Notable deaths of 2013 from the worlds of technology, science & inventions

In memoriam: Computing pioneers with roots at Apple and IBM pass, as do brilliant young Internet innovators


Significant contributors in computing, the technology industry and the wonderful world of all sorts of inventions died in 2013. Here’s our tribute to them. (Contributions to this slideshow from IDG News Service and our sister publications at IDG).

RELATED: 2012’s notable tech industry deaths

Aaron Swartz
Aaron Swartz: Internet innovator & activist (Died Jan. 11, age 26)

Swartz, an Internet pioneer, political activist and computer programming prodigy, committed suicide while facing hacking-related charges related to the systematic download of academic journal articles at MIT. If convicted, he could have landed in jail for decades. Swartz played key roles in the development of the RSS online content syndication technology, in the creation of the Creative Commons licenses, in a campaign against the SOPA and PIPA bills, and in the success of the Reddit news sharing site. Since his death, supporters have pushed for legislative changes to make taxpayer-funded research freely available sooner. He was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame posthumously.

Tom Parry Jones
Tom Parry Jones: Inventor of electronic breathalyzer (Died. Jan. 11, age 77)

The Welsh scientist who was an expert in chemistry invented the device used to test for drunk driving in 1974 following new laws in the U.K. several years earlier that introduced the first legally enforceable maximum blood alcohol level for drivers. The device, known as the Alcolyser, was sold to police departments around the world through a company Parry Jones co-founded called Lion Laboratories. After selling Lion to an American company in 1991, Parry Jones started a company focused on detecting toxic gas.

Andre Cassagnes
Andre Cassagnes: Etch A Sketch inventor (Died Jan. 16, age 86)

This French inventor and electrical technician was best known for creating the mechanical drawing toy called Etch A Sketch, though also was a renowned kite maker. The idea for Etch A Sketch came to Cassagnes while working as an electrical technician at a factory, where he noticed some pencil markings that picked up metallic powders showing up on a decal he’d peeled off a light switch plate, according to the New York Times obituary.  The toy came to market in 1960 when he sold it to Ohio Arts.

Jim Horning
Jim Horning: computer science leader (Died Jan. 18, age 70)

Horning was described by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) as "a leading figure in the evolution of computer science as a discipline and a profession." Horning described himself as having been "hooked on computing since 1959" (when he wrote his first program), and he was a founding member and chair of the University of Toronto's Computer Systems Research Group, a Research Fellow at Xerox PARC and a founding member and senior consultant with Digital Equipment Corp.'s Systems Research Center. He also held high-level IT security jobs at companies such as McAfee and Silicon Graphics. The computer scientist's areas of interest included programming languages and compilers, grammatical inference, operating systems, computer and network security, and e-commerce technologies.

John Karlin
John Karlin: Behind-the-scenes telephone man (Died Jan. 28, age 94)

A South African-born industrial psychologist at Bell Labs from the 1940s to 1977, Karlin made his mark on the telephony industry, conducting key research on the shift to all-digit telephone numbers and resulting in the familiar rectangular push-button telephone keypad. From The New York Times obituary on Karlin: “It is not so much that Mr. Karlin trained midcentury Americans how to use the telephone. It is, rather, that by studying the psychological capabilities and limitations of ordinary people, he trained the telephone, then a rapidly proliferating but still fairly novel technology, to assume optimal form for use by midcentury Americans.” As a result, Karlin is considered “the father of human-factors engineering in American industry.”

Ian Ross
Ian Ross: ex-Bell Labs chief (Died March 10, age 86)

The English-born Ross was a pioneer in the field of transistors at Bell Labs, starting work there in 1952, and later went on to lead AT&T’s research arm, including during the years right after the carrier spun off the Baby Bells.  During his years at Bell, among Ross’s accomplishments, while managing director of Bellcom, according to the New York Times obituary, was to “calculate whether the moon’s surface could support a spaceship’s weight.” Among the recognitions Ross earned during his career: the 1988 IEEE Founders Medal "For distinguished leadership of AT&T Bell Laboratories guiding innovation in telecommunications and information processing."

