Why 1955 was a good year to be born to shape our future.
The most influential figures in computing were born within 12 months of each other.
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Why are so many computer geniuses born in 1955?

Have you ever wondered why so many of the most influential people in the world of computing and information technology were born between November 1954 and October 1955? I am not talking about people with a brilliant dot.com idea. Think bigger ... Sun Microsystems®, Java®, Unix®, Apple Mac®, iPod®, iPhone®, Microsoft®, Windows® and let's not forget ... the World Wide Web. Well, best selling author, Malcolm Gladwell [1] noticed this coincidence and came up with a plausible explanation.

Computing innovations of the early '70s

In his latest outstanding book, "Outliers" Gladwell argues that this phenomenon is accounted for by the technological innovations that occurred in the early '70s. Most significantly the time-consuming process of punch cards was being phased out. This and other developments enabled those born in the mid 1950s to get unprecedented access to computer mainframes and real-time computing from their teens. Such individuals like Bill Joy and Bill Gates were blessed with the opportunity to acquire 10,000 hours of computer programming experience before starting their careers.

Individuals who are leading lights of the Zeitgeist

My contention is that the type of genius that manifests in any period of history is a reflection of the complex interaction between human cultural and scientific evolution and the unfolding cycles in the Universe. By connecting with the potential in their birth chart, these individuals can embody and lead the zeitgeist - the spirit of the times.

Here are the key players:
Bill Joy 8 Nov 1954 T:? Detroit, MI Sun Microsystems, UNIX, Java
Steve Jobs 24 Feb 1955 7:15 pm San Francisco, CA Apple, Mac, iPod, iPhone, Pixar
Eric Schmidt 27 April 1955 T:? Washington, DC CEO Google prev Apple, Novell
Tim Berners-Lee 8 Jun 1955 T:? London, UK World Wide Web
Bill Gates 28 Oct 1955 10pm Seattle, WA MicroSoft, Windows ...
David Winer (2 May 1955 software pioneered weblogs, RSS, podcasts)
James Gosling (19 May 1955 software engineer & father of 'Java')
Tim Bray (21 June 1955 software developer. Director of Sun Microsystems)
Ray Ozie (20 Nov 1955 chief software architect Microsoft and creator of Lotus notes)
plus many great inventive mathematicians, astrophysicists and chess masters.

10,000 hours of practice makes perfect.

Bill Joy, who co-founded Sun Microsystems and rewrote UNIX and Java, enrolled at the University of Michigan just as their state-of-the-art computer centre opened. So Joy was able to program 8 - 10 hours per day. Similarly, Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft got to access real-time programming from 1968 aged 13. ['Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell Chapter 2, The 10,000-Hour Rule.]

But why does 1955 show a spike on the graph?

How many teenagers in the world had unlimited free computer access time in the early 70s? Bill Gates said, "If there were fifty, I'd be stunned!" So this was not like an epidemic that suddenly hit huge numbers of teenagers born in the mid '50s. Nor was access granted evenly by age: Bill Gates started programming at 13, while Bill Joy started 5 years later, aged 17. Overall this was a gradual process spread over many years with an increasing number of teenagers getting access to an increasing amount of computer time. On this basis I would expert that the distribution of 'computer geniuses' by birth date would increase exponentially throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. So why is there a spike on the graph in 1955?

Am I a product of my era or of my chart or both?

I am not saying Gladwell is wrong. Gates and Joy benefited from a leap in technology at a key stage in their education to give them a head start. I was born in 1955 and was the first year to study SMP (School Mathematics Project). From about 8 years old, we learnt about the Basic computer language, binary numbers and arrays. However, I never had real-time access to a computer until I bought a 'Commodore Pet' computer aged 27. Yet, I like to write my own astrological software so that it can simulate my thought processes in handling and synthesising my chart interpretation text. My sense is that my affinity to computer mathematics is more a reflection of my chart than that of the opportunities and influences of the era in which I was born. Had I been born 50 years earlier, I might have been like my grandmother, Rona (b.1905 who had Uranus in Capricorn opposite Neptune in Cancer) who got into computers in her 70s.

Was the Draft or the Lunar landing a factor?

My wife, Karen pointed out that in the USA, the draft ended in 1973. So, many young Americans born prior to 1955 missed the opportunity to gain computer experience through compulsory commitment to military service in Vietnam or elsewhere. Also, those born in 1955 would have witnessed the Moon landing in 1969, aged 14 at their first Saturn opposition to Saturn. It is arguable that witnessing what science could do at this formative age where limitations are often set, inspired these teens to think that anything is possible.

Could this pattern be explained by a rare astrological alignment in the mid 1950s?

Timing was critical for these computer geniuses, but not just in the sense of being born into a fertile culture a time when technology was leaping ahead.
15 July 1954 Stage 1 23CN19D 23LI19R
2 Dec 1954 Stage 2 27CN20R 27LI20D
11 June 1955 Stage 3 25CN39D 25LI39R
19 Jan 1956 Stage 4 00LE22R 00SC22D
5 May 1956 Stage 5 28CN37D 28LI37R
Souce: Tables of Planetary Phenomena, Michelsen 1990
All these individuals were born with a rare generational line-up of planets[2]: Uranus, Neptune and Chiron locked into a T-square. This configuration started to constellate around 1952 and separated in mid 1958 [3]. However, throughout 1955, the aspect was at its closest with a peak middle stage on June 11 1955: just 3 days after WWW inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee was born!

Why should this line-up be such an asset in pioneering technology?

