A Few Quotes From...
Silicon Valley History

by Gregory Gromov

In the beginning was the WORD and the word was... Silicon Valley. Don Hoefler  is credited with coining the phrase: Silicon Valley Silicon Valley is the only place on Earth not trying to figure out how to become Silicon Valley. Robert Metcalfe

    Silicon Valley is an area that "located on the San Francisco, California, peninsula, radiates outward from Stanford University. It is contained by the San Francisco Bay on the east, the Santa Cruz Mountains on the west, and the Coast Range to the southeast. At the turn of the century, when fruit orchards predominated, the area was known as the Valley of Heart's Delight "

    as Carolyn E. Tajnai, former Director (1988 - 1997) of Stanford Computer Forum begins one of her comprehencive online-manuscripts   that described Silicon Valley history from some of the WWW best personal viewpoint.

    About 40 years ago, Stanford University had some financial problems. The authorities of university tried to solve the problems by leasing part of the university land to high-tech companies for 99 years.

    Carolyn Tajnai clarified this point of Stanford's history in more detail:

    " In the 1950's, the idea of building an industrial park arose. The university had plenty of land over 8,000 acres....but money was needed to finance the University's rapid postwar growth. The original bequest of his farm by Leland Stanford prohibited the sale of this land, but there was nothing to prevent its being leased. It turned out that long-term leases were just as attractive to industry as out right ownership; thus, the Stanford Industrial Park was founded. The goal was to create a center of high technology close to a cooperative university. It was a stroke of genius , and Terman, calling it ``our secret weapon,'' quickly suggested that leases be limited to high technology companies that might be beneficial to Stanford. In 1951 Varian Associates signed a lease, and in 1953 the company moved into the first building in the park. Eastman Kodak, General Electric, Preformed Line Products, Admiral Corporation, Shockley Transistor Laboratory of Beckman Instruments, Lockheed, Hewlett-Packard, and others followed soon after." Fred Terman, The father of Silicon Valley by Carolyn Tajnai, 1995

    According to Varian Associates it was a simple decision:

    "Gradually, facilities were moved from leased quarters in San Carlos to a quiet corner of Stanford land, thus creating what is today the Company's headquarters site, and incidentally bringingi nto being the Stanford Industrial Park - the most successful complex of its kind in the world."  Source: Varian Associates: An Early History


The First building of Silicon Valley

First Varian Associates building, Stanford Industrial Park, Palo Alto, California, 1953. Source: "Russell and Sigurd Varian - The Inventor and The Pilot", by Dorothy Varian. Palo Alto, 1983, p.258.

The picture is reproduced here with Varian Associates permission since 1995.

Is it a reasonable doubt or ... just invitation to the further discussion?
Among the different orgainizations that were instrumental in the process of creating Silicon Valley the significant role  was the Stanford Research Institute (SRI): After World War II, a great industrial push was under way to reinvigorate the economy. Founded by a small group of business executives in conjunction with Stanford University, Stanford Research Institute (our founding name) was created in 1946 as a West Coast center of innovation to support economic development in the region. The world's first digital computer (ENIAC, weighing in at 30 tons) was introduced, and in what is now known as Silicon Valley a three-bedroom home sold for $10,000.  Source: SRI Timeline
Perhaps it was just one of the reasons why at least some of  SRI people appeared to be  very skeptical  about the above photo of Silicon Valley's building #1. Alice Resnick Senior Director, Corporate and Marketing Communications SRI International wrote to us concerning this subject 31 Jan 2002 14:41:03 -0800: For example,  SRI had a building in Menlo Park (one that we still occupy) in 1947, several years before what you call the "The First building of Silicon Valley: First Varian Associates building, Stanford Industrial Park, Palo Alto, California, 1953" on your web page at http://netvalley.com/.

In 1995  William Hewlett decided to described in more details his own concept of Silicon Valley's birth.