Harry Pyle
Credit: photo courtesy Jack Frassanito
Harry Pyle: Worked on the earliest desktop computer (Died March 11, age 63)

Pyle joined the Texas company Computer Terminal Corp. (later called Datapoint) as a young man and worked on the earliest personal computers, such as the Datapoint 2200. Notably, he also worked on technology that led to the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 8008 (he wrote the instruction set while a student at Case Western). He was also heavily involved in building ARCnet, the first commercial LAN offering. Later in his career, Pyle moved to Washington state and worked on the home automation system for Bill Gates’ estate, and later, he joined Microsoft. Here’s an oral history with Pyle, via the Computer History Museum. You can read more about Pyle and Datapoint in this book released in 2012.

Rob Held
Rob Held: Ex-CEO of Chipcom (Died March 19, age 74)

Held made a name for himself in the networking industry during the 1980s and 1990s as president and CEO of Ethernet hub pioneer Chipcom. He had an unusual background for a network industry executive, serving six years in the U.S. Navy as a lieutenant on a Polaris submarine after earning a bachelor's degree in engineering from Yale University in 1961. He later earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and went on to work at electronic test equipment company GenRad for 14 years, before taking the reins at Chipcom.

Stuart Biggs: First Cisco CCIE (Died June 24, age 53)
Stuart Biggs: First Cisco CCIE (Died June 24, age 53)

Biggs in 1993 led a team that created the Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert program and was the first to be awarded a CCIE number. 

CCIE program planners chose to start its numbering system with 1024 (2 to the power of 10), according to Biggs, and that number went to a plaque on the lab itself. Biggs, who was schooled in electrical engineering at Stanford University, received 1025 on July 19, 1993.

"I am amazed as to how well this program has grown," Biggs wrote last year. "Next year - 2013 will be the 20th year of this program - and people still take notice when someone says they're a CCIE!" Biggs also helped to design Cisco's first company website. MORE here.

(Via NW's Paul McNamara)

Michael Culbert
Michael Culbert : Apple mover/shaker (Died April 19, age 47)

The Cornell-educated Culbert spent more than 25 years as an engineer at Apple, and wound up as VP of Architecture at the company. Among his claims to fame: being a member of the Apple Newton group, bringing the personal digital assistant to life (here he is in a video regarding the Newton launch). The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) wrote that Culbert was awarded patents for iPhone and iPad technologies taken for granted, including iOS video screen rotation and power saving capabilities.

John “Jack” Harker
John “Jack” Harker: Father of Removable Disk Storage (Died April 27, age 86)

Harker, who became an electronics repair specialist during World War II, worked for IBM for 35 years. He served many roles over his career at Big Blue, before retiring in 1987, but most notably became known as the father of removable disk storage for his leadership of the 1311 Disk File project. He also worked on the IBM 250 RAMAC, the first hard disk drive. Harker, an IBM fellow, was twice director of the IBM San Jose Storage Laboratories.

Albert Fritz
Albert Fritz: Father of the Schwinn Sting-Ray bicycle (Died May 7, age 88)

The father of the Sting-Ray bicycle, which started the wheelie bike craze across the United States after picking up on a California street craze, introduced the low-slung vehicle in 1962 while VP of engineering and R&D at Schwinn (he started at the company in the 1940s as a grinder/welder and retired in the mid-1980s as head of the company’s exercise division).  It became the most popular bike in America during the 1960s and 1970s. According to an LA Times obituary, Fritz also came up with the idea for Airdyne, a stationary exercise bike with moving arms that powered a big fan. He studied stenography and was on Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s staff in the Philippines.

Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson
Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson: oversaw Microsoft antitrust trial (Died June 15, age 76)

Jackson, a judge for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, was involved in many high profile cases, some involving politicians and others involving businesses. But he made his mark in technology circles as the presiding judge in the United States vs. Microsoft antitrust case in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The main issue was whether Microsoft was monopolistic in bundling its Internet Explorer browser with its Windows OS, and Jackson did rule that in order to conduct business fairly, Microsoft needed to be split up into a Windows company and another that included the rest of Microsoft’s software offerings. Jackson’s judgment was later appealed and the DoJ later settled the case.

Charles Foley
Charles Foley: Co-creator of the game Twister (Died July 1, age 82)

This American toy inventor created the stretch-tastic Twister game with Neil Rabens and sold it to Milton Bradley Co., submitting it for patent in 1966 and seeing the game become a hit after it was played on The Tonight Show by Johnny Carson and Eva Gabor. The game has lived on in songs by artists such as REM and Britney Spears, and appeared in the movie Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, as the stars challenge Death to a match. Foley started his career at Ford and during his life patented nearly 100 inventions.

Ed Iacobucci
Ed Iacobucci: Founder of Citrix (Died June 21, age 59)

Iacobucci’s work on OS/2 at IBM helped fuel the PC craze and his efforts at Citrix and VirtualWorks aimed to bring computing back under control. Born in Argentina and schooled in systems engineering at Georgia Tech, Iacobucci got his career start in 1979 at IBM, where he held architecture and design leadership roles involving PC operating systems OS/2 and DOS, working closely with Microsoft in doing so (and actually turning down a CTO of networking job from there). He left IBM 10 years later to start Citrix, the multifaceted company that began with OS/2-based products and carved out a niche in the thin-client market, which was what virtualization looked like before people were calling it that. MORE here

Douglas Engelbart
Douglas Engelbart: Father of the computer mouse (Died July 2, age 88)

Engelbart was a Silicon Valley engineer who invented the computer mouse and is credited with many of the concepts that underpin modern computing and the Internet. Engelbart began studying electrical engineering after World War II, during which he was in the Navy. After graduating he joined the Stanford Research Institute (today called SRI International), which was just over a decade old, and led the organization's Augmentation Research Center, and in 1963 came up with the concept of the computer mouse, which he really publicly demonstrated in 1968 (its 40th anniversary was celebrated in 2008). Engelbart was recognized for his accomplishments many times over, including with the A.M. Turing Award, sometimes called the Nobel Prize in Computing. MORE here

Amar Bose
Amar Bose: Founder of Bose (Died July 12, age 83)

An electrical and sound engineer, Bose founded his company of the same name in 1964 and grew it to become an audio system and speaker company known for the advanced acoustic quality of its products. The success of the company made Bose a billionaire, and one of the richest people in the world. A huge supporter of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he taught there for 45 years and donated much of his company’s ownership to the school in the form of non-voting shares.

Barnaby Jack
Barnaby Jack: computer security pro (Died July 25, age 35)

The information security industry was stunned by Jack’s death shortly before the annual Black Hat conference this summer, where he had been scheduled to discuss hacking pacemakers and other implantable medical devices. The New Zealand-born Jack gamed wide fame in the industry for his 2010 Black Hat presentation, during which a hack of two different automated teller machines resulted in fake money being spewed out. Jack worked for security company IOActive, where he specialized in security of embedded devices.

Kenneth Brill
Kenneth Brill: Data center expert (Died July 30, age 68)

Brill was best known as founder of the Uptime Institute and a forward thinker in data center design and operations. Brill, who died of cancer, was known for his work creating the Uptime Institute's data center tiering system, which provides a way to rate and compare the reliability of computing facilities. It's used by many large companies for their data center planning and selection. He was also a big proponent of data center energy efficiency, which has become a vital concern as computing services become more powerful and widespread. In particular, Brill pushed for better communication between IT staff and the engineering teams that run data centers, which he believed was the only way to get the most from operations. MORE here.

