William Shockley. Although John Bardeen and Walter Brattain (all three at Bell Labs) created the transistor, Shockley deserves credit for starting the first company--Shockley Transistor Laboratory--to try to commercialize it in what we now know as Silicon Valley.
I would also add Bob Noyce, who along with Gordon Moore, founded Intel.
Here are some of my nominations...
Tim Berners-Lee, HTML
Don Lancaster (I completely agree with the previous post.)
Optical Storage - CD/DVD
Capacitive Touch Screens (theory predates 1972, but implementation doesn't)
IEEE 802.11 Wireless standard
LCD Screen Technology
Surface Mount Technology
As far as companies go, how about Philips and Sony? These two have a long and consistent record of innovations in consumer electronics. Their joint development of the Compact Disc is a marvel of engineering integrating such leading-edge technologies as lasers, optics, servo systems, materials science, manufacturing technologies, precision DACs, LSI and VLSI into an affordable consumer product. From the CD sprang both DVD and Blue-Ray technologies. Many innovations in CD audio begat the current MP3.
Terry Scheffer was one of the key inventors of STN (super twisted nematic) LCD technology in the early 80's. The STN LCD made computer resolution LCD displays possible and practical for the first time. Prior to that invention, large LCD displays were thought to be impossible.
I would nominate Mr. Sam Pitroda, an Indian engineer settled in US, as a pioneer of many a technologies in the field of telecommunications. He is also supposed to have pioneered the concept of hand held computing when he invented the first electronic diary sometime in 1975.
I own two of them, a 15C and an 11C and there is a funny story behind the second calculator. I bought the 15C for college--a good investment. I think I used just about every feature on the calculator, and it is one of the few products where I've read the whole manual! I used it at work a lot, but would often misplace it, and then find it a day or two later. Finally I vowed, after misplacing it yet again and worrying it was lost, that this time I would put my name on it if I ever found it, so at least it was more likely to make its way back to me. So one day I'm back in the lab, and there o and behold, I spot it, my calculator! Why hadn't I seen it before? So...I take an exacto knife, and ETCH my last name and address into the back of the calculator. Ahh...permanent, never to be lost again. A few hours later, a lab technician wanders by my desk. "Hey, is that my calculator?" Ulp! It was his 11C, not my 15C that I had found, and now my name and address were engraved in it! I felt pretty bad, but at the same time it was funny. So, I paid him the price for a new one, and some time later, I found my 15C, I believe in my car. So now I have two. More is better, right?
This is just in via e-mail from Rob Walker, one of the co-founders of LSI Logic:
Fairchild ASIC of the 60’s and 70’s. Invented the gate array, standard cell, VLSI testers (Sentry series) and integrated CAD system. See interviews of me, Jim Koford, Jim Downey and Harold Vitale in Stanford’s Silicon Genesis oral histories.
These are all great responses and suggestions. As Junko mentioned earlier we are looking for gems that have not been unearthed yet. For instance all know that GPS was an inflection point for the way we live play and communicat today. So who is the unsung hero who either at its birth or since then and practicing today, or the genius who is working away in some research lab who will take GPS to the next level--pinpoint a position of a specific person inside a specific house or car? Orwellian, maybe. Possible, probably. So geek, who are you and what can you share?