Silicon Valley is an almost $3 trillion neighbourhood thanks to companies like Apple and Google who have pioneered technological advancements into the 21st century. it wasn't always this way, however, and this illustrious history isn't told as often as it should.
How Silicon Valley Became The Tech Industry’s Home
Towards the end of the 19th century, the port city of San Francisco which houses the towns and suburbs in the Silicon Valley belt assisted in making the city and adjacent towns a hub of the early telegraph industries. the economic impact made it necessary for companies to set up shop here and incentivise the old West to manage their supply chain. Less known is the fact that these industries came as a direct city council initiative.
San Jose, CA became the home of one of the country’s first radio stations.
The residents of Sunnyvale bought and sold and unincorporated thousand acre piece of land from the Santa Clara County. They later sold it to the United States Navy in order for them to dock and maintain the rigid airship USS Macon. Then the Moffet Field was born and has since been a major hub for the early days of the aerospace industry. Many scientists and researchers all found work in the area.
NASA founded the Ames Research Centre was founded in Mountain View, and only ten years later it had established itself as a significant player in the world of aeronautics by building the world’s largest wind tunnel for simulations and experiments.
In the same year, William Hewlett and David Packard founded Hewlett-Packard Company in a garage in Palo Alto. Long before they were the computer giant, they sold precision audio oscillators to the likes of Walt Disney company because that’s the only device they had successfully created that had any commercial value at the time. It wasn’t until the Second World War when they started making radar and artillery technology for military purposes. At this point, computers were about the size of a room.
William Shockley co-invented the transistor while at Bell Labs, alongside famous renowned scientists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. The transistor is now known as the computer processor and gave physical form to Turing’s vision which he did not live to see.
Shockley Semiconductor Labs was the first company to make transistors out of silicon instead of germanium. This company was founded by William Shockley after he abandoned Bell Labs. The company was founded in Mountain View, California so Shockley could be closer to his sick mother. Shockley’s company employed recent graduates from the nearby Stanford University.
“The Traitorous Eight” partnered with Sherman Fairchild to create Fairchild Semiconductors. A year after Shockley won his Nobel Prize, some of his employees allegedley grew tired of his consequent authoritarian demeanour and resigned. Shockley is the reason they’re called “The Traitorous Eight” consisting of the brilliant Ph.D. students Stanford University had to offer.
From left to right: Gordon Moore, C. Sheldon Roberts, Eugene Kleiner, Robert Noyce, Victor Grinich, Julius Blank, Jean Hoerni and Jay Last. (1960)
After a series of making varied computer components under a tumultuous union of egos, “The Traitorous Eight’ and Sherman Fairchild fell out of favour for one another and split up once again. Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce joined together to create Intel in Santa Clara. Soon after, other former Fairchild employees teamed up with the remainder of the eight and formed Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., as well as a venture fund: Kleiner Perkins, now called Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.
ARPAnet was being tested out in a very public way, and Stanford Research Institute was chosen as one of the four nodes of the government project that gave birth to the internet in the way we know it today.
Xerox, the American global corporation that sells document solutions, services, and document technology products in more than 160 countries opened their Palo Alto Research Centre. (PARC) lab in Palo Alto, CA. PARC invented early computing technology, including Ethernet computing and the Graphical User Interface(GUI).
Don Hoefler, a journalist, released a three-part report on the tech phenomenon that was taking place in San Francisco and surrounding areas. He published his three-part report on the semiconductor industry titled “SILICON VALLEY U.S.A.” hence the name.
The rest of that decade saw companies like Atari, Apple, and Oracle finding a home in the area.
Throughout the 1980’s, Silicon Valley became the widely-accepted centre of the computer industry. In the 19990s, at the peak of the Dot Com Bubble that gripped the entire planet and the consequent crash that ensued were all centred in the Silicon Valley. Companies very familiar to us today like eBay, Yahoo!, PayPal and Google are just some of the companies that were founded in the area, with software companies Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Tesla joining them in the next decade.
There's very little evidence that the dominance of this valley in the tech world will slow down anytime soon.
What lessons can be learned from the growth of this valley to be synonymous with the technology we’ve come to love and how will it describe our future interactions with technology? These are really interesting times.
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