Software Development
Computer science / History / Internet / Roundups /

11 living computer and Internet pioneers with Philadelphia ties

There are legends in our midst.

When looking at the modern innovation record of Philadelphia, too often the conversation begins with the ENIAC super computer and ends with the entrepreneurial and arts communities of today, with very little noted in between.

Facing the likelihood that we will leave someone out — tell us who we’re missing in the comments! — Technically Philly sought out to create a list of computer, web and hardware innovators who are from or who currently live in Philadelphia but are too rarely acknowledged.

So we put together that list.

To keep things simple, we included only living legends, so, for example, futurist Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) and Olympic gold medalist, physicist and radar innovator Britton Chance (1913-2010) weren’t included.

The focus here is on builders, so while designers and idea-makers are endlessly valuable and richly represented in Philadelphia, that’s not what this list is. It’s also worth noting that the list is all male and mostly white, which speaks more to the overall demographic of early computing communities than any bias of today.

  1. Eugene Garfield, a retired Penn professor, created the bibliometric groundwork for Google’s PageRank.
  2. Andy Hertzfield, a Harriton High School alumnus and former Philly resident, was on the original Apple Macintosh team and worked with Susan Kare on naming the fonts after Philly Regional Rail stops, before Steve Jobs renamed them.
  3. Eric S. Raymond, the open source and Linux legend, calls the Philadelphia suburbs his home and is active in the community. @erstweet
  4. Roger Dingledine, the web privacy advocate who has called the Philadelphia region home, is one of the founders of the celebrated Tor Project, an online anonymity network. He spoke at the June 2011 Random Hacks hackathon.
  5. Bernie S,  whose real name is Ed Cummings and lives in Philadelphia, is the outspoken critic of online censorship whose fame in hardcore hacker communities was boosted by the 2001 documentary Freedom Downtime.
  6. Lee Felsenstein, who grew up in Philly but now lives in Silicon Valley, is an online free speech advocate, a respected engineer and, perhaps most famously, the moderator of the legendary Homebrew Computer Club meetings.
  7. Dick Moberg is the early computing community organizer who co-founded the Philadelphia Area Computer Society and led the the legendary 1978 Philadelphia Computer Music Festival.
  8. Kyle Cassidy, a photographer who lives in West Philly, wrote the 1993 “A Beginners Guide to Using the Internet.” He was a 2012 Philly Geek Awards presenter.
  9. Loren Brichter, the celebrated mobile developer who lives in Philadelphia, was on the original iPhone team, created the foundation for Twitter’s mobile and Mac applications and has recently garnered attention for his new mobile gaming project atebits. @lorenb
  10. Tom Boutell, currently at South Philly web firm P’unk Ave, led the team that created the .PNG file format, as we’ve reported, before moving to Philly in 2002.
  11. Jim Young, a Society Hill resident and Perceptual Networks cofounder, is still best known for launching early web hit, but he has also made big contributions to the LAMP framework, says his bio.

Thanks to numerous reader suggestions, particularly those from Evan Koblentz.

Updated with other suggestions:

Companies: Philadelphia Area Computer Society / atebits / P’unk Ave / Tor Project
People: Andy Hertzfield / Britton Chance / Buckminster Fuller / Dick Moberg / Ed Cummings / Eric Raymond / Eugene Garfield / Jim Young / Kyle Cassidy / Lee Felsenstein / Loren Brichter / Roger Dingledine / Susan Kare / Tom Boutell
Projects: Councilmatic

Knowledge is power!

Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.

Technically Media