10 Software Pioneers of the 80s

The ’80s are apparently back in style with a lot of nostalgia-capitalizing ventures are bringing them back with a glamorous vengeance. With that said, it’s about time we do a different kind of excursion into the 80s. Many associate that decade only with a few major rock bands and legendary singers or neon colors and ridiculous hair-styles. However, the ’80s were also a time when major technological progress was achieved and few software pioneers laid the foundation for the hyper digital world we live in today. Let’s take a look at ten of them, presented in no particular order. Since all of them are so great, making a top out of their contributions would be not only difficult but also kind of inappropriate.

1. Peter Norton


This guy is best known for the ground-breaking anti-virus, named after him. After a while, he sold it to Symantec, but all of us pre-millennial people have definitely heard of them back in the day. Current computer security systems still owe this guy a lot.

2. Chuck Geshke and John Warnok


We live in the world of Adobe reader and Photoshop (which is sometimes done hilariously wrong), but few of us know that these two guys founded Adobe Systems in 1982. They released the now ubiquitous Photoshop in 1989. This photo is taken in 1988, a year before.

3. Mitch Kapor


He founded Lotus Software together with Jonathan Sachs in 1982, but it was Kapor who designed the Lotus 1-2-3, the spreadsheet program that made Lotus a software leader.

4. Scott Cook and Tom Proulx


These two guys are to thank for how quickly the financial world moves today. Their company, Intuit, founded in California in 1983, rose to fame following the release of the Quicken program for personal finance. Later, the company also released its accounting software, QuickBooks, which further revolutionized the digital finances.

5. Michael Cowpland


He launched Cowpland Research Laboratory, which would later be shortened to Corel, in 1985. Four years later, he introduced the still famous CorelDraw that trained generation of digital editing professionals.

6. John McAfee


Probably not how you would imagine a computer geek to look, John McAfee is known for his turbulent life-style and trouble with the law, but his name also stands behind McAfee and Associates, another anti-virus giant founded in the 80s.

7. John Walker (with early employees)


This guy founded the company Autodesk in 1982 and helped author its most well-known product, the AutoCAD software (CAD stands for computer-aided design). This software is still intensively used, especially within the engineering and architecture community, but not only.

8. Bill Warner


He founded Avid in 1987, and the company is still famous for its video production possibilities and its editing software. He’s an MIT graduate and he modestly credits his start in technology to a farmer, John Beall, who made him start using chips in his prototypes.

9. Ed Iacobucci


Iacobucci was a former IBM developer who co-founded Citrix in 1989. His untimely demise caused by cancer (in 2013) put an end to what was still a path of promising creativity and potential.

10. Ray Noorda


Another software pioneer that met an early death, which left the computer world poorer in potential, Ray Noorda was the co-founder of Novell, the developer of NetWare. He died in 2006 of some Alzheimer-related complications, but his contributions changed the face of today’s digital world.

What’s truly admirable about these software pioneers of the 80s isn’t just their creativity and innovation, but also the fact that being a computer geek was less of a desirable endeavor in those days than it is now. Somehow, this gives passionate people from back then even more of a passionate aura and extra credit points, in my book.

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