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The Business of IT

And the Winners Are ...

The Charles Stark Draper Prize honors engineers whose accomplishments "have significantly impacted society by improving the quality of life, providing the ability to live freely and comfortably, and/or permitting access to information." This year, the award was given to four individuals--Robert Taylor, Alan Kay, Butler Lampson and Charles Thacker--who contributed greatly to the ideas behind today's personal networked computers. They were the brains behind the Alto, which they developed at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s. The Alto included a mouse (though not invented by these four), a GUI, networking capabilities and a laser-printer connection. Most of the technical inventions we take for granted today were developed using the Alto. Looking at the computer as a personal, networked device, not just a number cruncher, was a visionary concept.

On the business end, the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education was awarded to Frank Barnes for his work in creating the Interdisciplinary Telecommunications Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Devised 30 years ago, this program pioneered the idea of combining learning in technology, business, policy and economic disciplines to give students a better understanding of their interactions with the nontechnical world. Many university IT curricula use a similar approach. NETWORK COMPUTING also has promoted the idea of building business certifications for IT (see previous columns -- "Business Certifications for IT" and "Business Certs, Part Deux")

Where Credit Is Due

Let's celebrate the fact that these innovators had the forethought and ingenuity to promote progress, and that their peers have the insight to recognize their achievements. As much as we may take issue with the quality of technology products, their security and their general usefulness, we must also pay respect to the creative minds that laid the groundwork for true innovation.

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