Lessons Learned from IT’s Founding Fathers (and Mothers)

Lessons Learned from IT’s Founding Fathers (and Mothers)

By Troy Vetter, Chief Operations Officer

It’s July, and with fireworks and freedom still on our minds, I was thinking about our Founding Fathers and how our entire modern world is built on the foundation that a handful of smart men created during the Continental Congress in the late 1700s.1 And that led me to think about the history of computing – the literal founding fathers (and mothers) of IT – and how they changed the way the world operates.

If you’ve never given any thought to how today’s information technology ecosystem came to be, let me introduce you to a few of the greatest minds in the history of computing.

Charles Babbage: Credited with originating the idea for a digitally programmable computer – though not constructing a working device – Babbage, an English mathematician, philosopher, inventor, engineer, and cryptographer was considered by some to be the “father of the computer,” though I would argue that the title might be more appropriate for Alan Turing (more on him in a moment).  Even so, no history of computing would be complete without a significant nod to Babbage’s very early work from the 1800swhich inspired others after him to forge on with the important, world-changing work of information technology.

Ada Lovelace: Considered by some to be the world’s first computer programmer, Lovelace is best known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed general-purpose computer. An English mathematician and writer, Lovelace displayed her brilliance by being the first person in the world to recognize the widespread implications – beyond purely mathematical calculations – for such a machine.3

Alan Turing: For all intents and purposes, Turing is to IT what George Washington was to America. Hailing from Great Britain, Turing was the big cheese in computer science – the father of code, languages, and the inventor of computer memory. Turing also developed the “Turing Test,” a standard by which artificial intelligence can be measured. Today’s CAPTCHA test, widely used throughout the modern-day internet, is based on a reversed form of the Turing Test. 4

Robert Noyce: If Turing was the George Washington of computing, then Robert Noyce is IT’s Thomas Jefferson – the architect of the tech boom. Through a series of travails in college, Noyce was introduced to the transistor by a physics professor and family friend, Grant Gale.5 Later, after working with William Shockley, the man who brought silicon to Silicon Valley, Noyce struck out on his own and, as co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and later Intel Corporation6, he developed the first computer microchip. Noyce, a.k.a. the “Mayor of Silicon Valley,” is also credited with developing Silicon Valley’s startup culture.7

Hedy Lamarr: An unlikely addition to the history of computing, Hedy Lamarr was first and foremost an Austrian-born American film actress, but she was also an impressive inventor. As one of the first women credited with a significant role in computer technology, Lamarr can be likened to Betsy Ross who created a flag to communicate America’s rebellion from tyranny.  Also known by her former married name, Hedy Kiesler Markey – Lamarr invented the “skip” radio which used spread spectrum and frequency hopping technologies to avoid signal jamming during World War II. 8 Her invention formed the basis for encrypted communications and created the premise on which today’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are built.9

DARPA: Just as the Continental Congress was founded by a group of men who joined together to form a more perfect union in the body of the United States of America, so too has the computing industry10 taken more meaningful strides as its advancement has been fed through the deep collaboration of inventors and experts. In 1958, President Eisenhower formed the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), which gained a “D” for “Defense,” changing the agency’s name to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or “DARPA” a decade later. Originally created to react to the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957, the agency was tasked with helping the U.S. avoid further technological surprise.11 While focused primarily on military requirements, DARPA’s contributions to the world of computing have since gone far beyond the Department of Defense.

Today, the agency is credited with launching the idea of “timesharing” computers, which began in earnest with the Multiplexed Information and Computing Service (Multics), a mainframe time-sharing operating system project sponsored by DARPA but carried out by non-militarized organizations like MIT, GE, Bell Labs and Honeywell. As the world adopted a large server computer linked to “dumb” terminals, the idea of “timesharing” space was born – the precursor to today’s cloud computing. Other spin-offs from DARPA projects include virtual reality, the technology behind Apple’s Siri and Trapit, autonomous vehicles, internet anonymity, digital libraries, and the internet itself.12

Knowing where our industry started is both educational and, well, just plain cool.  But it’s also important to understand that we are where we are today because smart men and women got together and shared their ideas and their technological strengths.

And it’s important to acknowledge that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  We’ve nearly come full circle from computing’s earliest days when everyone was attached by dumb terminals to big monolithic computers. Yes, we moved to smaller computers powered by the silicon chips Noyce and his team created, but now, because of DARPA’s influence on the world, we are all moving back toward “timesharing” via the cloud, something many organizations need help to accomplish in the most advantageous ways possible.

At Coda, that’s what we do for our clients every day – we guide our you toward your own “lightning in a bottle” moments – and we help you through the process of shaping your ideas into workable software solutions to your organization’s biggest business problems.

So, like the founding fathers of IT, don’t let your organization’s great ideas go to waste. In today’s fast-paced business environment, it’s much too easy to set aside creativity in favor of productivity.  At Coda, we believe you can have both.

We can help you transform your application dream into a dream application.  We can get a stalled journey to the cloud back on track.  And we can help you take your IT department – something which may still be a cost center for your organization – and change it into a revenue-generating machine.

Innovation is happening inside your company right now.  Do you know who is involved, and have you given them the freedom to use that innovation to bolster your revenue stream?

When that innovation boils down to application development, we’re here to be your Continental Congress. We will help you brainstorm and record your ideas, and through intensive collaboration, we’ll free your IT team to proceed in the right direction. Just like the men and women who worked together to make both our country and our information technology what they are today, we’re DevOptimized to give your AppDev project the RightStart it needs to succeed.

Want to learn more? Find out how Coda helps put your journey to the cloud on the right track.  Explore the role of tech-focused brainstorming and how it can help your AppDev project get the RightStart it needs.  Examine the role cloud-native plays in the design, development, deployment, and scalability of your applications. Then contact us to see for yourself what Coda can do for you.

1 Wikipedia: Continental Congress

Wikipedia: Charles Babbage

3 Wikipedia: Ada Lovelace

4 Wikipedia: Alan Turing

5 Esquire: The Tinkerings of Robert Noyce

6 Wikipedia: Intel

7 Wikipedia: Robert Noyce

8 Smithsonian: Team Hollywood’s Secret Weapons System

9 Wikipedia: Hedy Lamarr

10 Wikipedia: Computer

11 Wikipedia: DARPA

12 ExtemeTech: Changing the World: DARPA’s Top Inventions

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