High tech executive deaths of 2011

The death of Apple’s Steve Jobs sent shockwaves throughout the high tech industry as well as sparking many tributes.

There is no question that Jobs’ passing was the most high profile of executive deaths this year, but he was far from the only significant loss.

Here’s a look back at those who died this year in the Canadian and U.S. tech sectors.

By Paolo Del Nibletto

Ken Olsen of DEC

Kenneth Olsen, the computer industry pioneer who co-founded minicomputer maker Digital Equipment Corp., died at the age of 84 in February of this year. Olsen will be remembered for the key role he played in at least one technology revolution: the move from mainframes to minicomputers.

Read more about Ken Olsen by clicking here

Jean Bartik

Born Betty Jean Jennings, Bartik gained fame as one of the lead programmers of ENIAC, the first general-purpose electrical computer.

Bartik passed away in March.

Tom West of Data General

Does anyone remember Data General? Tom West gained international prominence as the daring leader of Data General’s 32-bit microcomputer in the early 1980s.

West’s efforts gave Data General a market lead against rival DEC. West became Data General’s chief technologist and retired a year before it was acquired by EMC. West died in May.

Paul Maasland Canadian channel executive

While Paul Maasland died in late 2010, but the mystery surrounding his death was not solved until mid-2011. A branch of the FBI in Georgia made the arrest in connection to the Maasland murder. Maasland founded Toronto-based systems integrator Daedalian eSolutions Inc.

Todd Howley, 48, of Bracebridge, Ont. was arrested by the FBI.

E-book visionary Michael Hart

Michael Hart was the father of the e-book. Hart founded Project Gutenberg in 1971 to digitize the U.S. Declaration of Independence, and not long after, the Bible.

Hart was 64 when he passed on in September.

Steve Jobs of Apple Computer

What can be said about Steve Jobs that already hasn’t been said? Jobs, the Apple Corp. co-founder, who resigned from the company in the mid-1980s and returned a decade later to make Apple one of the most successful technology companies in the world, was 56.

For more on the amazing life of Steve Jobs Click Here.

Robert Galvin of Motorola

The son of Motorola’s founder Paul Galvin, Robert Galvin led the company for 29 years made other significant contributions to the wireless industry such as the radio that transmitted the first words from the moon.

Under his watch, Motorola came out with the cell-phone and barcode scanner. Galvin was 89.

He was still alive when Google made a mega deal with Motorola. You can read about here.

Unix inventor Dennis Ritchie

Dennis Ritchie was the software developer who brought the world the C programming language and Unix operating system.

He died at the age of 70.

For more about his life click here.

John Opel CEO of IBM

IBM turned 100 this year and also named its first ever woman CEO in Virginia Rometty. Lost in those two historic announcements was the passing of former CEO John Opel. Opel was the IBM CEO from 1981 to 1985. During that time, he ushered in the PC era and resolved the anti-trust litigation with the U.S. government. Opel in 1980, as a member of the United Way board, had a discussion with Mary Maxwell Gates (Bill Gates’ mother) that led to a contract with Microsoft.

For more about IBM’s 100 anniversary click here.

If you want to know more about Rometty click here.

RFID pioneer Charles Walton

Charles Walton was the inventor of the RFID technology now common everywhere from warehouses to retail stores to public libraries.
Walton died in California at the age of 89 in November.

For more about Walton and RFID click here.

Ilya Zhitomirskiy creator of Diaspora

The youngest person to pass away this year was Ilya Zhitomirskiy, the Russian-born software developer who created Diaspora along with three others in New York.

Diaspora is an open source social networking alternative to Facebook. It even got a little bit of funding from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.

He was 22 when found dead of an apparent suicide.

Dr. Mark Vale

Dr. Mark Vale, who died last Friday at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, is best remembered for having led the development and implementation of standards for managing government information assets in the Ontario government. Not only did his work lead to improved access of government data, but he also helped secure sensitive information held within Ontario Public Service.

Toronto-born Vale, a 25-year veteran of the information technology industry, was named chief information and privacy officer for the Ontario government in July 2006.

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