October 11, 2010

Greatest living Americans

A couple of days ago someone asked Harry Reid who he thought were the greatest living Americans. He named Teddy Kennedy and Robert Byrd, both of whom are dead.

Anyway, it got me to thinking: who would I say? I think Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Andy Grove. Between the three of them, they've changed the world and made it a better place.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste in Weird World at 09:16 AM | Comments (16) | Add Comment
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1 That definitely was a bizarre answer by Harry Reid.  I suppose their recent deaths made him think about them.  I personally think this isn't an easy question for a politician.  He would definitely not want to offend anyone living.  It's a lot safer to pick someone who has passed away. Though Kennedy and Byrd are unusual choices.

Posted by: slamsmith at October 11, 2010 09:26 AM (/rXF7)


I think he mentally interpreted "living" to mean "contemporary" as opposed to "historical" greatest Americans like Lincoln and Washington.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 11, 2010 10:20 AM (+rSRq)

3 When I evaluate this kind of story, I ask myself, "How would this be reported if Dan Quayle had said it?"

So even though I think your reasoning is valid and a likely explanation, I still think it makes Reid look like a total dunce.

Posted by: atomic_fungus at October 11, 2010 01:44 PM (widk0)


If we're going with "contemporary" as opposed to "living," I'd have to nominate Norman Borlaug, who died last September.  The Father of the "Green Revolution" in agriculture.  Credited by many as having saved a billion (yes -- that's with a "B") people from starvation.  Few people have ever heard of him though.


Posted by: Dave Young at October 11, 2010 03:55 PM (ZAk0Z)

5 I heard Norman Borlaug. Bill Gates is nothing by comparison.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at October 11, 2010 04:03 PM (9KseV)

6 I thought about mentioning him, but I couldn't remember his name.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 11, 2010 04:17 PM (+rSRq)


Problem with Norman Borlaug is that there is an appreciable number of people in the West who dislike him for various reasons, none of the them valid but all of them very emotional.  The environmentalists who believe the less humans on Earth the better; the people who despise GM food crops and/or the 'natural' proponents; the animal rights activists; even the protectionists/fair trade people  It might not be too surprising that the anti-Borlaug factions tend to vote for people like Harry Reid.


Posted by: cxt217 at October 11, 2010 05:00 PM (S2Y6q)


I guess I'm being a bit self-centered here. Borlaug certainly changed the world, but he didn't change my world.

But Gates, Jobs, and Grove have changed my world drastically. I can't imagine what my life would be like without the things they did.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 11, 2010 05:43 PM (+rSRq)

9 Dunno, I can imagine it easily. We would've used DR-DOS and GEM instead of MS-DOS and Windows, that is all. Oh and maybe we'd listen to MP3s on a Covon instead of iPod. Honestly I think these people did not accomplish all that much in comparison to their contemporaries (with some exception of Jobs, who was to some extent charizmatic, so replacing him with someone else would probably yield somewhat different results (LOL Scully)).

Perhaps I had enough exposure to alternatives to Intel etc. Also, due to USSR being so backwards I sampled computing as it was before micros. Our university's biggest mainframe was built out discrete transistors.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at October 11, 2010 06:08 PM (9KseV)

10 Pete, you're concentrating on Gates alone. What would all this be running on without Andy Grove?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 11, 2010 06:22 PM (+rSRq)


C'mon, Steven, think of how many more sanctimonious celebrity "Feed the World" type concerts we would've had to put up with if Norman hadn't been around.

(Yikes!  Was that ever politically incorrect.  My bad!)

Posted by: Dave Young at October 11, 2010 06:30 PM (ZAk0Z)

12 You'd think for working in the preeminent CPU design house I'd know more about Andy Grove but I really do not... except that I suspect a lot of his accomplishments were rather business-like in nature. I am very much convinced that micro CPUs were an idea that was in the air. Heck I participated in building a computer from ALU sections, registers, and ucode ROM. We were "this" close and would definitely consider greater integration if had input into ASIC design. Unfortunately it was in 1983 and 8080 reached even our neck of the woods by that time. Still, I do not see just what is so amazing about microprocessor. Anything beyond that about Intel was shrewd business strategy and business management.

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at October 11, 2010 07:32 PM (9KseV)


Pete, you working for Intel now?

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at October 11, 2010 08:15 PM (+rSRq)

14 Slightly more subtle nomination: Federico Faggin.  From 1968 to 1978, he revolutionised the entire integrated circuit and microprocessor industry four or five times - the first silicon gate transistors and the first chips based on them, the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, then the 8008, 4040, and the 8080 (we're all still running on derivatives of that architecture today), then at Zilog the Z80, and the Z8 microcontroller.

Norman Borlaug would have been my nominee too had he not passed away last year.

I can't, off-hand, think of a single living America politician I'd nominate as great, much less greatest.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at October 11, 2010 08:15 PM (PiXy!)

15 I meant my stint at MCST (ironically part of Intel now).

Posted by: Pete Zaitcev at October 11, 2010 10:01 PM (9KseV)

16 MCST?  As in Elbrus?  Cool, I had no idea.

Posted by: Pixy Misa at October 11, 2010 11:36 PM (PiXy!)

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