A look at the world’s coding pioneers: past and present

They invented the world that we live in.

April 3, 2017

Coding has completely changed the way we live and experience the world. Computers, internet, and various technologies have enabled us to communicate and discover the world with just a simple swipe or keystroke. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Here are 10 women and men who made major contributions to the advancement in computer science, coding, and technology.

1. Ada Lovelace

Computers wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for Ada Lovelace – she invented what is considered to be the first computer program! At 17, Ada met the mathematician Charles Babbage. Charles showed her his work on the Analytical Engine. Ada ended up translating notes on the machine, made some innovative changes, and an algorithm was born. She made a complex number sequence and made the first computer program ever.

2. Margaret Hamilton

Margaret Hamilton is a computer scientist who worked for NASA, and is also known for coining the phrase “software engineering.” But that’s not all! She was a computer programmer who worked on software to take humans to the moon.

Photo by MIT

She also designed programs that would check for mission problems and the software itself would send alert if a mission should be aborted. This is the software that ended up saving the Apollo 11 moon mission. Wow!

3. Alan Turing

Alan Turing has impacted the world in so many ways: he’s known as the father of computer science AND his work in codebreaking helped the Allies defeat the Nazis during WWII. Besides saving the lives of millions, Alan also developed concepts and algorithms around what is now known as computer science. His interest in tech and artificial intelligence also led Alan to develop the Turing Machine, an original idealized model of a computer.

You can watch a biopic of Alan’s life in The Imitation Game, and get more insight on his work on computers and code-breaking in the trailer below:

4. John Atanasoff

Photography by Haverford

John Atanasoff was a physicist, and is known for inventing the first electronic computer. In 1939, he worked with Clifford Berry to develop the Atanasoff-Berry Computer, which solved linear equations and had its own paper card writer/reader.

5. Tim Berners-Lee

Photography by The Memo

Tim Berners-Lee is a computer scientist, and is the inventor of the World Wide Web. Say what? Tim created the first successful execution of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, essentially the structure that people use to access a website on the internet.

With Tim, we wouldn’t have any of the innovative technology that we access everyday, thanks to the internet! From online forums and shopping to blogs and news, he’s the pioneer who started it all. And you wouldn’t be reading this article if Tim didn’t experiment and innovate!

Watch this amazing talk on how Tim and the World Wide Web came to be:

6. Sophie Wilson

Photography by Tycho’s Nose

Sophie Wilson designed the Acorn Computer, a 8-bit microcomputer. Perhaps this influenced the makers of Raspberry Pi! Sophie also designed the architecture behind the ARM processor, which is used in all of our smartphones.

7. Larry Page & Sergey Brin

Photography by Softpedia

In 1996, Larry Page and Sergey Brin created a phenomenon: the Google search engine. Their PageRank algorithm was based on mathematical properties of the internet and also on linking highly relevant pages to one another. That’s one of the reasons Google has been the tip-top search engine of our daily lives.

How did Larry and Sergey start this life-changing search engine and branch Google into other projects? Watch their story now:

8. Matt Mullenweg

Photography by Cloudinary

Matt Mullenweg is the developer behind WordPress, a blogging platform. Odds are, most of the sites you visit every day are powered by WordPress, including our own littleBits blog!

9. Mark Zuckerberg

Photography by Forbes

Mark Zuckerberg is the computer programmer and founder of Facebook. You probably know this already, but just in case: Facebook is a social networking platform and website that sees millions and millions of visitors a day. Facebook is an internet phenomenon that began as an experiment – Mark created the site and algorithm in his Harvard dorm room.

Want more from Mark? Check out this eye-opening podcast on Mark’s tips for building the future:

10. Seymour Papert

Photography by SD Times

This trailblazing mathematician and computer scientist developed the Logo programming language and pioneering for coding education in the classroom. Seymour continues to inspire us to innovate and imagine for the future.


Stephanie Valente
Content Manager