By Anna Karzel
Edited by Aimée Dhonte
Bill Gates invented Microsoft, Steve Jobs invented the modern smartphone, Karl Benz invented the first true modern automobile… All these creations have become an essential part of our society and the functioning of our society. We can’t imagine a world without these inventions. But are there any discoveries we could not image our life at school without? And who are the heroes behind these inventions?
Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales
Even though their names are often associated, we can’t write about Larry and Jimmy as one person. Larry was born in 1968 in the state of Washington. He was passionate about philosophy and debate. One of the things he complained about while doing research for his debates was the lack of objectivity. The idea of ‘being neutral and objective forged his invention. While in college, he became interested in the notion of Internet and its use for the wide public. He then joined the online encyclopedia Nupedia as editor-in chief in 2000, working under Jimmy Wales.
Jimmy was born in 1966 in Alabama. He loved reading, and, when he was three, his mother bought him the World Book Encyclopedia. Like Larry, he complained about the fact that many articles were missing or not updated with the correct information. In 1996 he founded Bomis, a search engine that didn’t have much success. In 2000 his dream came true, and he started the project of Nupedia, an online encyclopedia. He then hired Larry Sanger to be the editor-in-chief of this project. Nupedia wasn’t very successful at first, mostly because of the long reviewing process. In 2001, both men were introduced to the concept of a wiki, a concept that would allow the editors to contribute all along the project, thus not losing precious time on the reviewing process. And with that, on the 15th of January 2001, Wikipedia was born.
Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia with over 60 million articles published in more than 333 languages, with a number of visitors that exceeds 2 billion each month. It is undoubtedly the most accessible online encyclopedia out there. Some argue that Wikipedia is an unreliable source since anyone can make their own changes (sometimes incorrect). However, if you’re doing a biology assignment on a specific subject such as opium, I doubt that the information will be incorrect. This is why I believe that Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales should be considered modern day heroes. Wikipedia let ordinary people use their computers for education and enlightenment. They made information much more accessible for everyone, but most importantly, they made information free.
The other Larry on this list was born in 1945 in New York. Since his youngest days, he was always drawn to computers. He even completed a program at Columbia University, before going to Stanford College, where he studied computer science, but graduated in 1965 with a degree in mathematics. After getting his degree, he went on working some programming jobs. In 1973 he joined PARC, a research and development company, where he started working on programming languages and on the Gypsy word processor (a program for editing texts and preparing documents). It’s when where he started thinking about how to make the life of computer users easier. It is also when he first introduced the idea of the copy and paste function.
By now it’s automatic: you press the Control button and the letter C, and then you press the Control button again and you press the letter V. Everybody knows it. Everyone uses it. Even if it is just to copy a source, or put a picture in your PowerPoint, it’s become a habit that made everyone’s life a lot easier. Our society will be forever grateful to Larry Tesler for inventing this life-changing function
Larry Tesler later on worked with Steve Jobs, Amazon, and Yahoo, before unfortunately passing away in 2020.
Larry Sanger, Jimmy Wales, Larry Tesler and many, many, many more are truly modern heroes. Their inventions and innovations helped me, my friends and nearly everyone get through school. Their creations are the pillars of our modern society. We should remember their names and the names of their inventions, but mostly, we should remember that they were ordinary people, like us, and that everyone is capable of creating something incredible.