A fortnight ago we reviewed the worst villains in computing history. But what would a villain be without a hero to battle with?
This week we count down the good guys. From brilliant programmers to tireless activists to some clever entrepreneurs, these are the people who have made computing easier, more efficient and just plain enjoyable.
A hero isn't just a great geek, or someone who invented something wonderful. Instead it's about continued, selfless service to an ideal of good IT. You won't find Bill Gates on this list, or Steve Jobs for that matter. They have played important roles, but aren't cast of the right kind of stuff to make this list.
So here we have them, the best and the brightest IT heroes.
mention: Bill Clinton
Shaun Nichols: When we were deciding on which presidents to write about, I joked to Iain that the process was something like choosing which footballer would kick you in the groin.
The White House is notorious for being behind the times regarding tech, and the stodgy old men that occupy much of the high levels of government are rarely the type to be on the cutting edge of anything other than incontinence treatment.
Clinton, however, did a fair job of handling and taking advantage of the first internet boom in the late 1990s. His administration did more than any previous one to harness the power of the internet, and get major government organisations online and open to the public.
Most importantly, Clinton decided early on to keep the government out of e-commerce. He vowed that the federal government would not over-regulate or over-tax internet sales, a rare decision from a Democrat and one which ultimately helped the first dot com boom to really take off.
Iain Thomson: The Clinton administration had many faults but not understanding technology was not one of them. Clinton was aided by Al Gore, a man who certainly did understand the internet and its possibilities. While it's widely believed that Gore said that he invented the internet this is not the case, but he was instrumental in bringing the internet to the attention of government.
Clinton took this knowledge and ran with it, making e-commerce attractive with tax breaks and aiding location-based services by ordering that the GPS signal be taken off Selective Availability, in other words making it usefully accurate.
mention: Ronald Reagan
Iain Thomson: Let me just say that this is not part of the general deification of Reagan that seems to be going on at the moment. The Gipper had many faults, as well as some good points, but in IT terms he did something very good indeed and deserves the credit.
In 1983, with the Cold War at its peak, Korean Airlines flight 007 strayed off course en route from Anchorage to Seoul and disappeared. After some questioning the Soviets admitted that, yes, they had shot it down as it was on a spying mission. 296 passengers and crew were killed after a simple navigational error.
Reagan was more than a little shocked by this and, in a stroke of genius, ordered the US military to open up its nascent global positioning system (GPS) for civilian use so that such accidents could be avoided in the future. It's a decision we all give thanks for today, particularly when we're lost.
Shaun Nichols: As a 20-something journalist from San Francisco, you can safely assume that I'm at odds with Reagan on more than a few issues. He does, however, deserve credit for kick-starting the GPS market. Though he likely didn't see it coming, Reagan set the stage for a new branch of the consumer electronics industry.
One thing that can always be counted on to boost IT investment is an extended military campaign, and if there was one group you could count on to press for more military spending in the Cold War era, it was the Republican Party.
The push for newer and better military tools eventually filtered down into the IT industry. I guess if you want to claim that Al Gore 'invented' the internet, then you also have to concede that Ronald Reagan 'invented' GPS.
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