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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
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

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy