Tech heroes of the past: Where are they now?

Have you ever wondered what the guy who invented the World Wide Web is up to these days? What about the guys who created Photoshop, or the one who created the PHP scripting language?

You may not recognize all of these people, but you’ll definitely recognize what they’ve accomplished. These are people who have made great contributions to computer and Internet technology in the past… but what are they up to now?

This list is a starting point, so help us add to it in the comments!


Tim Berners-Lee

Famous for: Inventing HTML and the World Wide Web, and founding the W3C which oversees the development of the Web.

What he does now: He is the director of W3C and the World Wide Web Foundation, co-Director of the Web Science Research Initiative, and in June 2009 it was announced that he will be helping the UK government make data more accessible on the Web.


Marc Andreessen

Famous for: Co-founding of Netscape and being one of the creators of Mosaic, the first web browser to gain widespread popularity.

What he does now: He is the co-founder and owner of Ning (together with Gina Bianchini) and also serves on the board of Facebook and eBay. He is also an investor in startups like Digg, Netvibes and Twitter and recently announced his new venture capital firm, the Andreessen Horowitz fund.


Vint Cerf

Famous for: Co-designing the TCP/IP protocol suite (together with Robert Kahn). Often called the “Father of the Internet.”

What he does now: He is the Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google and serves on the board of Scientists and Engineers for America.


Steve Wozniak

Famous for: Co-founding Apple (with Steve Jobs).

What he does now: He is the chief scientist at Fusion-io, a data storage and server company. He also appeared on Dancing With The Stars in 2009.


Niklas Zennström

Famous for: Co-founding first Kazaa and then Skype (both together with Janus Friis).

What he does now: He runs the VC fund Atomico Ventures, which has funded startups such as, Fon and Seesmic. He is also the co-founder of Joost (again together with Janus Friis).


Jeff Hawkins

Famous for: Founding Palm Computing and inventing the Palm Pilot.

What he does now: He has been working on neuroscience full time and is a co-founder of Numenta, a company that develops pattern recognition software.


Shawn Fanning

Famous for: Creating the file-sharing platform Napster.

What he does now: He is the founder and CEO of Rupture, a social network for gamers now owned by Electronic Arts.


Evan Williams

Famous for: Co-founding Pyra Labs and creating Blogger. He is also known for having coined the term “blogger” and making the word “blog” come into common use.

What he does now: He is the co-founder and CEO of Twitter.


Richard Brodie

Famous for: Creating the first version of Microsoft Word (he was employee number 77 at Microsoft).

What he does now: He is currently a professional poker player participating in (among other things) the World Poker Tour.


Rasmus Lerdorf

Famous for: Creating the PHP scripting language.

What he does now: He is currently an engineer at Yahoo with the title “Infrastructure Architect” as well as a frequent speaker at Open Source conferences.


Dave Winer

Famous for: Creating XML-RPC (and SOAP) together with Microsoft, and for being a pioneer in blogging and web syndication. He played a big role in the development of RSS and podcasting.

What he does now: He continues writing on his Scripting News blog (which is one of the very first blogs) and has remained an outspoken technologist and commentator on the Web.


Brian Behlendorf

Famous for: Being one of the creators of the Apache web server and a founding member of the Apache Group (later the Apache Software Foundation).

What he does now: He is the co-founder and director of CollabNet (founded together with O’Reilly Media), which is the primary corporate sponsor of Subversion. He is a frequent speaker at Open Source conferences around the world and is on the board of directors for the Mozilla Foundation.


Thomas and John Knoll

Famous for: The two brothers created Photoshop together (Thomas started the project). John Knoll is also famous for his work at ILM (Industrial Light and Magic).

What they do now: Thomas Knoll is the lead developer of Photoshop at Adobe. John Knoll is a visual effects specialist at ILM, making effects for motion pictures such as Speed Racer, the new Star Wars movies and Pirates of the Caribbean among others.


And the list goes on

Let’s face it, this list could be made almost endless. From that perspective the people we have listed here are only the tip of the iceberg; there are tons of others who have done great things in the past and many of them continue to make an impression on the technology we use on the Internet today.

We may very well have missed your absolute favorite “tech idol,” so please feel free to add your own heroes in the comments, especially if you know what they are up to these days!

Photo sources: From Wikimedia Commons: Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak, Niklas Zennström, Shawn Fanning, Rasmus Lerdorf, Jeff Hawkins. By Joi Ito: Marc Andreessen, Brian Behlendorf. From Governo de Minas Gerais: Vint Cerf. Evan Williams (CC) Brian Solis, and From MemeCentral: Richard Brodie. By David Sifry: Dave Winer. By Marco Bellucci: The question mark statue.


  1. G. Gordon Bell – Creator of the PDP and VAX series. I learned to program on the PDP 11/34 and spent a lot of time doing system programming with RSTS and later VMS. I’m pretty sure he’s still at Microsoft Research.

    Ken Thompson, creator of C and Unix (w/ Dennis Ritchie) is at Google now. Don’t know where Dennis is.

    Andy Hertzfeld, a key Mac engineer (Hypercard too), is at Google too….

  2. Actually Bill Atkinson was the main person behind HyperCard. He also created the QuickDraw graphics library, and MacPaint, and did much of the original Mac GUI design work. More recently he’s a pioneer in super-high resolution digital photography/printing.

    I assume Python creator Guido van Rossum is still at Google.

    There’s Joe Becker, the father of Unicode – don’t know what he’s doing now.

    — Ken

  3. Phil Katz.

    PKARC, in addition to duplicating the compression techniques used in ARC, added an additional algorithm which produced smaller files. However, these files still used the file extension “.ARC”. This led to the situation where files which appeared to be created by SEA’s ARC could not be read by that program. System Enhancement Associates’s Henderson considered this an appropriation of his product’s trademarked name, and sued Katz. Katz withdrew PKARC from the market and instead released PKPAK, which was similar in all but name and the file extension used.

    System Enhancement Associates soon discovered that Katz had copied significant amounts of the copyrighted source code distributed with ARC. They sued for trademark violation and copyright infringement. SEA and Katz settled under a confidential cross-licence agreement.[3] According to expert witnesses hired by SEA, Katz had copied ARC’s source code so extensively that even identical comments and spelling errors were found. The BBS community, arguably due to prompting from Katz, took the suit as an example of a large, faceless corporation crushing the little-guy — even though both companies were family businesses with fewer than 5 or so people. SEA’s founder, Thom Henderson, has said that users who spoke to him at the time “didn’t care” if PKARC misappropriated his copyrights and trademark; they just wanted to use the fastest software to compress and uncompress files.[4]

    [edit] PKZIP

    Katz quickly replaced PKARC with PKPAK, and soon after that, with the new and completely re-written PKZIP. Released as shareware, PKZIP compressed both better and faster than ARC. Katz kept the new ZIP file format open. As a result, it soon became a standard for file compression across many platforms.

    PKZIP made Katz one of the most well known shareware authors of all time. Although his company PKWARE became a multimillion dollar company, Katz was more noted for his technical expertise than expertise in running a company. His family assisted him in running the company, but he eventually fired them when they denied him access to the company’s profits.[5]

    Katz was adamantly opposed to Microsoft Windows in the early 90s. This led to PKWARE missing out on the opportunity to be the first to bring PKZIP to the platform.

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