As the tech geek, biker, and all-around badass known online as tnkgrl puts it, she was “born wearing combat boots and holding a keyboard,” and she’s been “stomping, typing and hacking ever since.” Although she was born in France, she fell in love with Canada during a study abroad excursion and settled there as an engineer. With her background in computers stretching back to the first PCs, she landed gigs doing audio work with video game companies, including Relic, EA, and LucasArts. When gaming lost its luster, she elevated her pet blogging project into a full-time journalism career with Engadget.
To hear Wilson’s video from the European Inventor Award 2013 tell it, the 21st century runs on ARM, a form of computer processor that requires very little power to run, making it ideal for use in portable devices such as cell phones. The Computer History Museum (via Electronics Weekly News) agrees, setting the worldwide number of ARM core processors at 30 billion as of 2012. Although no one person can be exclusively credited with its creation, Wilson was responsible for writing its initial instruction set, which convinced her company – Acorn Manufacturers – that her model was feasible. The above photograph depicts her standing next to a blueprint of ARM1 and holding up a state-of-the-art modern processor as an illustration of how her invention had grown – or, as it were, shrunk.
Although Acorn long ago went out of business, Wilson remained an active participant in the tech field, winning the 2012 Computer History Museum fellowship and working on the Firepath processor. (More technologically proficient readers may enjoy perusing the above links for a more complete listing an explanation of her accomplishments.) She has the unusual distinction of being a trans woman, and the similarly unusual distinction of living in Cambridge, U.K., rather than Silicone Valley.