox.
Image courtesy: Associated Press