In less than a hundred years, we went from inventing the first commercial radio to carrying computers in our pockets. The Information Age shaped the world in a way most other advancements couldn’t.
The Information Age goes by a few names. Sometimes called the Computer Age, New Media Age, or the Digital Age, no matter what name you use, it refers to the period that began with the rapid growth in technology starting in the 20th century.
This period was sparked by the Industrial Revolution and is often considered to have begun with the invention of the transistor in 1947. Without the transistor, a device used to amplify or transmit electrical signals, most of the modern electronics we use today wouldn’t exist.
Ever since the rise of the Information Age, some of the most well-known entrepreneurs have been in the tech industry. With new developments and advancements all the time, it has become one of the most successful fields to be in.
The start of the Information Age is often marked by the invention of transistor technology. A transistor is a semiconductor device that connects to an electric circuit. This type of device relies on semiconductor materials, such as silicon, in order to function.
The transistor technology replaced the triode, a kind of vacuum tube. Compared to the transistor, the triode was a lot larger in size and consumed a lot more power.
The first transistor was demonstrated at the research center for American Telephone & Telegraph, also known as AT&T. The research center, Bell Labs, is responsible for an advancement in technology that some experts have called the most important invention of the 20th century.
If it weren’t for the transistor, other major technological devices, such as the computer, cars, hearing aids, and laptops, wouldn’t be possible. The transistors inside these devices are what make them run, and run efficiently.
The invention of the transistor allowed for the development of mainframe computers. These were invented in the 1950s and 1970s, and were big enough to fill an entire room. Often costly to both purchase and maintain, these computers were used mostly for larger corporations and government agencies.
Personal computers were the ones small enough and eventually, affordable enough, for individuals to use in their homes. In the early years of their development, they were often called ‘home computers.’
In the early development of the personal computer, the market of computer operating systems was dominated by the Microsoft Corporation, founded by Bill Gates. Even the macOS operating system developed by Apple was not as widespread. As of 2022, the market share for operating systems is still predominantly Microsoft.
Key entrepreneur: Bill Gates
Born William Henry Gates III, Bill Gates is the co-founder of Microsoft. The personal computer revolution that occurred throughout the 1970s and 1980s was pushed forward by Gates. He and his childhood friend, Paul Allen, founded Microsoft together in 1975.
Bill Gates had been thinking of ideas and developments even before graduating high school. He actually wrote his first software program at the age of 13. Even the critics of Bill Gates can’t deny his success as an entrepreneur. On Forbes Magazine’s list of the wealthiest people, Bill Gates made the top of the list every year from 1995 to 2017, except for the years 2010 to 2013.
Gates made Microsoft successful by taking an existing operating system and adapting it to fit the personal computer. It was his ability to dominate the computer market with his adapted technology, as well as his partnership with lBM, the largest supplier of computer hardware, that made Microsoft such a success. Even most companies who tried to copy the first operating system he created realized it was cheaper to purchase his.
Key entrepreneur: Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs, co-founder and chairman of Apple, was an American entrepreneur, designer, and investor. Steve Jobs’s story and what made him a successful entrepreneur can’t just be described by the success of Apple, but by their failures and how Jobs corrected them.
Even despite his developments and designs, Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1985 due to issues with the board and CEO. By 1997, Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy until Jobs returned. The campaign he used to revive Apple perfectly describes how he was able to save the company. The advertising slogan was ‘Think Different.’ It was his ability to think differently that made Apple a success. The ‘Think Different’ campaign led to the creation of the Apple Store, and all of Apple’s most popular products, such as the iPhone and iPad.
Anyone who worked with Jobs admitted his methods were unorthodox but effective. Jobs was truly someone with an entrepreneurial mind, constantly thinking up new designs and demanding perfection and himself and others. As stated by his official biographer, “Dozens of the colleagues whom Jobs most abused ended their litany of horror stories by saying that he got them to do things they never dreamed possible.
Development of the internet
Unlike many inventions over time, there isn’t one single person to credit the invention of the internet to. What was first used as a government weapon to protect the United States from the Soviet Union during the Cold War, eventually turned into what we now know as the World Wide Web.
In 1991, the internet transformed after computer programmer, Tim Berners-Lee, introduced the World Wide Web for the first time. Instead of just a way to send data and information from one computer to another, it became a place that held information that anyone could obtain.
Researchers from the University of Illinois developed a web browser called ‘Mosiac.’ The World Wide Web is what eventually became the internet we know today.