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Silicon Valley Before the Startup 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-the-day dept.
kenekaplan writes "An upcoming PBS documentary reveals how technology pioneers transformed Silicon Valley into the epicenter of technology innovation. From the article: 'Gordon Moore remembers a time before the idea of a Silicon Valley startup existed. That was half a century ago, before the place became an epicenter for wildly successful technology, and companies such as Apple, Google and Intel generated billions of dollars in annual profits. “It just exploded,” said Moore in the PBS documentary, “American Experience: Silicon Valley,” premiering Feb. 5. “Every time we came up with a new idea we spawned two or three companies that would try to exploit it,” he said, referring to his days at Fairchild Semiconductor, a company he helped found in 1957, a decade before he co-founded Intel with Robert Noyce.'"
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Silicon Valley Before the Startup

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @09:54PM (#42746315)

    Back in them days, the siliconers would work 28-hour days, with nothing but a slide rule. And we kids would leave school and go to work at age 2, hand-punching punchcards until our fingers bled. And even the best Porsches were all slow and hand-cranked.

    But we was happier for it, I think.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I was employee number six in an early startup. I'll never forget the IPO, when we went public for $50 as a reward for eleven years of hard work.

      Not $50 per share, that was fifty bucks for the entire company. There was a lot less inflation in those days.

    • And we had to eat domestic cheddar instead of imported brie on our sandwiches in those days. I remember my dad telling me about places where employees even had to bring their own lunch, rather than having it subsidized by the company! It was the dark ages, I tell you...

    • by k6mfw (1182893)

      Well here's my SV story from the 20th century at Memorex flexible disk plant in 1979. I worked there for three months, little more than minimum wage, not bad as living expenses were not high like they are now. This was at Central Expwy and San Tomas (I think) in Santa Clara, right there in Silicon Valley when this place was rockin. Rest of country may have been in the gutter in 1979. Lots of places hiring, assemblers hired with no experience necessary. My first job was to insert a 5.25 cover (with no disk)

  • Failure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @10:13PM (#42746505)

    I'm sick of hearing about pioneers who were really just exploitative suits in the right place at the right time. Like, say, the late Steve Jobs. Total prick, nobody in the industry likes him, but damn if he didn't know business. That does not make him a tech pioneer. It makes him a turtleneck sporting suit.

    Still waiting for the follow-up article where we talk about how those same "pioneers" raped everyone with patent trolling, monopolistic business strategies, and all the other fun "FOR TEH BENNIES!" financial destruction that my country has come to epitomize. We worship CEOs, not engineers.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm sick of hearing about pioneers who were really just exploitative suits in the right place at the right time. Like, say, the late Steve Jobs. Total prick, nobody in the industry likes him, but damn if he didn't know business. That does not make him a tech pioneer. It makes him a turtleneck sporting suit.

      Still waiting for the follow-up article where we talk about how those same "pioneers" raped everyone with patent trolling, monopolistic business strategies, and all the other fun "FOR TEH BENNIES!" financial destruction that my country has come to epitomize. We worship CEOs, not engineers.

      first seek to understand then seek to be understood....

      Moore was a hard core techie back in the day. He was one of the 8 invited to start fairchild. This was the dream team of semiconductor guys at the time.

      from wikipedia
      "Moore was born in San Francisco, California, but his family lived in nearby Pescadero where he grew up. He received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1950 and a PhD in Chemistry and minor in Physics from the California Institute of Technology (Calt

    • Within the context of the OP, this is perhaps one of the most ignorant posts I've ever seen on Slashdot.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        perhaps one of the most ignorant posts I've ever seen on Slashdot.

        Understatement much? GP was by far the most ignorant rant in the history of Western Civilization.

      • nah, you're wrong, he's right. The tech was getting cheaper, and there were those of use that saw the potential. These suits just provided what we were willing to pay for. If silicon Valley hadn't been where it was, it would have popped up somewhere else. Necessity is the mother of invention. Our needs are what made these people.

    • I'm sick of hearing about pioneers who were really just exploitative suits in the right place at the right time.

      Your comments above seem to lack any awareness and seem to be intellectually lazy.

      Anyone can be an ivory tower intellectual or armchair quarterback. There is applied science and pure science, and the ones that get things done (applied science) and produce a successful product are the alphas of this world. Anyone can think something, dream something, scheme something, have a point of view.

      The ones that can take an idea from their head, bang the engineering into reality and do it in a way that people will wa

    • Re:Failure (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zeio (325157) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @11:51PM (#42747191)

      Im in SiVal in a new startup. I've been at 5 so far. I love working for the next big thing. I hate how the rats and scum from Shanghai and New York have showed up, skyrocketed the cost of living and totally stifled innovation by making it impossible to run a middle class existence due to idiotic zoning rules, bad pub trans and ridiculous home prices.

      Yes, the core team, the founders and the smart people are needed for cool startups, but you also need a bunch of regular people who can maintain regular lives.

      SiVal is SillyConScammy now. Pockets of the good stuff, but a burned out husk with landed gentry and wealthy rats roaming around contributing nothing to innovation.

