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Unsung heroes

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Bill Gates, the web's Tim Berners-Lee and Linux developer Linus Torvalds are among the stars of today's IT industry but they stand on the shoulders of the many visionaries, inventors and entrepreneurs who gave birth to the modern computing business.

The five heroes examined here are often overshadowed by the big names active today, but they helped to shape the design of modern computers and launch the booming software and services industry.

Adam Osborne

Creator of the portable computer and champion of cheap software

Adam Osborne (1939-2003) had only a brief period of fame, but his launch of the first portable computer in 1981 opened the way for Compaq and others to follow.

Philip Hughes

Co-founder of Logica and UK software and systems industry pioneer

Philip Hughes (born 1936) devotes one line to his place in computing history in his CV, the rest is all about his work as an artist and his involvement with the Royal College of Art and the National Gallery. The simple line "1969-1991 co-founder of Logica" belies the contribution he made with his contemporaries to the early days of the UK IT industry.

Ken Olsen

Inventor of the minicomputer and co-founder of Digital Equipment

Ken Olsen (born 1926) created the minicomputer, which in turn helped to give birth to the systems and software industry.

Gene Amdahl

Forerunner in mainframe design and IBM-compatible peripherals

Gene Amdahl (born 1922) made two contributions to mainframe computing, which helped to shape the entire industry from the 1960s onwards.

Konrad Zuse

Creator of early computer architecture and inventor of binary logic

Konrad Zuse (1910-1995) could have gone down in history as the father of modern computing if the Second World War had not forced him to work in isolation from pioneers in the US and the UK who had funding and access to each other's research. Zuse singlehandedly devised much of the design of today's computers and made machines that were not matched outside his native Germany until years later.

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