10 Tech Pioneers: Where Are They Now?

These former technology luminaries have all taken different paths. How different? One's a country doctor, one's a budding movie mogul, and one teaches toddlers--and he's not even alive.

These former technology luminaries have all taken different paths. How different? One's a country doctor, one's a budding movie mogul, and one teaches toddlers--and he's not even alive.

One of the rarest things in high tech is finding a major company that's still being run by the people who started it. Once you get past Bill Gates, Michael Dell, and Steve Jobs (part deux), the list gets pretty thin mighty fast.

In some cases, that's because the founders moved on, either voluntarily or otherwise. In others, it's because the company imploded, was acquired, or simply disappeared down the dot-com memory hole.

We tracked down some of the more noteworthy tech people (and a couple of inanimate objects) whose careers have taken interesting or unusual twists: the PC pioneer turned country doctor, the dot-com wunderkind who's now a budding movie mogul, and the would-be billionaire who chose a different path at a crucial moment.

Where are they now? Read on to find out.

Ed Roberts

1975: Founder of MITS, creator of the Altair 8800

Now: A country doctor

There are few people who can claim to have inspired Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Wozniak, and Steve Jobs, but Ed Roberts is certainly one of them. As president of Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), Roberts oversaw the creation of the Altair 8800, considered by many to be the first personal computer.

The suitcase-size Altair boasted 256 bytes (or one-fourth of 1KB) of programmable memory and sold for around US$400 unassembled. When the MITS machine appeared on the cover of Popular Electronics in January 1975, a generation of geeks was transfixed. (By some accounts, a Star Trek episode was the source of the device's moniker, but others say Popular Electronics editors named the gadget after a well-known star.)

Inspired by the Altair, a group of Silicon Valley techies formed the Homebrew Computing Club, which later gave birth to 23 high-tech companies, including Apple Computer. Roberts even hired Gates and Paul Allen to write BASIC programs for the Altair for $US10 an hour. (They later went on to form a little company then called Micro-Soft.)

But few high-tech icons have undergone a career shift as abrupt as Roberts'. In 1977, at the age of 35, Roberts sold MITS for US$6 million and enrolled in medical school. He's now a doctor in Cochran, Georgia, population 4755.

In an August 2001 interview with the New York Times, Roberts said he's never looked back after leaving the multibillion-dollar industry he helped create. ''I think I'm making a fairly substantial contribution here,'' he said. ''Maybe not to the wider world, but I think what I do now is important.''

Marc Collins-Rector

1996: Co-founder of Digital Entertainment Network

Now: At large in London

It's hard to find words to describe the career of this one-time dot-com exec, but "sordid" and "depraved" would be a good start.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Dan Tynan

PC World
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?