Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? Larry Ellison? Mark Zuckerberg?
He is one of many pioneers in the world of high technology and software. The insiders know who these men and women are. But the general public never hears their names.
Ask your son or daughter or grandchildren about Skype, and there will be instant recognition. But Danny Cohen is one of those, when it comes to the digital era, who was “present at the creation.”
That was an active time for me, also. Early on, as I developed my interests in both mathematics and music, I saw the enormous potential as we moved from analog to digital. It wasn’t just the ability to utilize and manipulate sound more efficiently. It was that digital laid the basis for so much more in the ensuing years and for not only the current generation, and for generations to come. My early work in moving the music industry from analog to digital was one of the most satisfying periods of my life.
It also laid the groundwork for my later and current work in creating a way to monitor the chaos of public social media in order to help people who could be a danger to themselves or to others.
As for the brilliant but unpretentious Danny Cohen, he was born in Haifa before the advent of World War II and the Holocaust. Like so many of today’s tech geniuses, Cohen was of Russian heritage. Even in a competitive high school in Israel with young men destined for fame in the world of mathematics, Cohen stood out.
Cohen was no bookworm or nerd. He was adventurous. Although he started out at the formidable Technion Israel Institute of Technology, he did his graduate work at MIT and earned his PhD at Harvard, where he worked with the godfather of computer graphics Ivan Sutherland to develop their famous algorithm.
Technological innovation was Cohen’s signature. He met his second wife on arguably the very first Internet date – back in 1973!
In my last blog I noted the crucial importance of streaming and how it has brought such massive change – rendering dated, if not obsolete, assorted media, such as DVDs and Blu-ray, and the challenges now faced by movie theaters. A generation ago, I was among the first to help produce live concerts on the Internet. How many people know that live Internet broadcasts and online movies have their origin in technology that Cohen developed while working at the University of Southern California (USC)?
There are lessons here. Cohen was a genius, but not a businessman. Perhaps if he had the patents for all he did, he would have become a billionaire. But his place in history is not measured in dollars. The next time you watch YouTube, remember Danny Cohen.