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In 1912, as the HMS Titanic was going down, Sarnoff was involved with using early radio equipment to transmit information about the ship’s demise. (Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis)

Before Steve Jobs: 5 Corporate Innovators who Shaped Our World

The former head of Apple comes from a long line of American innovators who changed society

Bill Gates

Bill Gates
(Reuters / Corbis)
As founder of Microsoft, Gates’ biggest achievements as an innovator lie not in creating new technologies from scratch, but in maximizing their earning potential and bringing them to the market. “Gates always seemed to be really focused on understanding the business side,” says Allison, “what was going to sell particularly in the corporate marketplace.” From Microsoft Windows to Microsoft Office, he has played a uniquely significant role in shaping the state of modern computer software around the globe.

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