An Analysis of Individuals Who Influenced the Development of Computing

Categories: Technology

Essay on individuals who have contributed significantly to the development of computing as we know it Computing, as we know it has developed greatly and rapidly in the last fifty years or so. Many individuals can be said to have contributed to the computer revolution this century, some more than significantly than others. This is assignment will concentrate on a few of these individuals and describe their pioneering achievements along with the circumstances and situations in which they materialised. The person who arguably made the most important contribution to the development of computing was an army radar technician named Douglas Engelbart.

Back in 1945, he read Vannevar Bush’s article As We May Think, and he had a vision! His vision was that computer-based tools could augment human intellect, thus improving our overall ability to tackle the problems and goals of the individual, and of society. During the 1950’s and 60’s Douglas Engelbart went on to develop the mouse, many of the features that are found in all GUI’s, integrated help systems, electronic mail, teleconferencing, and interactive Hypermedia.

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In 1963, he set out the conceptual framework for an interactive hypermedia system in a paper entitled, A Conceptual Framework for the Augmentation of Man’s Intellect. In 1968, he had completed the NLS (ON Line System), which was the early realisation of Engelbart’s concept of an Augmentation System. NLS pioneered many of the features that are now integral to modern online multimedia systems, mouse, windows, e-mail, word processing, and hypertext.

To Engelbart, hypertext was quite important to his Augmentation System.

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That it would allow users to expand the information available to them, facilitate collaborative authoring, and become a critical focus for community, all key elements of the WEB, which is a vital part of modern day computing. An assignment such as this must include some content concerning Bill Gates, the richest man on the planet, and today, the most familiar and well known identity in the computing world. Bill Gates was born on October 28, 1955 to Mary and William Gates. Bill was accepted into Harvard University in autumn, 1973. In his second year, he dropped out of college and started Microsoft with Paul Allen, a friend from the Lakeside private school he attended as a youngster. They set up their company in Albuquerque, NM in 1975. It was located near the manufacturer of a new computer kit, called the Altair 8800.

It was basically the first inexpensive “computer kit” sold to the public. Intel introduced a new microprocessor chip in 1975, the 8080. It contained about 2,700 more transistors than the chip launched in the previous year, and its successor, the 8088, was used in the first PCs (personal computers) made. Bill and Paul instantly recognised that if chips could be so small and more powerful than a room full of computer a decade before, computers would soon become even smaller and yet more powerful. Other companies didnt see it this way. But Bill was right. Now, practically all computers use a microprocessors. One of the first programs they created was Altair BASIC. This is a program that allows other people to more easily program the Altair. In 1978, a man named Kazuhiko Nishi called Bill. He read about Microsoft and was interested in its software. A few months later, he went to Microsoft where the two made a deal. Nishi paid $150M mainly for exclusive rights to license MS-BASIC in Asia. They remained business partners for 8 years, providing Microsoft with a link to Japan.

In 1979, Microsoft moved to Redmond, WA where it is today. By this time, Microsoft had grown in popularity. In order for Microsoft to get to the top, they had to have a very good business strategy. Their strategy is to sell software at low prices, until people are hooked. Then, slowly, raise them up. If a competitor comes along, they just drop their prices and bring them back up when the competitor is gone. That strategy is what made Microsoft the biggest software company in the world. In the early 1980s, IBM was having trouble finding an operating system to go on their new computer, which used the new 8088 microprocessor. Bill, of course, said he would be happy to make them one. However, he didn’t quite make an operating system. He bought Q-DOS from Seattle Computer Products for $75,000, hired their leading engineer on the project (Tim Patterson), improved it a little, and licensed it to IBM for a great deal of money.

When IBM released their new computer, they offered three OS choices, Pascal, CP/M, and MS-DOS costing $450, $175, and $60, respectively. This was another example of Microsofts sell cheaply in high volumes policy. The MS-DOS computer was a great success, and many people started writing software for it, making MS-DOS even more popular. In 1984, IBM wanted a GUI (Graphical User Interface) and again called Microsoft, having been satisfied with MS-DOS. So, Microsoft and IBM teamed up and attempted to make an OS called OS/2. However, IBM wanted to make it more like a mainframe OS than a personal computer OS. This would make it more complex and not as good, but it would be compatible with stone-aged machinery. In 1987, IBM released its new computer, the PS/2, which ran an early version of OS/2. In September of 1995, a new operating system was released. It was called Windows 95. It is currently the most popular operating system. Win95 had several new features, including multitasking. Multitasking is the feature which allows more than one application to be loaded at one time, making computing easier and more efficient. Other features of interest are OLE (Object Linking and Embedding, now known as Active X)), which allows different programs to communicate with each other, and threads, which are like little programs inside big ones. At this point, Bill got a new idea. If he could get people to use his Internet tools, he could control most of the Internet. So, he made Microsoft an Internet Service Provider (ISP). He called his new service Microsoft Network (MSN) and incorporated it into Win95. MSN now has about 6 million subscribers, most paying him $20 a month (about a billion dollars a year!). He also made a web browser, called Internet Explorer, and incorporated it into newer versions of Win95 so it would automatically be put onto your system. His Internet Explorer became number one. Currently, his only other competition is Netscape Navigator.

