by March 12, 2000 0 comments

Pierre Omidyar

This was supposed to be the year of the dotcoms, when online
businesses were slated to overtake the traditional brick and mortar ones.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, many well-known dotcoms went belly
up. And the others ended up with huge losses. But there is one type of online
business that seems to be doing well–online auctions. The big daddy of online
auctions is eBay.com, the first online auction site. And Pierre Omidyar is the
man who had the idea and gave it life.

It all started when his wife (then fiancée) complained about the difficulty
in finding people to trade (as in exchange) stuff in San Fransciso’s Bay area
and how she wished this was possible over the Internet. And what started as a
free service in 1995 as a weekend hobby, now earns $32 million and hosts about
23 million auctions a month!

Shawn Fanning

Popularly known as the Napster kid, Shawn Fanning, all of 19
years of age, is the pioneer of peer-to-peer computing over the Internet–a
concept that lets you share files with other clients (PCs like yours) connected
to the Internet, instead of having to download them from one central server.

Fanning–whose high school nickname was Napster–was only
18 when he wrote the code for his now popular music-file sharing Naspter
program. He thought of it when he found lots of people complaining about the
difficultly in finding MP3 files over the Internet, and decided to write a
program that would let PC users share files amongst themselves instead of going
through a central server.

There is a Napster server, which maintains a list of who has which files.
Problems arose when the record companies and the recording artists began losing
revenue in the bargain. There was also the issue of copyright infringement, by
users merrily swapping music over the Net. So, the record companies went to
court. As things stand today, a US court has ordered Napster to shut down. An
appeal against this order is on. Meanwhile Bertelsmann–one of the recording
companies that was suing Napster–tied up a deal with it, under which Napster
will be turned into a subscription service, with Bertelsmann’s entire list of
titles becoming available. Whatever be the next turn in this interesting saga,
the new trend that Shawn Fanning kicked off of peer—to—peer computing is
going to be with us for some time to come.

Pradeep Sindhu

It’s not every day that a David takes on a Goliath. And
when he does, it makes history. Cisco is the Goliath of the networked world.
Right from corporate networks to the very back end of the Internet, Cisco is
everywhere. And it seemed that Cisco was unconquerable, till puny Juniper
Networks came along. Puny? Consider this–Cisco had net sales of almost $19
billion this year. In comparison, Juniper did business worth $102 million, and
ended up with a loss. Only, the business comes right from the core of Cisco’s
high-speed routers for the Internet backbone. No wonder the company is called a
potential “Cisco killer”.

At the center of the Juniper story is Pradeep Sindhu, CTO, Vice Chairman, and
founder. Sindhu founded Juniper networks in 1996 and played a key role in the
development of its products including the M40 router for the Internet backbone.
An IIT graduate and a doctrate in Computer Science from Carnegie-Mellon
University, Sindhu was also involved in the development of Sun’s first
high-performance multi-processor system. For creating cutting edge technology
alternatives for the networked world, Sindhu finds his place in this list.

Onel De Guzman

Virus writers ply their trade from the darker side of
computing, nameless and faceless as far as the rest of the world is concerned.
And it’s not often that someone who created a virus becomes the center of the
worlds’ attention. Onel De Guzman is perhaps the only exception. But then his
creation was no ordinary virus. It held virtually the entire connected world to
ransom, and also started off a whole new genre of viruses.

This 24-year old college dropout is the creator of the famous
“I Love You” virus–one of the most destructive and widespread
viruses till date. The virus spread through an e-mail Visual Basic script
attachment with “I Love You” as the subject. Once the attachment was
opened in Microsoft Outlook, it sent copies of itself to every e-mail address in
your address book. On the infected machine, it infected files by replacing its
contents with the source code of the worm and also tried to download a password
stealing Trojan from a Website and e-mailed passwords to its creator.

It’s estimated that the damage caused by the virus is in billions of
dollars–larger than the GNP of many countries. And it ensured Guzman his place
in history, albeit on the darker side of history.

Jerry Sanders

W J Sanders III, to give his full name, is the last of the
original chip entrepreneurs–the men who lead the explosive development of the
CPU. Sanders founded AMD in 1969 along with seven others. Currently he’s the
CEO of AMD.

Intel was the undisputed king of the CPU market, and all others–Cyrix,
Texas Instruments, IDT–were throwing in their towels. AMD was the only company
to carry on, inspite of continuously having to come out second best, and bear
huge losses in the bargain. And then the tide turned. The Athlon and the Duron
actually put AMD ahead of Intel in the market, in clock speed bragging rights
and in processor performance. It’s for hanging on, and for turning the tide
against heavy odds that Jerry Sanders finds his place in this list.

Kanwal Rekhi

Today, Indians have more or less become synonymous with
success in IT. Many of them head their own successful ventures or are right
there at the top of others. But this was not always the case. There was a time,
not all that long back, when there was hardly any Indian at the helm of affairs
of a world-class IT company, when there was hardly any Indian-owned IT company
outside our shores. If the story has changed today, then an organization called
TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) has had a lot to do with it.

Kanwal Rekhi is the founder and president of TiE. TiE was started in 1992 to
promote and encourage entrepreneurs from the subcontinent in the Silicon Valley.
A number of successful Indians came together under the leadership of Rekhi and
have helped budding entrepreneurs by providing advice, contacts, and funding for
their startups. Some of these, like Hotmail and Exodus are today management
school case studies in entrepreneurship. This in itself would have earned Rekhi
and TiE their place in the annals of history. But it is for extending the
concept of TiE right into the Indian heartland, with regular entrepreneurship
programs here that Rekhi finds his place in this list.

Jaap C Haartsen

In the picture here you’ll notice something odd–Haartsen
has a striking blue cap on one tooth. Why? That’s one of his ways of
propagating Bluetooth, a technology he pioneered, that lets any device–phones,
cameras, PCs, etc–communicate with one another via a radio link. No wires
required. Bluetooth is not exactly a new idea. Haartsen who works with cellphone
major Ericsson came up with the idea in 1994 and developed a radio link between
a headset and a cellphone.

Bluetooth devices have started making their appearance, and it’s generally
expected that in the coming years they will have us depending on them to provide
a more wire-free life.

David Boies

David Boies doesn’t use a PC or e-mail. Yet, he is more
involved in shaping the direction technology will take tomorrow than most nerds
can ever claim to be. Boies was the lead Attorney for the US government in its
Antitrust case against Microsoft. For one who doesn’t use a PC, he showed a
surprising level of understanding of technology and that, combined with his
legal finesse, helped him catch Microsoft on the wrong foot again and again, and
finally win the argument in favor of splitting up the giant.

If that was not enough, Boies is also Napster’s lead
attorney in its fight for survival in the copyright infringement suite brought
against it by music recording companies. Both cases are far from decided. But
whatever be the final verdict, Boies will have left his firm stamp on the
technology horizon.

Amitabh Bachchan

The big B and computers? Not really. But his requests to "Computer Ji"
to lock the answers in "Kaun Banega Crorepati" have sure become a hit.
Sure he is doing a fabulous job, but have you ever wondered, how Bachchan’s
voice command can make the computer "lock" the answer, or how the
answer is "locked"? In the process, he has in all probability added to
the mysticism associated with the computer across the country.

Krishna Kumar and Neelima Vaid

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