The biographer of singular Geniuses such as Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs takes on a slew of them in The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution. As it turns out, inventions we cannot imagine living without–the computer and the Internet–were not the work of a few rogue whizzes in garages whose names are now famous (though they helped). Across a century and a half of innovation, lesser-known masters laid the digital foundation. Here are just a few:
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Using her skills as a mathematician, Lord Byron’s daughter wrote the first algorithm meant for computer analysis in 1843 and thus became the first published programmer.
While working on Harvard’s 10,000-lb. (4,535 kg) Mark I in the 1940s, Hopper developed the compiler, a concept that would allow programs to be made for multiple machines. Her team also coined the term bug after they found a moth in the wire relays.
Among Engelbart’s many inventions was an ergonomically carved piece of mahogany that a user could roll across a desktop to move a cursor on a screen. And what does a chassis with a tail of cord look like? A mouse.
THE WOMEN OF ENIAC
Resetting switches and moving cables on the University of Pennsylvania’s massive 1940s computer was a routine task, maybe too much so for the male engineers: women handled programming.
In 1971 the MIT engineer devised a way for people to message one another using the @ symbol to designate a digital address. That seemingly inconsequential hack, as Tomlinson thought of it, became email.
In 1994, as a freshman at Swarthmore, Hall kept a “web log” of irreverent personal musings. That type of digital exhibitionism, published in reverse chronological order, was the prototypical blog.
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This appears in the October 20, 2014 issue of TIME.