EA Articles

Mount Rushmore of Technology by: Bill Inmon

Introduction to Mount Rushmore Articles by John A. Zachman

I am greatly honored and deeply humbled by what Bill Inmon has written about me in his articles. I have also known many of the folks that Bill mentions in his articles (below) and I have been significantly influenced by their contributions. I must say that most of them, not all, but almost all have been very gracious and virtually unassuming about their own contributions. Not the least of these is Bill, himself. In virtually every presentation that I make longer than an hour or two, I observe the genius of Data Warehouse... the genius of the idea itself, but also more appropriately, the genius of its author, Bill Inmon.



Bill Inmon


Mount Rushmore of Technology 

W. H. Inmon



Bill Inmon was the first person to realize and acknowledge that transaction (dis-integrated) data is useless for supporting management decisioning. To this day, the virtual entirety of the Information Community tends to think that the end objective is getting the code to run… as opposed to designing and changing THE ENTERPRISE. I usually say, “the end object is The Enterprise, NOT the system." It was Peter Drucker that said the pundits, including himself, incorrectly predicted that the advent of computers would change the behavior of management. He continued, "the computers are accounting machines. They have impacted operations, not management.” Bill was early to recognize the practicalities of this observation.

With the advent of Agile Programming, and without the concept of Data Warehouse, we would have an ocean full (forget a LAKE full), an OCEAN full of transaction data that would be virtually useless for Management "analysis." Data Warehouse is the (integrated) logic that redeems Management value from the system’s (DIS-integrated) transaction data. But, in retrospect of history, Data Warehouse may be seen as Bill’s less significant contribution, that is, less significant as compared to figuring out how to structure the universe of unstructured, BIG text data for Management analysis and decisioning… on which Bill has been working exclusively for at least the last dozen years.  

I love my friend Bill Inmon and I appreciate immensely his comments about me. I can only say that his contributions are as great, if not greater than any of the folks whose names he mentioned in his articles and his memorial statue for posterity belongs at the top of a very high pedestal in London’s Trafalgar Square commemorating the pivotal and fundamental conflict between transaction data and ENTERPRISE data. Thank you Bill for your gracious comments and your monumental contributions.


Mount Rushmore of Technology I by WH Inmon

Everyone knows about Mount Rushmore. We find a testament to the great presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Roosevelt carved onto the mountain. It is a good bet that 1000 years from now Mount Rushmore will become the pyramids of the USA. A thousand years from now Mount Rushmore will be standing while all else has crumbled. A thousand years from the skyscrapers in New York will have fallen, the Golden Gate bridge will be no more, Sears Tower will be long gone, and the St Louis arch will be no more. Such is the effect of time. But still standing and still radiantly white will be Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore was built to last, if nothing else. Mount Rushmore signals the start to something great – democracy, the Constitution and the US of A.

There are not many generations that bear witness to the birth of something widespread and long lasting. The current generation of people living today however has witnessed just such a birth. The current generation of people living today has witnessed the birth of technology. In 1950 there really was no technology, certainly not in the commercial sense. But by 2000 – a mere fifty years later - technology has grown to a mammoth profession and has profoundly changed the way the world conducts its business. It is unimaginable to think of the world today without technology. It has been said that it would take every female in California (i.e., 50% of the population in California) to manually process the checks that are written every day in California. And processing checks is only one of many, many tasks the computer does.

To think of a world where everything is done manually is unthinkable. We simply could not imagine such a world.

There is no argument then that technology and the computer have deeply and profoundly changed the world in which we live.

One of the interesting things about Mount Rushmore is who is not on Mount Rushmore. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, J P Morgan, Dale Carnegie, and Pierre Samuel Dupont are not on Mount Rushmore. It is not that those people did not do important and worthwhile things. Their contributions to society and life in the US are unquestioned. But the contributions to life in the USA of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt are of a deeper nature. Our founding fathers contributed guiding principles. It is within those guiding principles that other people made their contributions.

In any case the selection to being placed on Mount Rushmore is subjective. The sculptors of Mount Rushmore – of necessity – had to make a subjective selection, not an objective one. Stated differently, ultimately the selection for being placed on Mount Rushmore is subjective.

It is within this framework that four shaping individuals – four thought leaders – of the computer profession are placed on the Mount Rushmore of technology.

The four founding fathers of modern technology that should be placed on the technology Mount Rushmore are –

  • Ed Yourdon
  • Grace Hopper
  • John Zachman
  • Gene Amdahl


Each of these people made a contribution that shapes the world we live in today.

One could argue that Steven Jobs, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison belong on the list. There is no question that these gentlemen have made great contributions. No question. But the contribution made by all three have been primarily in the arena of products. They have primarily been industrialists not thought leaders.

