The Grey Chronicles


PC Revolutionaries and Internet Mavericks, Part I

The Future of the InternetAfter reading Jonathan Zittrain”s The Future of the Internet (2008), my interest shifted from his thesis to snippets of PC revolution and Internet history. Zittrain has innate talent of naming names of prominent personalities responsible for the growth of both these generative technologies, based on meticulous research and ample annotations,and wove them into his narrative. Some of the personalities mentioned in Zittrain’s book were not as familiar as the more famous others, at least from my point of view, thus this might also be true to some of this blog’s readers. This post presents a short list of personalities in PC revolution and Internet history. Annotations hereunder are based on my own research on Internet resources and other readings. Links or URLs are provided for further reading.

PC Revolutionaries

PC includes personal computing devices such as desktop PC, laptop/notebook, and associated devices. Personalities selected here revolutionized personal computing.

Herman HollerithHerman Hollerith was a twenty-year-old engineer when he helped to compile the results of the 1880 U.S. Census. He invented a way to tabulate the data automatically. Hollerith’s Tabulating Machine Company became International Business Machines. IBM has dominated business computing since 1960.

Steve Paul JobsAt twenty-one Jobs exhibited the Apple II personal computer at the First West Coast Computer Faire. By January 9, 2007, he introduced at the San Francisco’s Moscone Center, the iPhone—a three-in-one device: an iPod, a phone and Internet access. “The Apple II was quintessentially generative technology.”

William “Bill” GatesWilliam “Bill” Gates is the creator of Microsoft, which envisioned “a computer on every desk and in every home, all running Microsoft software.” Microsoft introduced us to Windows and Xbox 360, a general purpose computer.

Dan BricklinDan Bricklin introduced the first killer application for the Apple II in 1979—VisiCalc, the world’s first spreadsheet program—. He co-founded Software Arts in 1978 and became the president of Software Garden in 1985. At present, from 1992, he is the vice president of Slate Corporation.

Tim WuCyberlaw scholar Tim Wu, a cyberlaw scholar, chair of media reform group Free Press, and a writer for Slate Magazine, pointed out “how difficult it was at first to put the telephone network to any new purpose, not for technical reasons, but for ones of legal control.” the same is true to wireless telephone carriers exercise. Tim Wu is the author of several papers on intellectual property and innovation.

CarterfoneIn 1959, Thomas Carter invented the Carterfone, a two-way mobile radio system connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). later, he challenged AT&T and won. In 2007, VoIP provider Skype has filed a petition with the FCC to ensure that Carterfone rules apply to commercial wireless networks, citing Tim Wu’s paper on Wireless Net Neutrality (Wu, 2007).

Tom JenningsA PC owner named Tom Jennings wrote FIDOnet in the spring of 1984. FIDOnet, the first message and file networking system for BBSes. FIDOnet “a testament to the distributed ingenuity of those who tinker with generative technologies.” Aside from creating the most influential protocol for networking computer bulletin boards, Jennings built Wired magazine’s first internet presence, wrote the portable BIOS that led to Phoenix Technologies BIOS, and maintains an authoritative history on character codes and encoding methods.

Richard StallmanRichard Stallman believes in a world where software is shared, with its benefits freely available to all, where those who understand the code can modify and adapt it to new purposes, and then share it further. Free Software Movement follows the four freedoms: freedom to run the program, freedom to study how it works, freedom to change it, and freedom to share the results with the public at large. Stallman created a free alternative called GNU (“GNU’s Not Unix”) to replace the proprietary Unix operating system.

Peter TattamPeter Tattam, an employee in the psychology department of the University of Tasmania, wrote Trumpet Winsock, a shareware program that allowed owners of PCs running Microsoft Windows to connect to the Internet connection. Microsoft bundled the functionality of Winsock with late versions of Windows 95.

Linus TorvaldsExcept for using the word Linux, I just wondered why the inventor of Linux, Linus Torvalds, was never mentioned in Zittrain’s book. Probably, some controversy such as those published in LinuxWorld or CNET, purportedly coming from an Alexis de Tocqueville Institute, on the true inventor surfaced in 2004? Wired confirmed that Microsoft provides funding to the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute. Is Linux not generative?


Zittrain, Jonathan (2008). The Future of the Internet—and How to Stop. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. Online version of this work available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Selected references cited above from Zittrian’s book. The cover was designed by Ivo van der Ent, based on his winning entry of an open competition at back to text

Photo images from respective sites. Others were cropped images from Google image search, which are appropriately linked back.

Wu (2007). Wireless Net Neutrality: Cellular Carterfone and Consumer Choice in Mobile Broadband, Working Paper. Columbia University School of Law, 15 February 2007. back to text

Disclaimer: The posts on this site does not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions; and unless otherwise expressly stated, are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Philippines License.


1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for your interesting article. Learned a lot new to subscribe to your news. I would wait for new articles. Good luck.

    Comment by Psh — 2009.May.31 @ 16:47 | Reply

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