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Previous Research on Silicon Valley- 3/5

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Also, there is a series of anthologies on the topic. "Understanding Silicon Valley: The Anatomy of an Entrepreneurial Region" (2000), edited by Martin Kenney, contains a collection of research papers by Silicon Valley scholars. In "Understanding Silicon Valley," Kenney explores the history, legal, and financial institutions surrounding Silicon Valley. Similar to Saxenian, this anthology provides little to no commentary on Silicon Valley's religious institutions and practices. However, it does cover the military foundations of Silicon Valley, which played an important role in its history.


One paper titled "The Biggest 'Angel' of Them All: The Military and the Making of Silicon Valley" (2000) by Stuart W. Leslie, a professor of history at John Hopkins Department of History of Science and Technology sheds light on Silicon Valley's military orientation. The paper reveals that much of modern Silicon Valley owes its current configuration to patterns of federal spending and defense contracts. It emphasizes the prominence of Lockheed Martin in aerospace efforts and the significance of the Cold War. Due to its coastal location on the Pacific, Silicon Valley became a strategically advantageous area for communication and aerospace development.


Another source providing a military perspective is Steve Blank's presentation titled "The Secret History of Silicon Valley" (November 2008), held at the Computer History Museum. Blank, a former entrepreneurship lecturer at Stanford and Berkeley Hass School of Business, is known for developing the Customer Development Methodology, which sparked the Lean Startup movement. Blank traces the origins of Silicon Valley to the defense efforts of the Cold War and even further back to World War II, which he refers to as "The First Electronic War." He highlights the significance of the "cat and mouse radars game" between allies and enemies. Blank reveals that the American research laboratory behind the radar efforts was the Harvard Research Lab, separate from MIT's Radiation Laboratory, which coordinated all electronic efforts in the US from 1941 to 1945. Interestingly, its director was Fred Terman, who was later connected to Stanford.


Before Terman's return from Harvard, Stanford was not known for its expertise in electronics. During the Cold War era, Terman was determined not to be left out of government grants awarded to universities, so he returned to Stanford to focus on strategic efforts for microwaves and electronics, which he knew the military would need and fund. By 1950, Stanford became the "MIT of the West," and Santa Clara positioned itself as "Microwave Valley."


The point that is important to consider is that the big push of initial spillover is definitely effective in order to bring the electronics ecosystem to Silicon Valley. Its foundational motivation was not merely profit but influence and impact. Its catalyst was the urgency of the Cold War. Successfully enlisting former department heads from Harvard Research Lab into the nascent Stanford generated aftereffects of capital gains. Titled "Silicon Valley's First Engine of Entrepreneurship," the pioneering cohorts leveraged previous infrastructure to sprout not necessarily new but fresh, industrial unfolding.

Hewlett-Packard's Wolfe Road facility, as it was in 1983. - Courtesy of History San Jose


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