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
“To me, Jobs is best known for really sensing the pulse of what was going to be cool, and take it to the next level of the use of technology in society in technology,” says David Allison, a curator at the American History Museum who specializes in information technology. “It’s not so much satisfying demand, it’s creating demand for stuff that you didn't even think you wanted.”
Jobs is one of the latest in a series of innovators in American history who have remade the technological landscape through expertise and imagination.
His pioneering efforts with electricity distribution, the light bulb, the phonograph and film introduced completely new technologies to the public. For them to gain acceptance, he drew upon his impressive skills as a promoter. “There's certainly no question about him being a great marketer, as well as a great technologist,” Allison says.
“Sarnoff was always pushing and selling the next mode of communication,” says Allison. “He made a name in radio, but then was also the pioneer of color television in America.” At RCA, he drove engineers to perfect a color TV system that would become the standard for U.S. manufacturers and broadcasting.
“It wasn't such a great car in terms of technology, but it really was a great car in terms of capturing the imagination in design,” Allison says. Iacocca’s greatest talent was anticipating the next big thing and selling it to the mainstream. “He captured the pulse of America at the time, and rode that in much the same way that the iPod did,” says Allison.
Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore
No innovators have been as responsible for the brute technological horsepower that enabled the information technology revolution as Noyce, right, and Moore, founders of Intel. In the early 1970s, they created the first successful commercial microprocessors, and the company has remained the premier computer hardware supplier ever since.
“They were always focused on getting more and more capability onto chips: smaller, cheaper, much more powerful,” says Allison. “Their belief was that if they got the technology better and better, it would be adopted.” The Intel chips that power today’s PCs and handheld devices are a testament to their foresight.