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Volume 3, Number 8
August, 1998

Tales of the Geek Lord
Top 10 Geeks

by Pelican Smith

  1. Bill Gates - Businessman

    "640K ought to be enough for anybody." - Bill Gates
    Love him, hate him. Use his software, abuse his software. Buy his software, illegally copy his software. Become his partner, become his next target. Bill Gates, a talented geek and extrordinary businessman, represents all that is good, and all that is bad, in computing. How did it come to be that a company could write software so often used, and still be so amazingly hated?
    The answer comes from history. Early on in home computing, Bill Gates did something, with full vigor and earnest, that other software makers had not done - He insisted that those people who used his software, paid for his software. In an era of free-wheeling hobbyists, this immediately seperated him from his peers.
    Others have went on to make millions, but Bill Gates has went on to make billions using the same philosophy that shocked so many people all those years ago - If you use it, pay for it.

  2. Linus Torvalds - Free Spirit

    "Only wimps use tape backup: _real_ men just upload their important stuff
    on ftp, and let the rest of the world mirror it ;)"
    - Linux Torvalds
    Now imagine a polar opposite to Bill Gates. Imagine someone who wrote an operating system and just...gave it away. Now you have an image of Linus. For some reason, still not entirely known, this Swedish speaking resident of Helsinki, Finland wrote a fully operational UNIX kernel, pieced it in with some other public domain spare parts, and gave it away for free. To this date Linus retains his sense of humor, his love of programming, and his privacy. His free UNIX clone, Linux, is all grown up, and still free.
    Personal note: I have been running Solaris, NT and Linux machines side by side for years now. When it comes to reliability and affordability, Linux wins hands down. Unfortunately, those two factors are not the only ones that matter in every case.

  3. Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson - Gurus

    "There are two major products that come out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX.
    We don't believe this to be a coincidence."
    - Jeremy S. Anderson
    Once upon a time, before Lucent, before government divestiture, there was this thing, this mighty monstrosity known as "Ma Bell". Oh, she was a terror, but she did have a research and development section known as Bell Labs. In these hallowed halls two men got together and produced two products which have proved their worth by surviving all these years: UNIX, and the C programming language.

  4. Grace Hopper - Pioneer

    "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission." - Grace Hopper
    Grace Hopper was one of those amazing people who accomplish everything in life. She was a scholar, an inventor, and a Navy Admiral. During an age where programmers were really mathmaticians, and all programs were hand coded in binary, she sought out a way to introduce computing to others. Through this effort she developed the worlds first compiler - a program which takes human readable code and converts it to binary executable files. Grace also coined the phrase "debugging", since she actually had to periodically pluck dead moths from the relays.

  5. Kevin Mitnick - Outlaw

    Free Kevin - 2600 Club
    Kevin Mitnick is a larger than life enigma. After several run-in's with the law on computer crimes, he proclaimed to the court that he was an actual hacking addict. After a brief vacation from the hacking community, he again went underground, and resumed his exploiting ways. Whether Kevin actually hacked into Tsutomu Shimomura's computer, or someone else did, is still a matter of debate. However, Shimomura was extremely prepared for a break in, and launched a nationwide manhunt. With the help of the FBI, the phone companies, and several ISP's, Kevin was tracked down and arrested. He is currently still locked away in prison. According to rumor, the famous hacker movie, "War Games", is based upon some of Kevin's doings.

  6. Steve Wozniak and Steven Jobs - Dream Story

    I feel most sorry that the best quality people are not
    solidly in the Mac camp anymore.
    - The Woz
    Take two guys who love to tinker with electronics, add one time that's right and one good idea, mix with determination. What's the outcome of this? The worlds first monster computer entrepeneur millionare success story. Apple computer was founded, and the whole Geek thing began to look, well, potentially extremely profitable.

  7. Bob Metcalfe - Networker

    "First, packets." - Bob Metcalfe
    If one computer is a good thing, then two must be better. Now imagine a whole room full of computers, all talking together at blazing speeds. That was the concept that led Bob Metcalfe to develop Ethernet, a protocol for computer communication that is so simple to understand, and so reliable, that it is still a major player in the modern networking environment. Bob has moved into authoring now, writing a monthly column for Infoworld, and has raised several eyebrows by proclaiming that the Internet is doomed to crash and burn, causing massive outages around the globe - soon. Only time will tell if he is right or not.

  8. Donald Knuth - Educator

    "I have been a happy man ever since January 1, 1990,
    when I no longer had an email address."
    - Don Knuth
    Computer Science is still a scholarly pursuit, as well as a business. The author of choice for computer books has been and still is Donald Knuth. Of all his books, though, The Art of Computer Programming has served as a foundation for millions of budding computer programmers. For the programmer, it is on a par equal to that of The Elements of Style for writers.

  9. Richard Stallman - Freedom Fighter

    "I cannot in good conscience sign a nondisclosure agreement
    or a software license agreement."
    - Richard Stallman
    Richard Stallman had a very ambitious plan. He thought that all operating systems should be free - heck, most software should be free. Companies would still be able to write the games and killer apps, and then sell them for millions of dollars. Companies would still be able to sell support contracts as well. But the software itself would be free to all users. Ahhh, what a glorious concept - Marketing would be removed from programming entirely. Software would roll out onto the Internet when it was ready according to the programmers schedule, instead of according to the competitors schedule. You could pick and choose the software you liked, for free, and keep that which you thought was best. Richard told the world that he would rewrite UNIX, and then just give it away. Well, others beat him to it, but what would the modern computing landscape be without GNU, or hurd, or the EFF?

  10. Clifford Stoll - Computer Sleuth

    "YOW!" - Cliff Stoll
    This cofounder of the WELL gained his fame by tracking down some East German spies via computer, because they were using his university computers as a jump point. He has endured as a worthy Geek through his books, and through his amazing personality. He is an outrageous speaker, immediately identifiable as a computer nerd. Yet, his enthusiasm bleeds into those around him. He inspires people to pay attention to detail, to think, to explore, to laugh. He reminds us all that work can be more than just a job. If you are doing it right, it can be a joy in itself.

5 Links to Make You Think
  1. Memoir of a Homebrew Computer Club Member
  2. Triumph of the Nerds
  3. The Computer Museum
  4. Hobbes' Internet Timeline
  5. The Greatest Gurus Ever
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