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.

In 1991 Collins-Rector founded ISP Concentric Networks with Chad Shackley, whom he met on an Internet bulletin board. Collins-Rector was 31 at the time; Shackley was just 16. In 1996, the pair joined with 18-year-old actor Brock Pierce to launch Digital Entertainment Network, an ambitious attempt to create an Internet-based TV network for 14-to-24-year-olds. Despite burning through more than $75 million in venture capital, the only people DEN entertained were its employees, who enjoyed generous salaries and legendary parties.

In October 1999, the trio resigned from DEN after Collins-Rector was sued for allegedly having sex with a minor. The trio fled to Marbella, Spain, where they were arrested two years later for possession of child porn. Meanwhile, Collins-Rector was sued in absentia by former teenage male employees who claimed they had been lured to his mansion, drugged, and sexually abused.

Extradited to the United States in June 2004, Collins-Rector pled guilty to transporting minors across state lines for sex and paid a small fine. According to reports in the November 2007 issue of Radar Magazine, Collins-Rector is in London and may be a silent partner in Internet Gaming Entertainment, a site operated by DEN founder Brock Pierce that sells virtual weaponry to gamers on EverQuest and World of Warcraft. (IGE did not respond to requests for comment.)

The Third Apple: Ron Wayne

1976: Co-founder of Apple Computer

Now: Semi-retired engineering consultant

Ron Wayne started out by designing slot machines in Vegas, but his unwillingness to gamble may have ended up costing him billions. Wayne is the oft-forgotten third founder of Apple Computer, who hooked up with Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs when he and Jobs worked for Atari in the mid-1970s. Older by more than a decade, Wayne was brought in to act as a tie-breaker when the two Steves disagreed.

But as the three-man partnership slid further into debt, Wayne began to get cold feet. He had already started and lost his own engineering firm--Siand Engineering, a Las Vegas-based maker of gaming machine technology--and didn't have the stomach for another roller coaster ride. In April 1976, Wayne asked the Steves to buy out his 10 percent share in Apple for US$800. Afterward, Wayne worked for game companies and defense contractors, traded coins and stamps, and turned down several offers to return to Apple.

Now retired, the 73-year-old Wayne does consulting work, most recently building industrial models for cross-oceanic cabling equipment. In a phone interview, Wayne said he's one of a vanishing breed of engineers who did everything, from initial problem solving to drafting, model building, and final assembly.

"I want to be remembered as an anachronism, someone who did the whole thing from beginning to end instead of just one part of it," he says. But he'll likely be remembered for his short stint at Apple-- one of the few projects Wayne started but never finished.

"Socks"

1999: Mascot for Pets.com

Now: Pitch puppet

Some victims of the dot-com bust went to the dogs, but not Pets.com's famous sock puppet. After his masters imploded in the dot-com debacle, "Socks" was acquired by Hakan & Associates and 1-800 BarNone, a low-cost auto loan vendor, for US$125,000. Since then he's starred in commercials for Bar None and been hired to endorse Hasbro toys and Rawhide Chews.

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Dan Tynan

PC World

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