Unsung innovators: 10 people who shaped the computer industry

Their names are so familiar that they roll off your tongue like a song that keeps rattling around in your head: Steve Jobs, Andy Grove, Bill Gates, Vint Cerf. We could go on, but we wouldn't want to mislead you.

Instead, this time out, we've put together a list of names you probably haven't heard of. (No fair peeking at the Table of Contents quite yet!) From the pair who started the VLSI chip revolution to the man who received the first software patent to the guy who put the 'at' sign in your e-mail address, we searched high and low for people we're betting you didn't already know.

Without these innovators, even those whose work you may question -- like the first to send out a spam message -- we would all be experiencing a very different industry today.

Speaking of, we discovered the true father of the Internet. It isn't Al Gore, and it isn't Vint Cerf, though the latter got close.

And yes, now's a good time to jump over to the Table of Contents and get to know these folks.

When you're done reading, please let us know -- in the comments field below -- who else we should have included on this list. And keep in mind our criteria: giant industry contribution, low name recognition.

And if you're itching to know more about some of those household names and what they're up to now, there's something for you, too. We tracked down seven tech giants, including Mitch Kapor, Dan Bricklin and Steve Wozniak, and can bring you up to date with their newest ventures in Second acts: Seven tech titans today.

Research assistance provided by Mari Keefe.

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