The 10 IT People Who Mattered in the Past 40 Years (but You May Not Know Why)

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Who: Bill Inmon

What/where: CEO, Inmon Data Systems Inc.

Why: Coined the term data warehouse in 1990 and is considered the father of the $28 billion industry. Inmom defined a data warehouse as a place where information is subject-specific, integrated, time-dependent and nonvolatile -- that is, more data can be added, but old data never changes. Advocates contend that businesses should have one data warehouse that creates data mart offspring. A prolific writer, Inmon has published more than 650 articles and 46 books -- so far.

H. Ross Perot

H. Ross PerotWho: H. Ross Perot

What/where: Founder, Electronic Data Systems Corp. and Perot Data Systems

Why: Iconic business maverick who blazed trails to deliver IT services to corporate users. Perot took a $1,000 loan in 1962 and parlayed it into a $2.5 billion payoff when he sold EDS to General Motors Corp. in 1984. He snagged more than 8 million votes in a U.S. presidential bid for the Reform Party in 1996. Ever quotable, Perot once observed, Inventories can be managed, but people must be led.

Jon Postel

Jon PostelWho: Jon Postel

What/where: Director, computer networks division, University of Southern Californias Information Sciences Institute

Why: Helped create and document numerous standards and protocols for the Internet, including TCP/IP, SNMP and DNS. He is hailed as the shepherd of the Internet. The Internet Society established the Jonathan B. Postel Service Award in his honor after his death in 1998. A firm believer in the value of content over presentation style, Postel never used PowerPoint in his career.

Who: Dennis Ritchie

What/where: Bell Labs fellow

Why: Developed the C programming language, the foundation for the portability of Unix to different hardware systems. Ritchie followed in his fathers footsteps and joined Bell Labs in 1967, quickly aiding in the creation of Unix in 1969 with Ken Thompson, with whom he shares a Turing Award. In a Q&A with, he listed mouth-breathing (sport), brooding (hobby) and Dr. Strangelove (movie) among his favorite things.

Alan Shugart

Alan ShugartWho: Alan Shugart

What/where: Founder and CEO, Shugart Associates and Seagate Technology

Why: Led the IBM team in 1959 that gave us the first floppy disk, the 8-in., 5MB Ramac. While at IBM, he also oversaw the creation of the 50MB disk system for the first electronic reservation system, Sabre. He founded Seagate in 1979, which gave us the 5 1/2-in. disk drive that helped fuel the PC revolution. He ran a losing campaign to elect his dog, Bernice, to Congress in 1996; Shugart died 10 years later.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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