Programmers who defined the technology industry: Where are they now?

The future of the computer... circa 1986.

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Charles Simonyi, Multiplan, Alto Bravo, and Hungarian Notation

Then: Hungarian-born Charles Simonyi already had an impressive background before he joined Microsoft in the 1980s. Like so many other programmers of the early microcomputer era he was an alumnus of Xerox PARC, during which he created the Bravo and Bravo X programs, the first WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) text editors, for the Alto personal computer.

[ See also: Xerox PARC turns 40: Marking four decades of IT innovations ]

At Microsoft, Simonyi organized the company's Application Software Group, which produced Multiplan, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel. He's also well known in programming communities for instigating the Hungarian Notation: a formulaic way to name programming variables inside an application.

On code lifetime in software development: "Really good programs will live forever and take forever to write, at least as long as the hardware exists, and maybe even longer. Certainly, Bravo lived for as long as the Alto existed.... There were about fourteen releases over about a five-year period.... The same thing is going to be true for Multiplan. When you consider that Multiplan lives in Microsoft Excel, then Multiplan is going to be a continuing story. And Microsoft Excel on the Macintosh is not going to be the last application in the chain either. It's going to continue on Windows."

On computing future: "Who knows? Maybe computer science will help decode DNA, and not just by supplying tools. Disassembling DNA could be a hacker's ultimate dream."

Today: Simonyi stayed at Microsoft until 2002, and ended up as Director of Application Development, Chief Architect, and Distinguished Engineer.

Today, Simonyi is chairman, CTO, and founder of Intentional Software Corporation which, according to its website, "accelerates innovation by integrating business domain experts into the software production process." Simonyi has been a member of the National Academy of Engineering since 1997, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2008, and a Correspondent Member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. According to the corporate bio, he is an avid collector of modern art, enjoys classical music, and is an experienced pilot.

Next page: The other 14 programmers

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