Several other people deserve mention. These people have all made significant contributions to the profession of technology. Listed alphabetically they are –

  • Ned Chapin, contributions for analytical design and organization of logic
  • Ted Codd, contributions in relational data base
  • Tom Demarco, contributions for structured analysis and design
  • Larry Ellison, contributions for data base management and product development
  • Larry English, contributions for data quality
  • Clive Finklestein, contributions in information engineering
  • Bill Gates, contributions in desktop data management and operating systems
  • Foster Hinshaw, contributions in hardware for large data base management
  • Steve Hoberman, contributions for data modeling
  • Hans Hultgren, contributions in data vault modeling
  • Bill Inmon, contributions for data warehousing
  • Steven Jobs, contributions for product development
  • Ralph Kimball, contributions in building data marts
  • Krish Krishnan, contributions for Big Data management
  • Ross leher, contributions for taxonomy/ontology management
  • Dan Linstedt, contributions in data vault modeling
  • David Marco, contributions for metadata management
  • James Martin, contributions in analytical thinking
  • Jim Sheetz, contributions in architecture for transaction processing

And there a legions of other people who have made significant contributions as well.

But when it comes to basic shaping of the world of technology, the four people mentioned – Ed Yourdon, Grace Hopper, John Zachman, and Gene Amdahl – have made enormous contributions.

It has been my honor and privilege to personally know each one of the founders in the Mount Rushmore of technology. Some I knew well. Others I knew only briefly. But they all made significant contributions to the way technology is conducted today.

Stay tuned for articles about each of the people on the Mount Rushmore of technology.



In the beginning there was code. Lots of code. People spewed out code as fast as they could write it on a coding pad.

In the early days the attitude was to churn out code as fast as possible. One of the mantras was – “Build it quick now and we’ll tune in performance later.” Another mantra was – “ we’re starting to build a new system, bring your coding pad.”

The notion was that code could be churned out like an Uzi spurting out bullets.

In the early days no one had ever done any maintenance to code. The thought that at some point in time someone was going to have to actually maintain the code that was produced was an odd concept that was just a theory. In the early days no thought was ever given to the fact that the code would ever need to be altered.

In these early days programming skills were in very short supply. Furthermore there were no applications like ERP applications where a business could go out and buy whatever software he/she needed. Instead ALL code was built internally to the organization.

There was a word that described the code that was produced in the early days. That word was “spaghetti code”. Spaghetti code referred to the diagram of logic that was produced that attempted to depict what the code was supposed to accomplish.

It is hard to believe that the computer profession existed at all in these early days.

Into this mayhem stepped Ed Yourdon. However you want to look at it, Ed Yourdon was an early pioneer of the computer profession. Ed was a student and a practitioner. Ed took a degree from MIT in 1965. Ed was associated with other early pioneers such as Larry Constantine and Tom Demarco.

The seminal idea introduced by Ed was the notion that there ought to be a structure to all of the code that was being produced. With structure code could be developed more quickly and once produced, code could be maintained.

But Yourdon’s ideas about the need for structure in the production of code soon led to the proposition that there ought to be structure to the design of code as well. Yourdon was associated with the first notions of such things as the SDLC – structured development life cycle (or systems development life cycle). Other innovations by Yourdon in the world of adding structure to the computer systems that were being produced were the notions of the data flow diagram, the functional decomposition and the simple program flowchart.

Today we take these design practices and development aids for granted. But there once was a day when systems were built without the aid of these tools and techniques. And in truth these early systems were monstrocities.

And then structured design spread even further to the world of structured analysis. In structured analysis the notion that there should be a discipline in the way that requirements were gathered and organized was espoused. Some of the early pioneers in structured analysis included Lois Zells and Steve McMenamin.

The world of programming and systems development was profoundly affected by the work done by Ed Yourdon.

But Yourdon was not the only pioneer making a contribution. Following Ed Yourdon was John Zachman. John began his career with the Navy and then went to IBM. At IBM John began to put together his thoughts on the system development process. If Yourdon was a master carpenter, Zachman was a master architect. In many ways the works of Yourdon and Zachman complemented each other. Yourdon worked at a detailed level and Zachman worked at a higher architectural level.

John likened the system development process to the profession of construction. John pointed out that the mature construction industry had a disciplined practice when it came to building a large, complex structure. Different audiences had their different needs met in a cohesive, integrated fashion. John pointed out the expensive practice of reworking a development when it has not been done properly. John pointed out that the least expensive way to build a large complex structure was to build it right from the beginning. But to build a large complex structure right, it was necessary to have a blueprint.

To that end Zachman conceived of and developed what is known as the Zachman framework. The Zachman framework accommodated the many different communities that had a stake in the structure along different fronts.

The net result of the work done by Zachman was the ability to take a complete and rational approach to the building of large, complex structures and systems.

Zachman is as famous for his contributions as he is for his presentations. John has to be the most engaging and dynamic speaker in the industry. In addition John is famous for his jokes and anecdotes that he splices into his presentations.

Whether the developer of today knows it or not, today’s developer of large complex systems is in debt to the early work done by Yourdon and Zachman. Without Yourdon and Zachman, today’s computer projects would be over-run fiscally, impossible to maintain, and satisfying only a fraction of the users requirements. The shadow cast by Yourdon and Zachman covers us all.


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