Uranus is recognised as being the planet most closely linked to computers, information technology and intellectual breakthroughs. Neptune is connected with the process of merging, the imagination and a world beyond existing boundaries. Chiron is associated with the process of synthesis and integration. In all examples at least one planet (Neptune in Libra), if not Chiron in Aquarius, is in an Air sign - reinforcing the orientation to the world of ideas. In all stages cardinal signs are significant, which may account for the tendency of these individuals to introduce new innovations and their urge to dominate their sphere of influence.

How are these powerful individuals personally connected to the alignment?

In the natal chart of all these key examples at least one personal planet is involved in the configuration. Jupiter, which I am including as a personal planet is conjunct Uranus in 4 out of the 5 key examples. So we have potentially highly motivated, innovative and inventive individuals. They are driven to realise a vision of the future that is beyond most people's imagination. Not only do they see what is possible, but the squares and the involvement of Chiron leaves them with a feeling of dissatisfaction with the technology of the day and an awareness of the short-comings of their creations. They feel painfully and self-critically conscious that it could be so much better no matter how much the world praises them for their achievements. Their skills go far beyond mathematical brilliance, they have had to make their products commercial and user friendly. Steve Jobs who has Venus and Mars in the configuration was known less for his technical skills, but for his sense of design [Venus] and ability to be a demanding end-user [Mars]. [Sunday Times, The Man who polished Apple. Aug, 16 2009]

What about other computer geniuses?

Before the 1955 geek generation, there was Thomas Watson [IBM] (b.1874), William Hewlett (b. 1913) and David Packard (b. 1912) among many others. Afterwards, there are the founders of Ebay and Amazon who were born in the '60s or of Twitter (b. '70s) or Brin and Page of Google (b. '73) or Zuckerberg of Facebook (b. '80s)? These more recent 'players' have created highly prominent services using the web either for commercial trading or search or social networking. [4] The 1954/5ers have been continually involved in the creation and development of the very core of the whole system and have shaped it fundamentally from the level of languages and operating systems to actual machines and popular products. The 55ers are the architects and constructors of the system and later entrepreneurs are providing the interior design.

What happened at the start and end of this planetary cycle?

The entire Neptune-Uranus cycle is about a vision of an ideal society. Karl Marx, the founder of Communism was born with the conjunction in 1818. By the peak of the next Uranus/Neptune conjunction in 1993, Marx's vision of a secular utopian world collapsed. In 1993, Gates and Jobs confirmed their ascendancy as their older rival IBM posted $5 billion loss. Meanwhile in Cern, Switzerland, Berners-Lee launched the Web on April 30 1993.

Why weren't those born with the trine in 1939 to 1943 as oriented towards computers?

For those with the square, these two outer planets are asking that we reconcile a cold, scientific electronic world with fashion, culture, imagery and human ideals. Those born with the trine, 1939 to 1943 (such as John Lennon '40, Ringo Starr '40, Bob Dylan '41 [5], Paul McCartney '42, Jimi Hendrix '42, George Harrison '43, Janis Joplin '43) see no contradiction. The easy trine energy was expressed through open love, sharing herbal and chemical drugs, creating psychedelic art and electronic and avant-garde music and a communal lifestyle to be enjoyed. Besides musical geniuses, the potential for prodigious talent manifested with cosmologists like (Stephen Hawking '42), chess grand masters, great film makers (F.F.Coppola '39, Martin Scorsese '42), character actors, authors, artists and sports stars. So while the Uranus/Neptune trine baby boomers indulged in the Summer of Love and Woodstock in 1969 in a final fling before reaching their Saturn return, the 'squares' were looking up at the Moon and wondering how like NASA, they too could turn science fiction into science fact. [6]

  1. Malcolm Gladwell is author of best selling books: The Tipping Point (2000), Blink (2005) and Outliers (2008). He was born 3rd September 1963 Gosport, UK. There isn't space to include an image of his flat chart, but he has a stellium of Sun, Venus, Uranus and Pluto in Virgo opposite Chiron (and possibly the Moon) in Pisces. A great chart for an analytical writer and observer of society. I would contend that being born at this time gives him the opportunity to be an outlier or as I would describe him, someone who tunes into Radio Zeitgeist.
  2. The time period of this type of planetary line-up is governed by the orbs used by the astrologer.
  3. For the purposes of clarity and simplicity, the Sun, Moon, Pluto and Chiron are at times referred to as planets. Chiron and Pluto are considered dwarf planets by the IAU and the Sun and Moon are luminaries. The Sun being a star and the Moon is a moon!
  4. The listing of key figures in the world of computing before and after the mid '50s is an arbitrary selection favouring those names in the public eye. Other than the heavy concentration on 1955, the only coincidence of dates appears to be when two entrepreneurs are in partnership like Brin and Page who studied at Standford together. Whereas the examples from 1955 are all totally independent.
  5. Bob Dylan was born 24 May 1941 just 24 days after the exact trine on 1st May 1941.
  6. This whole theory needs a lot more research. If you detect a bias in favour of my generation, you would probably be right!
  7. Thanks to my wife, Karen and locational astrologer, Martin Davis for their ideas on this.
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[see video of interview with Malcolm Gladwell above]

Malcolm Gladwell argues that genius is the result of much more than natural talent. These are based on three essential requirements:
  1. Geniuses don't magically materialise. They are the result of thousands of hours of experience and practice in honing their talents.
  2. Such individuals are not 'self-made'. Developments and inventions in the past and other people have helped them on the path to success.
  3. These outliers are fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and have the strength and presence of mind to seize the opportunities.

Bill Gates Wheel

Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners Lee
Eric Schmidt Horoscope

Bill Joy Horoscope

Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs's biographer describes his magical thinking and his ability to connect poetry and artistry to technology. In an interview with the BBC Isaacson describes an "attention within him between the alternative, hippyish, romantic, poetic, new age guy and the scientific technology guy."

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