In short, Bill went from an upper middle-class family to the richest man in the world, who owns the biggest software company in the world, Microsoft. Microsoft and Bill have not yet reached their peak, but someday, they will (maybe?!). In a rapid and highly competitive industry dominated by men, Grace Hopper was a woman who made history by breaking down the barriers of male dominance in the computing world. Throughout her life she achieved many awards that other women had never been recognised for. In 1946 she achieved the Naval Ordinance award for participation in computer programming. In 1964 she was awarded the Society of Women Engineers, SWE Achievement Award. Many people think of the Computer Sciences “Man of The Year Award” her greatest achievement. When she received this award in 1969, she was the first person ever assigned this award, and the first women to be presented any award by the Data Processing Management Association. Grace was the first woman to be inducted into the Distinguished Fellow British Computer Society in 1973.

Grace also achieved many awards from the Colleges and Universities that she attended and taught at, such as the Upsilon Pi Epsilon, Honorary Member from Texas A&M; Honorary Doctor of Engineering, Newark College of Engineering; Wilbur Lucius Cross Medal, Yale University: After all the awards and recognitions Grace Hopper was given, she still thought that her greatest achievement was teaching. Grace taught at many colleges and universities in her life and gave many motivational speeches, he favourite teaching aid was a piece of wire that was the length of a nanosecond (about one foot), the maximum distance electricity can travel in wire in one-billionth of a second. She would then compare the nano-second to the microsecond that was over a thousand feet long. On January 1, 1992, Grace Hopper died at the age of 85. Even after her death Grace continues to influence many peoples lives. The impact she had on the world of programming has changed commercial computers forever. She also influenced the naval and other military services through her perseverance and her plans for the future. She refused to let anything get in the way of her success. She is a role model for women striving for success in the computing world.

Dan Bricklin was a revolutionary during a decade when people were tired of revolutionaries. In a sense, America was in a lull in the 1970s. But Dan Bricklin wasnt. After graduating from MIT, he went to work for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), where he wrote programs for an interface between newswire services and typesetters; perhaps more important, he wrote about 25 per cent of DECs first word processing program. After several years, Bricklin left DEC and entered Harvard Business School to pursue and M.B.A. As he learned about business theory and practices, Bricklin began to grow frustrated with the time and labour required to perform business calculations. He knew computers could help but no one had yet found a way. He wanted software application to be able to do for calculations what word processing software had done for document writing. He wanted users to be able to input numbers and other variables, change them around, and have the results calculated. Businesses could then make rapid sales forecasts, control inventory and predict human resource needs.

So Bricklin began to write his own program. He teamed up with Bob Frankston, a friend from MIT, and together they began to form the program into a useful product that just might sell. They started their own company, called Software Arts. The duo had to buy computer time on a time-share basis (no one had his own computer at that time); Frankston wrote at night, when computer rates were lowest, and Bricklin finished his M.B.A. Soon, although it was a tough sell, Apple bought a version of the new program for its Apple Il computer. The program was called VisiCalc. When VisiCalc reached computer stores, it sold for $100. VisiCalc had no huge, splashy launch like Microsofts Windows 95. It just quietly appeared. But it ultimately changed the way businesses operated, all around the world. The VisiCalc spreadsheet allowed company managers to enter variables such as costs and revenues, change them around, and see in a moments notice how the changes would affect a products performance and the companys bottom line.

VisiCalc reduced the costs of building spreadsheets by 80 per cent (they were no longer time and labour intensive); and small businesses could now compete with larger ones by making the same complex financial calculations as their competitors. VisiCalc, which was inexpensive to buy and easy to use, also changed the computer industry itself; in a sense, it lent credence to the personal computer. Infact, because the first version of VisiCalc was written for the Apple II (developed before the IBM personal computer), people bought the Apple Il computer specifically so they could use VisiCalc. Once VisiCalc was established, so was the PC. Lotus eventually bought Software Arts, having already introduced its own Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. Bricklin worked with Lotus for a while, but went off on his own again to start another company, Software Garden. He introduced more programs, such as Dan Bricklins Demo Program and Demo Il (the latter provides customised demos, prototypes and other components necessary for building basic computer training). Bricklins perspective on his career is philosophical: Im not rich because I invented VisiCalc, but I feel that Ive made a change in the world. Thats a satisfaction money cant buy. Most people would love to be able to say the same thing about their work.


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An Analysis of Individuals Who Influenced the Development of Computing. (2021, Oct 11). Retrieved from

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