They are not the Oscars or the Grammy’s. Heck, they aren’t even the Webbies or the Appy Awards for the man on the street. But just like the relatively obscure names you might have encountered in the list of 10 Famous Geeks Who Changed The World, the computer science awards on this list are doing their own quiet bit to promote innovation and invention. In turn, the innovations and inventions are changing our future. We don’t realize it just yet.
Of course, it can be argued that awards and honors always come after the event. But it can also be argued that such honors bestow the limelight on these remarkable human endeavors and force the wider community to take notice.
So, you may know what Angry Birds (Appy Awards: Best Game App) does for you today. Take a moment to discover what Mark Handley (IEEE Internet Award Winner 2012) could do for our tomorrow.
The Award: The IEEE Internet Award is a technical award given by The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a worldwide (160 countries and 400,000 members) non-profit that promotes advancement of technology. Nokia is a sponsor of the awards.
The Impact: Mark Handley received the IEEE Internet Award this year for his contributions to Internet multicast, telephony, congestion control and the shaping of open Internet standards and open-source systems. That’s a mouthful, but it essentially means his work could be seminal in shaping the Internet of tomorrow. For instance, open Internet standards define everything from TCP/IP and WWW to hardware and networking between different computer systems. One of the earlier awardees was Paul Baran for his work on packet switching. Packet switching is one of the key technologies that keeps the Internet going by optimizing the transmission of data across networks.
The Award: First started in 1917, it is one of the topmost recognitions one can get from peers in the science and technology industry (not only computer science). It is the highest IEEE award and is close to a lifetime achievement award.
The Impact: It’s very first winner in 1917 was Edwin Howard Armstrong. You are listening to rock n’ roll today on FM today because of him. John L. Hennessy is the 2012 honoree “for pioneering the RISC processor architecture and for leadership in computer engineering and higher education.” He heads Stanford University, which is probably responsible for Silicon Valley in its own way.
The Award: The Association for Computer Machinery has a host of awards; the A.M. Turing Award is the most prestigious and sought after. It has been dubbed as the “Nobel Prize” of Computing. Recipients are selected for major contributions of lasting importance to computing and invited to give the annual A.M. Turing Award Lecture.
The Impact: its first winner was Alan Perlis for compiler design. He also was one of the 13 who developed ALGOL. Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie have been past winners. So have been Vinton G. Cerf and Robert E. Kahn. Last year’s winner was Judea Pearl for his contributions to artificial intelligence, which is very much the future.
ACM too has other well-recognized awards like the Grace Murray Hopper Award given to young computer scientists for their work.
The Award: If the Turing Award can be likened to the Nobel, The Millennium Technology Prize is another contender. It is said to be the largest technology prize in the world (probably in terms of prize money). It is awarded every two years by the Technology Academy Finland, for innovations that enrich our everyday life.
The Impact: The award’s first winner (in its present form) was Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web. One of the joint winners this year is Linus Torvalds. He might have developed the Linux operating system, but beyond that it can be argued that he has had a major world-changing influence on Open Source software development.
The Award: Set up by the Inamori Foundation of Japan, The Kyoto Prize is an international award to honor those who have contributed significantly to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual betterment of mankind. The prize is rapidly gaining in stature.
The Impact: Dr. Ivan Edward Sutherland is widely considered to be the father of computer graphics. His influence is spread across films to video games and 3D virtual reality. Today, artists (among others) can easily use GUI tools because his work through a computer program called Sketchpad, allows a pointing device to control visible objects on a computer screen. That was in 1963. He also received the Turing Award in 1988.
Awards such as these point the way towards the future and what’s on the cutting edge. If you see the roll-call of awardees in each, you will notice that they shaped the technology of today. Whether by developing a computer language or a better data compression mechanism, each innovation has led to the present technologies. Has this been an informative article for you? Were you aware about these awards and the awardees? And more importantly, do you know of any other global (or even national) computer science award that should have made this list?
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