  • "âoeEvery time we came up with a new idea we spawned two or three companies that would try to exploit it" I mean, doesn't this obvious violation of the holy IP rights monopoly lead to the destruction of western society and the end of all innovation? Oh whoops, it did the opposite in this case... Same as how when software patents didn't exist yet, and same as when wheels and axles couldn't be patented...
    • This was hardware, not software. And their lawyers *were* very busy patenting stuff and fighting each other in court. Especially TI, who had invented the IC first (sort of).
  • I grew up there (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Misanthrope (49269) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @11:27PM (#42747073)

    My dad bought a house on the edge of a cherry orchard, eventually Fairchild built a plant across the street and then promptly leaked solvent into the groundwater. My sister and several of her friends ended up with large amounts of settlement money due to possible health effects. The Santa Clara Valley was known as the valley of heart's delight and was world renowned for it's stone fruit, especially apricots. It was fun growing up surrounded by tech companies, on the other hand some of the world's best farmland is now fallow.

  • My parents worked for Micro Power Systems in the early 80s. They worked for John Hall, one of the pioneers of CMOS and others. I grew up playing with chip pullers and serial terminals instead of typical toys. I wouldn't trade being in that environment for anything.
  • now it's financial engineering.

    and social distortion programming. the number of start-ups working on social apps which look to be completely worthless is mind-boggling, and they are getting bought up all the time for ridiculous somes of money. we're all going to write social networking apps which try to sell each other social networking apps.

    America the land where people made things is disappearing and we will absolutely be worse off for it.

    • by mikael (484)

      Silicon Valley (or the computing industry is like that). Back in the 1980's, the hot jobs were X-windows/Motif and X.25 communications (early 1990's). Then Windows 95/NT (late 1990's). Then HTML, ActiveX, Java and the dot com boom (late 1990's). Windows XP with MFC (early 2000's). Now Android systems like smartphones, tablet and netbooks are current value.

  • by Aryeh Goretsky (129230) on Wednesday January 30, 2013 @11:47PM (#42747177) Homepage

    Hello,

    The PBS documentary sounds pretty interesting, but the history of Silicon Valley is older and more interesting than that. Professor Steve [wikipedia.org] Blank [wikipedia.org] is a Bay Area academic and entrepreneur who has chronicled the secret history of Silicon Valley, which dates back to electronic warfare in WW2 and moves forward from there to involve Stanford University, the Space Race, the CIA and even the California State franchise tax board (not an organization one would normally associate with any sort of progress).

    Professor Blank gives an hour-long talk on the subject, which is fascinating. Here are a few links to various versions of that talk:

    Extremely interesting stuff, and highly-recommend watching if you've ever wondered about why we even have computers today.

    Regards,

    Aryeh Goretsky

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Also interesting is the high tech that existed before "silicon". There were defense contractors of course. But I like Ampex [wikipedia.org] which pioneered high quality audio and video recording. Still around in Redwood City though not doing the same thing anymore. that's why I always liked to think of Redwood City and San Carlos as the northern edge of Silicon Valley

    • by Kergan (780543)

      +1 interesting. I spent the last hour watching the first video. He's an excellent storyteller.

    • by k6mfw (1182893)
      some PDFs (presentation slides) on Silicon Valley history:
      http://ewh.ieee.org/soc/cpmt/presentations/cpmt1209a.pdf [ieee.org] "The Origins of Silicon Valley: Why and How It Happened Here" Paul Wesling, IEEE SFBA Council (3.5 MB PDF). One particular slide has , "Tube Shops’ Challenges Design around ~250 RCA triode patents – Enormously difficult task (Samsung vs Apple case)"
      http://www.incose.org/sfbac/2011events/111108Presentation-50YearsInSpace_v5.pdf [incose.org] "The Global Triggers in the Birth, Growth, and Chall
    • by mikael (484)

      BBC did a documentary too back in the 1970's - "When the Chips are down". They had a panel of three people (Corporate CEO, union leader and academic researcher). The worry was "if the chip replaces all these jobs, what is the rest of the population going to do?" They knew something was on the horizon, but didn't know what to do. They looked at how in Silicon Valley companies had spun-off start-up, while in Japan, they concentrated on memory chips, quality and high yields.

      I liked the stories of the early hou

  • Low taxes, low cost of living, great climate, great freeways, first class universities, an influx of returning GIs, marijuana and LSD.

    Now California is verging on a failed state [battleswarmblog.com]. High taxes (a rate of 9.5% for those millionaires making $48,942 [ca.gov]), high cost of living, a bloated state bureaucracy in league with public employee unions to bankrupt the state, decaying infrastructure, a failing education system on par with Mississippi, one third of the nation's welfare recipients, an outflux of Americans and an in

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I have lived in California all my life, and I for one am outraged... ...that what you say is true.

      The high taxes aren't the chief problem; you get more in California than you get in other states, notably you get to live in California. If you live in Los Angeles or pretty much anywhere in SoCal you get water piped in from half a very large state away. And in any case, California's tax burden is excessive because of the federal government. California gets the least back for every dollar we send to the feds, f

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        > You can see time and again that California's problems are related to the failures of the foreign and economic policies of the United States as a whole.

        There is truth in that. I'd observe that the issues related to said foreign and economic policies affect all of us, but have the biggest effect in the high density coastal areas. So moving to a lower density area, or closer to the center, would seem in order.

  • On a tech campus just east of Stanford. After their historical garage [hp.com]. HP was mainly about electronic instruments then. Xerox PARC, NeXT and FaceBook had buildings in the same complex.
  • There were more horses then.

I'm all for computer dating, but I wouldn't want one to marry my sister.

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