It took John D. Rockefeller a quarter-century to accumulate his first billion (as calculated with inflated dollars based on the Consumer Price Index). Automobile baron Henry Ford reached that equivalent milestone in 23 years.
For Warren Buffett, Forbes estimates 19 years. Engineer and physicist Ray Dolby is a recent example of someone who toiled for many decades: He founded Dolby Laboratories in 1965 and became a billionaire only in February when his company went public.
Quite some feat. Breaking into the billionaire ranks after any length of time is certainly cause for a big celebration. But it must be particularly sweet for those folks who accumulate their fortunes with breakneck speed. Of course, that's only true if you manage to hold on to that fortune. Gary Winnick of Global Crossing made his fortune in what Forbes figures was a record 18 months, only to lose much of it.
Forbes decided to have some fun and look back at the speed to wealth of nine of the most high-profile Internet and tech billionaires in the U.S. Among those we evaluated are Bill Gates of Microsoft, Jeffrey Bezos of Amazon and Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)
The slowest of the bunch was Steve Jobs of Apple Computer, who toiled for 19 years before making his first billion. It took nearly half of the folks four years or less. Net worths are from Forbes' 2005 400 Richest Americans list.