Software remains a hotbed of young conceptual innovators. The latest example of young geniuses is Facebook developer Mark Zuckerberg, who invented the social networking site at age 19.
A new Newsweek article focuses mostly on the prospects for the site, which he refused to sell to Yahoo for a reported $1 billion, but it also puts the Harvard dropout’s conceptual side on display.
For example, “the nub of his vision revolves around a concept he calls the ‘social graph.’ As he describes it, this is a mathematical construct that maps the real-life connections between every human on the planet. Each of us is a node radiating links to the people we know.
“ ‘We don’t own the social graph,’ he says. ‘The social graph is this thing that exists in the world, and it always has and it always will.’ “
Add Zuckerberg to the list of other young men who made early breakthroughs in the computer industry. For example:
From youngest to oldest (at age 24):
- Fellow Harvard dropout Bill Gates, age 19 when he started “the world’s first microcomputer software company.”
- Shawn Fanning, age 19 when he developed Napster file-sharing software.
- Steve Jobs, age 21 when he founded Apple Computer with 25-year-old Steve Wozniak.
- Tim Berners-Lee, known as the Father of the World Wide Web, who at age 24 developed hypertext links to connect information stored in different documents.
Computers seem to attract slightly younger achievers than other industries. For example, consider these historic breakthroughs in other fields:
- Cyrus McCormick, in his mid-20s when he patented the mechanical reaper.
- Eli Whitney, age 27 when he filed his patent application for his cotton gin.
- Alexander Graham Bell, who patented his invention of the telephone at age 29.
- Thomas Edison, who gets credit for inventing the phonograph at age 30 and the electric light at age 31.