The Billionaires: Cash and chips - the perfect recipe

Go West, young man. Not for gold, nor for open pastures. The place where fortunes are being made in America in the dying days of this century is Silicon Valley. Or if not there, Richmond, Washington.

This may not be hot news. But this year's Forbes list of "Richest Americans" tells the story more vividly than ever. Bill Gates - Richmond is the home of his software colossus, Microsoft - emerges as both number one on this list (again), but as also the wealthiest person on the planet.

More than that, though, among the top five on the list, only Warren Buffett, in second place, made his money by doing something other than fiddling with bytes. (His special talent: Wall Street investing.)

Nowhere can now challenge the computer industry as the place to turn innovation and grit into fortunes. Forbes itself highlights this striking contrast: in 1982, when it published its first list, it was the energy industry that ruled - eight of the top ten had made their money from oil. No longer.

It is no accident, that California - the cradle of the cyber-industry - claims number one spot as the US state with the most members of the 400-club. (It has 83 of them, compared to just 47 for New York in second place, and 29 in Texas). Scan the list and the familiar names leap out, from software factories to processor makers: Intel, Apple, Netscape, Hewlett Packard and so on.

Beneath the top five (whose four high-tech entrants are Gates, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Oracle chairman Larry Ellison, and Intel chief Gordon Moore), you find Steven Ballmer (No 6), also of Microsoft, Michael Dell (16), of Dell Computer, and William Hewlett (23), of Hewlett Packard.

These cyber-fortunes are mostly on paper, however. Fortunes can be made and just as quickly dashed in Silicon Valley as investors pour dollars into a new venture and just as quickly abandon it. And if Wall Street ever trips on its upwards climb, the technology stocks - and the Forbes stars - could crash quicker than a computer.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before