June 24, 2013, 2:56 PM — About midway through 2013, the computing and network world has already seen the passing of a handful of people who had larger-than-life influences on the industry.
Here's a look back at some of these memorable people (and here's a look back at 2012's most notable deaths in science, technology and inventions):
*Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson: oversaw Microsoft antitrust trial (Died June 15, age 76)
Jackson, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was involved in many high profile cases, some involving politicians (such as Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Jr.) and others involving businesses (including GM).
But he made his mark in technology circles as the presiding judge in the United States vs. Microsoft antitrust case in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The main issue was whether Microsoft was monopolistic in bundling its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows OS, and Jackson did rule that in order to conduct business fairly, Microsoft needed to be split up into a Windows company and another that included the rest of Microsoft's software offerings. The New York Times obituary on Jackson included this description of his style: "A technological novice who wrote his opinions in longhand and used his computer mainly to e-mail jokes, Judge Jackson refuted Microsoft's assertion that it was impossible to remove the company's Internet Explorer Web browser from its operating system by doing it himself." Jackson's judgment was later appealed and the Department of Justice later settled the case.
*John "Jack" Harker: Father of Removable Disk Storage (Died April 27, age 86)
Harker, who became an electronics repair specialist during World War II, worked for IBM for 35 years. He served many roles over his career at Big Blue, before retiring in 1987, but most notably became known as the father of removable disk storage for his leadership of the 1311 Disk File project. He also worked on the IBM 250 RAMAC, the first hard disk drive. Harker, an IBM fellow, was twice director of the IBM San Jose Storage Laboratories. More here.
*Michael Culbert: Apple mover/shaker (Died April 19, age 47)
The Cornell-educated Culbert spent more than 25 years as an engineer at Apple, and wound up as vice president of architecture at the company. Among his claims to fame: being a member of the Apple Newton group, bringing the personal digital assistant to life (here he is in a video regarding the Newton launch). The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) wrote that Culbert was awarded patents for iPhone and iPad technologies taken for granted, including iOS video screen rotation and power saving capabilities. More here.
*Rob Held: Ex-Chipcom CEO (Died March 19, age 74)
John Robert (Rob) Held, who made a name for himself in the networking industry during the 1980s and 1990s as president and CEO of Ethernet hub pioneer Chipcom, had an unusual background for a network industry executive: He served six years in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant on a Polaris submarine after earning a bachelor's degree in engineering from Yale University in 1961. He later earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and went on to work at electronic test equipment company GenRad for 14 years, before taking the reins at Chipcom. Chipcom become known not just as a feisty competitor to other early network companies such as Cabletron and SynOptics, but also as a spirited place to work, where employees referred to themselves as "Chippers" and held parties called "Chipcom proms." 3Com bought the company and its ONcore and other products for $775 million in 1995.
*Harry Pyle: Worked on the earliest desktop computer (Died March 11, age 63)
Pyle joined the Texas company Computer Terminal Corp. (later called Datapoint) as a young man and worked on the earliest personal computers, such as the Datapoint 2200. Notably, he also worked on technology that led to the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 8008 (he wrote the instruction set while at student at Case Western). He was also heavily involved in building ARCnet, the first commercial LAN offering. Later in his career, Pyle moved to Washington state and worked on the home automation system for Bill Gates' estate, and later, he joined Microsoft. Here's an oral history with Pyle, via the Computer History Museum. You can read more about Pyle and Datapoint in this book released in 2012.
*Ian Ross: ex-Bell Labs chief (Died March 10, age 86)
The English-born Ross was a pioneer in the field of transistors at Bell Labs, starting work there in1952, and later went on to lead AT&T's research arm, including during the years right after the carrier spun off the Baby Bells. During his years at Bell, among Ross's accomplishments, while managing director of Bellcom, according to TheNew York Times obituary, was to "calculate whether the moon's surface could support a spaceship's weight." Among the recognitions Ross earned during his career: the1988 IEEE Founders Medal "For distinguished leadership of AT&T Bell Laboratories guiding innovation in telecommunications and information processing." More here.
*John Karlin: Behind-the-scenes telephone man (Died Jan. 28, age 94)
A South African-born industrial psychologist at Bell Labs from the 1940s to 1977, Karlin made his mark on the telephony industry, conducting key research on the shift to all-digit telephone numbers and resulting in the familiar rectangular push-button telephone keypad. From The New York Times obituary on Karlin: "It is not so much that Mr. Karlin trained midcentury Americans how to use the telephone. It is, rather, that by studying the psychological capabilities and limitations of ordinary people, he trained the telephone, then a rapidly proliferating but still fairly novel technology, to assume optimal form for use by midcentury Americans." As a result, Karlin is considered "the father of human-factors engineering in American industry."
*Jim Horning: computer science leader (Died Jan. 18, age 70)
Horning was described by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) as "a leading figure in the evolution of computer science as a discipline and a profession." Horning described himself as having been "hooked on computing since 1959" (when he wrote his first program), and he was a founding member and chair of the University of Toronto's Computer Systems Research Group, a Research Fellow at Xerox PARC and a founding member and senior consultant with Digital Equipment Corp.'s Systems Research Center. He also held high-level IT security jobs at companies such as McAfee and Silicon Graphics. The computer scientist's areas of interest included programming languages and compilers, grammatical inference, operating systems, computer and network security, and e-commerce technologies.
*Aaron Swartz: Internet innovator & activist (Died Jan. 11, age 26)
Swartz, an Internet pioneer, political activist and computer programming prodigy, committed suicide while facing hacking-related charges that could have landed him in jail for decades. Swartz played key roles in the development of the RSS online content syndication technology, in the creation of the Creative Commons licenses, in a campaign against the SOPA and PIPA bills, and in the success of the Reddit news sharing site. Swartz faced a variety of charges in a Massachusetts federal court, including computer intrusion, wire fraud and data theft stemming from allegations that he stole millions of scholarly articles and documents from an MIT subscription-based service called JSTOR. Since his death, supporters have pushed for legislative changes to make taxpayer-funded research freely available sooner, among other things.
IDG News Service contributed to this report.
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