Previous Research on Silicon Valley- 1/4
Updated: Jan 22
“The starting point for a regional industrial strategy is fostering the collective identities and trust to support the formation and elaboration of local networks.”
Anna Lee Saxenian
Silicon Valley is not an unexplored topic. Many writers from a variety of disciplines have explored it both as a place and a phenomenon. Its local landscape is clothed with tightly woven fabrics of industry, culture, and technology. It is where the internet took root, and where technology artifacts and engineering has seemed to have found habitat for many generations.
As the flow of change and progress is ever-flowing, technology has consistently endured here. One text that approaches Silicon Valley from this perspective is Artifacts- An Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley (2002). Written by Christine A. Finn, a journalist turned archaeologist researcher, it explores Silicon Valley across the span of one year. She goes directly to the field and interviews the elderly, and local tech collectors, and attends almost all of the museums in the area. The chapters are very appropriately divided into “The Place, The People, and The Technology.”
Tracing the agricultural past, she writes, “The change is just discernible, as the lateral movement that transforms orchards into apartments...stables and stores into storehouses of ideas and warehouses of hardware; a feast of electrons, where baskets once over spilled with apples and apricots.” (Finn, 6) She arrives to the impression that here communities are made within the boundaries of the company and the “city as a whole is disconnected,” (106) She also comes to the insight that memories are short in Silicon Valley. She accepts the ghosts of Silicon Valley’s past and sees every gadget and even buildings as artifacts-to-be.
Though mostly covered within the past 100 years’ scope, others have approached the same inquiry and explored the variety of factors regarding the Valley’s industrial roots and the ensuing upbringing. A comprehensive summarization of Silicon Valley is made in Ward Winslow’s The Making of Silicon Valley: One Hundred Year Renaissance (1995). It chronicles the stages of development from the establishment of Stanford University to the present technological dynasties, covering over 70 technology company histories chronologically. Stanford laid the foundation of the university on the tenet of qualifying its students for “personal success and direct usefulness in life,” (37). The book highlights that, particularly in the sciences and engineering, they set an intensive tradition of fieldwork, as well as classroom lectures, laboratory experiments, and book study. Such a foundation well attracted pioneer professors to spill into the relatively unknown institution.
From the beginning, many elite families enrolled their youngsters and they continue to do so now. Herbert C. Hoover joined the pioneering class of 1895 and rose to the top ranks of mining engineers. Winslow writes about the faculty, “Both as consultants and as teachers, they made a league with leaders of local industry, business, and government in their fields so their students would understand what needed to be done in the “real world.” (5) Such early alternative training foundations set precedence to what we have in hackathons and rapid prototyping projects, all stemming from early electrical or telecommunications engineering. Communication by wire came to the area in 1853 and Bell’s telephone invention was used to air San Jose harmonic in 1880. Charles Herrold began the first regularly scheduled radio broadcast (KCBS) out of San Jose by using an arc transmitter.
In Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128 (1996) Anna Lee Saxenian traces the establishment of Silicon Valley from that of Hewlett-Packard and compares the ecosystem of Route 128 near Boston with that of Silicon Valley. An interconnected constellation of local inference networks appears. According to Saxenian, one of Herrold’s listeners in 1914 was a Stanford psychology faculty member’s son, Fred Terman, who became head of the Electrical Engineering department in 1937. He is known best for firing up enthusiasm amongst his graduate students and encouraging them to start businesses. One of them later became Hewlett Packard & Co, also known as HP.
David Packard shaking Terman’s hand & Bill Hewlett is in the background.
Photo courtesy of HP Archives.
Regional Advantage: Culture and Competition in Silicon Valley and Route 128 (1996)
 Winslow, Ward. The Making of Silicon Valley: A One Hundred Year Renaissance. Palo Alto, CA. Santa Clara Valley Historical Association, 1995. Print.
 Charles Herrold is a story that will be explored later is the section titled Noosphere and Resonance.
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