Human Resources

2016: Notable tech deaths

In a year marred by the deaths of so many well-loved actors, musicians, and comedians, we remember the computing pioneers, corporate leaders, and inventors whose products and innovations have transformed the way we lead our lives.


Marvin Minsky

Pioneer of artificial intelligence

9 August 1927 – 24 January 2016

Marvin Lee Minsky was one of the founding fathers of artificial intelligence. Born on the 9th August 1927 in New York City, he enlisted in the US Navy aged 17, where he was trained in electronics. After his service, he attended Harvard where he studied mathematics (graduating in 1950), before studying for his PhD at Princeton. In 1956 he attended the first symposium on artificial intelligence at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, where he met John McCarthy. In 1959 they co-founded the Artificial Intelligence Project at MIT (now known as the AI Lab), and Minsky remained at MIT for the remainder of his career. Minsky’s work and contributions to the field of AI won him a number of notable awards, including the Turing Award in 1969. In 2006, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Computer History Museum “for co-founding the field of artificial intelligence, creating early neural networks and robots, and developing theories of human and machine cognition.”

A gifted pianist, Minsky also advised Stanley Kubrick on the capabilities of the HAL computer in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Of the scare stories surrounding AI, Minsky said in 2015, “there’s so many stories of how things could go bad, but I don’t see any way of taking them seriously because it’s pretty hard to see why anybody would install them on a large scale without a lot of testing.”

Marvin Minsky died of a cerebral hemorrhage, aged 88.

Read our Marvin Minsky obituary here.

Andy Grove

Former Intel CEO, drove semiconductor revolution

2 September 1936 – 21 March 2016

Andrew Stephen "Andy" Grove was a pioneer in the semiconductor industry and the first hire by Intel on the day of its incorporation. Born in Hungary on 2 September 1936, Grove escaped his Communist-controlled homeland at the age of 20 and moved to the US. He studied chemical engineering at the City College of New York (graduating in 1960), and went on to study for his PhD in at the University of California, Berkeley. After completing his PhD in 1963, Grove worked at Fairchild Semiconductor as a researcher. But it was at Intel where he made his name. Grove joined on the day of the company’s incorporation as director of engineering, later becoming president in 1979, and CEO in 1987. Under his leadership, Intel transformed itself from memory chip maker to the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer. Indeed he 1997, he named Time’s Man of the Year for being “the person most responsible for the amazing growth in the power and the innovative potential of microchips.”

According to Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, Grove was called by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 1997 to ask whether he should return to Apple. His response was, “Steve, I don't give a [expletive] about Apple.”

In his retirement speech in 2005, Grove announced his own technology law, “Technology will always win. You can delay technology by legal interference, but technology will flow around legal barriers.”

Andy Grove died at his California home aged 79.

Read our tribute to Andy Grove here.


Ray Tomlinson

The father of modern email

23 April 1941 – 5 March 2016

Raymond Samuel "Ray" Tomlinson was a computer programmer who sent the first email back in 1971, and was the one who decided the @ symbol should be used to separate user name from domain name. Born in Amsterdam, New York on 23 April 1941, Tomlinson studied electrical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York, graduating in 1963, before gaining his Master’s from MIT in 1965. Tomlinson was working at Bolt, Beranek and Newman (now BBN Technologies) when he came up with the idea for email, because it “seemed a good idea”. The first email was sent on the ARPANET system, (though he doesn’t remember what it said) between two computers that were side by side. He chose the @ sign because it was “the only preposition on the keyboard”, and ‘user@host’ remains the standard for email addresses today. Tomlinson was inducted to the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012.

In an interview in 2010, Tomlinson admitted he prefers ‘email’ over ‘e-mail’, joking that he’s “trying to conserve the world’s supply of hyphens.”

Ray Tomlinson died from a heart attack at his home in Lincoln, Massachusetts, aged 74.

Read Martin Veitch’s interview with Ray Tomlinson here.

Not forgetting…

Brad Fuller, video game composer, died 2 January, aged 62

Peter Naur, computer scientist, died 3 January, aged 87

Edward Yourdon, software engineer, died 20 January, aged 71

Thomas Hibbard, computer scientist, died 11 February, aged 86

Edward McCluskey, electric engineering pioneer, died 13 February, aged 86

Dave Needle, hardware engineer, died 20 February

Wesley A Clark, computer scientist, died 22 February, aged 88

Jim Kimsey, co-founder of AOL, died 1 March, aged 76

Tony Dyson, creator of R2-D2, died 4 March, aged 68

Serge Kampf, founder of Capgemini, died 15 March, aged 81

David Brown, computer scientist, died 16 April, aged 92

Harold Cohen, artist, died 27 April, aged 87

George Klir, computer scientist, died 27 May, aged 84

Thomas Perkins, businessman, venture capitalist, died 7 June, aged 84

David Morgenthaler, businessman, venture capitalist, died 17 June, aged 96

John Ellenby, businessman, died 17 August, aged 75

Robert E Allen, businessman, died 10 September, aged 81

David Bunnell, PC pioneer, publisher, died 18 October, aged 69

Keith Ohlfs, software designer, died 26 October, aged 52

Jay Forrester, computer engineer, died 16 November, aged 98

Harry Weller, businessman, venture capitalist, died 19 November, aged 46

Erich Bloch, electrical engineer, died 25 November, aged 91


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Kate Hoy

Kate Hoy is Editor of IDG Connect

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