2003 Hall of Fame: a passion for innovation

Four technologists join our Hall of Fame ranks for their ground-breaking work on the first portable cell phone, the Power4 chip, the free software movement, and MDaemon

If there is one thing technology groundbreakers have in common, it is the passion of their vision. Joining the illustrious ranks of our Hall of Fame this year are four innovators just as intense about advancing technology now as they were when they first won recognition for their work. Martin Cooper invented the first portable cell phone; Ravi Arimilli lead IBM's Power4 chip team and holds the company's most patents; Richard Stallman founded the free software movement; and Arvel Hathcock created the MDaemon mail server. Each is working as hard today to develop their ideas as they were years and, in some cases, decades ago.

Cooper developed the portable cell phone for Motorola in the 1970s and is still pushing wireless data technology as CEO of ArrayComm in Santa Clara, Calif. "I have always wanted to invent things," Cooper says. "I knew I was going to be an engineer even when I was little. I had an unceasing curiosity about how things work and about how to make them better."

In 1973, Cooper used a two-pound box to transmit a voice call on a New York City street corner as the first cell phone call. At ArrayCom he is still thinking about how things work. "The [wireless] market is in total chaos, which is exactly the way it should be, with lots of solutions," he says.

In the mid-1990s, Arimilli was called on to answer then-President of IBM Lew Gerstner's command that the company do something about IBM's flagging market share in Unix servers. In IBM's Austin, Texas, offices, Arimilli spearheaded a team that responded in late 2001 with the Power4chip, considered by many to be one of the most sophisticated processors of its kind. The Power4 and its descendants have brought IBM back to a leading position in Unix servers. Arimilli has garnered more than 200 patents on his work since joining IBM and gives the company credit for fostering a creative environment. "IBM gives young heads a lot of technical freedom. We broke many paradigms," Arimilli says, showing a competitive fire that fueled a professional tennis career before joining Big Blue. Look for Power5 in 2004, he says.

The vision of free software burns bright for Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation/GNU Project in Boston. He proposes that the potential of software to serve us has not yet been fulfilled because ownership has limited creative development. And he insists on using the GNU-Linux operating system to connote GNU's role in contributing to the development of the OS.

Stallman remains a model for those who wish to create the best software possible. "In order for users to control software, they have to have the freedom to change software and the freedom to redistribute it," he explains. 

For his part, Arvel Hathcock created software that is making the world a better place for e-mail. Hathcock says he decided to build his own e-mail server in 1995 after being frustrated with market products.

"E-mail systems were very expensive, so we decided to investigate what it would cost to build our own," Hathcock says. Now his MDaemon 6 e-mail server, the flagship product of his small Arlington, Texas-based company, Alt-N Technologies, more than holds it own against big-boy competitors in industry comparisons.

(For profiles on the 10 2003 InfoWorld Innovators, see Honoring the Innovators.)