A sixty year overnight success

In these celebrity-strewn days of X-Factor and The Voice, a truism pervades the entertainment industry. Young performing arts students are told, in no uncertain terms, that instances of instant fame are infrequent and unlikely, and no substitute for the years of hard graft more likely to lie ahead. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, will emerge a Ricky Gervais or Alan Rickman, a Joseph Conrad or Raymond Chandler, a Andrea Bocelli or Al Jarreau. “It took me ten years to achieve overnight success,” goes the adage.

The reason why few, if any fields offer an easy path to success is mathematical — to put it bluntly, if it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. Given that success involves harnessing potential differences between context and custom, there can be advantage to be gained from being first; equally, in times of plenty, those not destined to be plucked from obscurity by the hand of Lady Luck, a chance meeting or a telephone vote, recognise the role of graft. The technology sector is no different - “In the digital age of 'overnight' success stories such as Facebook, the hard slog is easily overlooked,” says inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson.

When a ‘new’ phenomenon - social networking, cloud computing, mobile telephony - comes from seemingly nowhere, industry insiders claim they have seen it all before, and maybe they have. Hopeful technologists and excited pundits flock in, hoping to extract value from what they did not create. Meanwhile, without consideration of the whys and wherefores, the world changes once again.