Lewis Kornfeld
Credit: Fort Worth Library
Lewis Kornfeld (Died Aug. 11, age 97)

This one-time head of Tandy’s Radio Shack division helped usher in the PC era with the naming and release of the TRS-80, the first mass market and affordable personal computer. The microcomputer, which hit the market in 1977, started at $400, and contained just 4KB of memory and was powered by a Zilog Z80 microprocessor. Radio Shack pushed the PC via its thousands of stores nationwide in the United States. Kornfeld had a background in marketing, advertising and journalism, but knew a hit technology product when he saw one.

Ray Dolby
Ray Dolby: sound pioneer (Died Sept. 12, age 80)

This American inventor who founded Dolby Laboratories 48 years ago was known for leading work in the area of noise reduction and surround sound. Holding over 50 U.S. patents, Dolby transformed the company in line with market changes, and its technology has made its way into cinema, homes, PCs and mobile entertainment. Chinese vendor ZTE, for example, acquired in June a worldwide patent license for Dolby's portfolio covering High-Efficiency Advanced Audio Coding (HE AAC), an international standard used and licensed from Dolby by a number of mobile vendors. MORE here

Hiroshi Yamauchi
Hiroshi Yamauchi: Nintendo leader (Died Sept. 19, age 85)

He took over the family playing card business in the late 1940s and transformed Nintendo into a video game powerhouse by the time he stepped down in 2002, making games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers worldwide hits. A console released by the company in the early 1980s set a course for success that would turn Yamauchi into a billionaire. He also wound up as owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team in the U.S. MORE here

Ruth Rogan Benerito
Credit: Lemelson-MIT Program
Ruth Rogan Benerito: Fabrics innovator (Died Oct. 5, age 97)

This American scientist’s greatest claim to fame is creating wash-and-wear cotton fabrics, a material that has helped outfit many a geek and technology professional over the years. Benerito studied chemistry in college and it was the application of chemicals to cotton that allowed for her creation of permanent press materials that she worked on while with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Her discoveries on fibers have also been used to create lab gear and helped to land her in the Inventors Hall of Fame.

William Lowe
William Lowe: IBM PC leader (Died Oct. 19, age 72)

As director of IBM’s Boca Raton Labs, Lowe oversaw development and delivery of IBM’s belated but successful first PC, which the company cranked out in a year for delivery in August of 1981. The IBM PC, or 5150 as it was also known, cost $1,565 and boasted an Intel 8088 microprocessor and an operating system called MS-DOS from a little company called Microsoft. Lowe joined IBM as a product test engineer in 1962 and rose through the ranks and was elected as a vice president in 1986. He left the company in 1988 to go to Xerox.

Clifford Nass
Credit: Stanford University
Clifford Nass: Human-computer interaction expert (Died Nov. 2, age 55)

This Stanford University communication professor was director of the school’s Communication between Humans and Interactive Media (CHIMe) Lab and authored several books, including “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop.” Perhaps most famously, Nass spoke about his team’s research on multitasking, finding that multi-taskers weren’t nearly as good at juggling loads of information as they or others thought they were. Vendors such as Microsoft, HP and others relied on Nass’s expertise when developing various products. MORE here.

Willis Ware
Credit: ‪
Willis Ware: Computer security/privacy pioneer (Died Nov. 22, age 93)

Ware spent most of his career – about 40 years – at RAND, where among other things he worked on one of the first computers, called the Johnniac, and became head of RAND’s computer science department. Earlier, he helped move the aviation industry into using more advanced computers and at UCLA, he taught some of the first computing courses. He also wrote some of the field’s first textbooks. Papers such as The Ware Report gave insight into computer system security. Active on the professional front, Ware was founding president of the American Federation of Information Processing Societies and was the first chairman of the Information System and Privacy Advisory Board created by the Computer Security Act of 1987.