The Biggest Icons of the Modern Tech Industry

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There was a time when those who were making great innovations within the tech industry did so under the veil of relative anonymity. While they certainly each had their own respective following, their names and faces never threatened to break into mainstream pop culture as their creations were not widely understood, nor particularly cared about.

But now we live in an age where those who helped drive the tech industry to where it is today are celebrated in a world enveloped in an admiration for hardware, software and gadgetry, where those who have served as the initiators of this boom in interest surrounding tech are revered, while those who continue to push it into new and exciting directions are fawned over in a way that, just under a decade ago, would have only been reserved for rock stars and actors.

These are the people who have helped catapult the tech industry to where it is today, and in doing so have become icons of the information age:

 

Mark Zuckerberg

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The most impressive thing about Facebook is its continued ubiquity in spite of itself. Even people who frequently use Facebook speak of their disdain for the service (often using Facebook itself), and it’s not difficult to see why the social network is the target of such criticism.

Conceptually, Facebook is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family, but as we all know, these days it’s a swamp of shared viral videos/photos and Candy Crush invitations. But it’s so deeply ingrained into our society that Facebook is far more than just a website with an alarmingly messy user interface – it’s a legitimate facet of our social lives.

Meeting someone new now almost immediately calls for you to add them on Facebook, deleting someone from your friends list is considered a statement that sees you running the risk of finding yourself embroiled in an argument the next time you see them in real life, and relationships aren’t considered legitimate unless they’ve been announced to yours and your partner’s friends list. It has been proven that Facebook can be damaging to one’s mental health due to it allowing users to effectively sift through the lives of their friends and acquaintances, encountering images and status updates that perpetuate a sense of one-upmanship, wherein users “compete” with one another in order to prove who is leading their lives to fullest. But that’s hardly surprising, given its origins.

The question isn’t, ‘What do we want to know about people?’, It’s, ‘What do people want to tell about themselves?’

Facebook was famously borne out of another project from Mark Zuckerberg called Facemash, a website he created in 2003 in which his fellow Harvard students were asked to compare images of two students and decide which one was “hotter.” After Facemash was shut down by Harvard administration, with Zuckerberg facing expulsion from the university, he went on to create Thefacebook in 2004, the beginnings of the site we now know. After dropping “the” from its domain name in 2005, the newly rebranded Facebook broadened its reach into full public access in 2006, with an investment from Microsoft in 2007 bumping its value to around $15 billion. Five years later and Facebook was valued at $104 billion, with Mark Zuckerberg becoming the youngest billionaire in history off the back of its success.

But despite its acceleration into the public consciousness and its exponential growth as a business, Facebook’s start to life as a “Hot or Not” site is still apparent in its current incarnation. Mark Zuckerberg created the ultimate website for a generation undeterred by worries regarding their privacy, who wanted an outlet to share the minutiae of their lives, and to eavesdrop in on the lives of others. Though it is ostensibly a site that is intended as a tool of communication, in actuality its main purpose is arguably for its users to judge and be judged – or ‘Liked,’ to use the site’s vernacular.

In Facebook, Zuckerberg created a tool in which people could express themselves online and, though this expression of self can have as many negative connotations as it does positive, it stood to serve a generation that was clamouring for an outlet in which to voice its opinions and make itself known.

 

Steve Jobs

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The tech industry would be a lot different today if there had been no Steve Jobs.

The late Apple cofounder and CEO not only helped in the transformation of his company from a plucky underdog to a behemothic tech giant, but he also played a major role in altering the direction of the industry as a whole.

After leaving Apple in 1985 following a dispute with the company’s board of directors, Jobs returned in 2006 while the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. In just two short years, he made the company profitable again with the introduction of the first iMac, a turnaround that is regarded as one of the greatest in business history.

Though the word gets thrown around more frequently than it should, Steve Jobs was a true visionary in the tech world, always proving to be one step ahead of not only his competitors, but of the consumer, too. When the public thought that they wanted cheaper, more affordable technology, Jobs instead introduced them to pricey yet high-quality goods such as the iPod and iPhone, that were as fashionable as they were useful.

Innovation distinguishes between a follower and a leader.

Every market that he and Apple stepped into was turned on its head, with the iTunes Store popularizing the digital distribution of music that would see physical releases of albums become all but defunct, and the iPhone ensuring that all smartphones in the future would have to concern themselves with more than just answering calls, sending texts, taking the occasional photograph and running a few games; they’d have to become an all-purpose tool that could actively manage almost every aspect of their users’ lives.

While the company was (and still is) frequently hit with the accusation of selling over-priced products, people continue to buy into the Apple brand with gusto, such is the strength of the company’s name and its ability to market itself. Jobs’ unwavering self-belief in what he was creating rubbed off on every aspect of Apple, and his confidence led to the marketplace buying into each of his company’s inventions. After all, what other company would have the gall to refer to its retail assistants as “Geniuses?”

The huge amount of media coverage that followed his death in 2011, including statements released by President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, highlighted how Jobs had accelerated beyond the tech industry during his lifetime and had become a pop culture icon in his own right.