SAG_Twitter_old-computer_880x440px_Sep21The “star" status attained by several prominent technology experts - from Elon Musk to Tim Cook - is attracting more and more young people to careers in technology.

On National Techies Day, I’d like to tell you a story of how some of these pioneers got their start and ended up influencing new generations of wannabe techies (including me).

3D animation

The Adventures of Andre and Wally B by Lucasfilm holds the distinction of being the first computer generated 3D-animated film. It premiered in July, 1984 at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference. Even though George Lucas was not supportive of fully CG-animated movies, the technical expertise and storytelling of The Graphics Group at Lucasfilm meant that this one-minute-52-second movie laid the first stepping stone to the birth of a whole new industry (and the creation of Pixar Animated Studios along with it).

The animation was ground-breaking from a technical perspective, featuring complex 3D rendering, early ray tracing and motion blur. It was built on the early research work by Ed Catmull, who later received the ACM Turing Award for his contributions to 3D computer graphics. Ed is perhaps less well known than his compatriots in the Pixar story, John Lasseter and Steve Jobs, but his impact on the movie industry has been pronounced.

Pioneers

The world continues to bestow awards on its greatest technical minds, even naming laws or models after them. However, the increasing pace of innovation, which generated six times as many US patents applications in 2020 compared to 50 years before, is pushing the level to be recognized as excellent ever higher. But these same innovations are allowing far more people to stand on the shoulders of the giants and leveraging the core innovations to create their own.

Like Ed Catmull, Sir Clive Sinclair was a true pioneer in the computer industry, introducing the world to home computing in 1980 with the ZX80, before releasing the UK’s best-selling microcomputer, the ZX Spectrum, in 1982. The introduction of home computers like the ZX Spectrum, led to a boom in the IT industry and allowed a generation of technology addicts to self-educate.

However, the explosion of the PC era in the 90’s, with its pre-built applications, resulted in a notable decline in numbers of computer science skilled university applicants. Having been inspired by Sir Clive in their youth, a team including Eben Upton and Rob Mullins decided to create a low-cost home computer for this new generation, and gave birth to the Raspberry Pi in 2011. Once again accelerating the innovation process.

Today the open-source RetroPie project is benefiting from the huge interest in the early 8-bit and 16-bit home computers to create and maintain the world’s most popular retro-gaming machine, based on the Raspberry Pi. This collaborative open-source approach is the zeitgeist of today’s software development, with its many online repositories.

GitHub alone has more than 65 million developers using it to discover and contribute to over 200 million projects. The open collaboration process often has a larger and wider breadth of contributors than commercial projects which ensures that it is high quality, secure, scalable, flexible, and widely supported.

My heroes

So, with the body of technical experts growing, which of the those who have worked tirelessly to make life easier through technology have I most been influenced by?

The notable start on my journey was influenced by John Logie Baird - inventor of the television, Robert Hutchings Goddard - inventor of the rocket, and Sir Clive Sinclair. Then later while at University, Tim Berners Lee – the world wide web, Phil Zimmerman - PGP security, and Phil Katz and Gary Conway - ZIP compression.

But I have been equally influenced by many people who don’t have their name in neon lights, or a law named after them, yet! Life’s expert technical contributors, if you like. One job applicant reverse-engineered GSM cellular security from first principles and without any preparation during a high-pressure interview. Another Software AG colleague created the most thorough and amazing demonstration of an IoT gateway I have ever seen. Another had the calmness and technical expertise to deliver a compelling customer demonstration, even after a faulty charger had literally exploded in their hand.

So today, on Techie Day, lets honor and respect all those who make our life easier through technology, whether they are globally renowned tech rock stars, active contributors, or hidden gems.

Happy Techies Day!

National Techies Day was established in 1998 by techies.com with the support of C|NET was originally developed for the purpose of helping high school students become educated about careers in technology.

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