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.

"We feel that Socks' story is something that many Americans can relate to," says BarNone President Grant Whitmore. "Our motto is that 'Everyone deserves a second chance.' Using Socks supports that notion."

Speaking through a spokeshuman, Socks says he is happy with the new gig. "Do I miss seeing myself as a giant balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade? The crazy nights in Las Vegas with that Taco Bell Chihuahua? Yeah, sometimes," says Socks wistfully.

According to the company, Socks currently lives in the top drawer of a very nice dresser in suburban Washington, DC. When not working, he enjoys lip-syncing and knitting.

Dennis Hayes

1981: Inventor of the Hayes Smartmodem

Now: Advisor to startups

In the BB era (before broadband), if you wanted to connect to the Net, you used a Hayes modem or something just like it. The Hayes Smartmodem transformed the PC from a computing machine into a communications device, helping to create a multibillion dollar industry for Internet access.

But like a lot of PC pioneers, Dennis Hayes caught more than his share of arrows. Competition from cheap modem clones ultimately doomed his firm, Hayes Microcomputer Products, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1994 and closed its doors for good in 1998. Hayes followed up by opening a popular nightclub in Atlanta called the Whiskey Rock Saloon. It burned down a year later. Along the way, Hayes developed macular degeneration and became legally blind.

Hayes became an advocate for Internet accessibility for the disabled. He helped create and still chairs the US Internet Industry Association (USIIA), which lobbies Congress on high-tech legislation. His most recent victory: an extension of the moratorium on Internet taxes. Now based in New York, Hayes advises high-tech startups and is launching an investment management firm.

The biggest difference from the old days, he says, is that his life now is much less predictable. "When I owned Hayes I knew where I would be working and what I would be working on," he says. "Now I never know when the phone will ring and I will be working on something totally different. I've come to appreciate how my actor and musician friends feel when they are looking for the next gig."

Socks' Master: Julie Wainwright

1999: CEO of Pets.com

Now: Strategic consultant

From flying toasters to sock puppets, Julie Wainwright has touched her share of high-tech history. The itinerant chief executive has run some of the seminal startups in technology, starting with Berkeley Systems, which morphed from a maker of wacky screen savers to the force behind popular games like "You Don't Know Jack." From there Wainwright moved to Reel.com, the movie database that morphed into a brick-and-mortar video rental operation before being purchased in 1998 by Hollywood Entertainment for US$100 million.

But Wainwright is probably best known for her role at Pets.com, the last big IPO to launch before the dot-bomb implosion (and number 7 on our list of The 25 Worst Web Sites). Wainwright signed on in March 1999. By November 2000, Pets.com had morphed into...well, nothing. The shuttered site ultimately sold its URL to rival Petsmart.com in June 2001.

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Dan Tynan

PC World
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