Supernova   of Silicon Valley: What does it mean?

hp-300.jpg (13903 bytes) "...in June, 1995, I had lunch at the Stanford Park Hotel and while leaving, I noticed a man holding a cane and sitting on a bench as though waiting for someone. I walked on by and then stopped, turned around, and walked back. I said, "Are you Mr. Hewlett?", and he replied, "Yes". I thanked him for his kindness in verifying information for me when I was writing my paper on "Fred Terman, The Father of Silicon Valley."He said "But Fred Terman didn't start Silicon Valley; the beginning of Silicon Valley was a  supernova." He asked if I knew what a supernova was and I said yes, that it was an explosion of a large star. Mr. Hewlett spoke so softly that it was difficult to catch every word, but he proceeded to explain that a supernova caused a rippling effect that set the stage for future events. He explained that Lee de Forest, who was an electronics pioneer in the Palo Alto area in the early part of the Century, and his work were the supernova". (c) Carolyn Tajnai, 1995
Bill Hewlett, center, with his partner David Packard, left, and former Provost Frederick Terman, who inspired the two graduate students to follow their dream of starting an electronics company. Hewlett and Packard honored their mentor by funding construction of the Terman Engineering Building, dedicated in 1952. (Source: Stanford News Service) deforest15_il.jpg (7491 bytes)
deforest_triode.jpg (6444 bytes) Moving to California in 1910, Le De Forest ( photo above --  De Forest, Palo Alto, 1915 ) worked for Federal Telegraph Company at Palo Alto. While there, de Forest finally made his Audion tube perform as an amplifier and sold it to the telephone company as an amplifier of transcontinental wired phone calls. For this innovation he received $50,000. By the beginning of 1916, he had finally perfected his Audion for its most important task, that of an oscillator for the radiotelephone transmitter. By late 1916 de Forest had begun a series of experimental broadcasts from the Columbia Phonograph Laboratories on 38th Street, using for one of the very first times his Audion as a transmitter of radio: According to de Forest, "The radio telephone equipment consists of two large Oscillion tubes, used as generators of the high frequency current."" Source:  Le De Forest bio . Photo left: Lee De Forest's first Triode or  'Audion', 1906

According to Rogers and Larsen, in 1912 "de Forest and two fellow researchers for the Federal Telegraph Company, an early electronics firm, leaned over a table watching a housefly walk across a sheet of paper. They heard the fly's foot steps amplified 120 times, so that each step sounded like marching boots. This event was the first time that a vacuum tube had amplified a signal; it marked the birth of electronics and opened the door for the development of radio, television, radar, tape recorders, and computers." Also Rogers and Larsen add  that,"Lee de Forest had a Stanford University connection; his work was partly financed by Stanford officials and faculty." Links Between Stanford University and Industry, by  Carolyn Tajnai, 1995

Supernova   of the Silicon Valley: Can we really see it ?

According to astrophysicist Joseph Shklovski (lectures, 1981) the total level of energy produced by human civilization during the last 300 years of industrial revolutions, is still about one hundredth of a percent of the total energy flow that reaches the surface of the earth from the sun. Meanwhile in recent decades of info-tech revolution, the total level of energy that earth eradiates to space comes to a million times more than it would have done naturally as the planet heated to 300 K. From this point, for the last couple of decades, Earth outran planet-giants Jupiter and Saturn and became comparable to Sun. So, for a radio-telescope's observer from outer space, the earth's info-tech revolution looks like the birth of a new bright star on the cold Earth-planet. Source: "National Information Resources", by Gregory GromovNauka, 1984, p.15

What does it mean: Silicon Valley Entrepreneurial Phenomenon?

Let us take a look again on the live   example. Astronomy Ph.D. Frank Levinson entered optics tech 1980 with Bell Labs. Left 1988 to start Finisar fiber optics -- high speed networking company --  with $60,000. According to the Forbes magazine  Finisar worth $8 billion in 2000. Frank clarifies below his personal viewpoint on the sociological nature of Silicon Valley Entrepreneurial Phenomenon:

Despite its many contributions to the world economy, the technical community here in Silicon Valley is actually much smaller than most people believe. People end up making connections in strange ways and often these ties last for many years... My wife Wynnette and I went to dinner at the Flea Street Café in Menlo Park recently with a small group to hear a presentation on saving endangered species of domesticated animals such as the Cotswold Lamb. This farm and the organization that supports it was started by Robyn Shotwell Metcalfe...Robyn’s husband is Bob Metcalfe, one of the two inventors of Ethernet. Bob and Dave Boggs invented Ethernet when they were scientists at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in the 1970s.
Ethernet is also a huge factor in Finisar’s past successes, as well as our future growth prospects. Bob went on to be the founder of 3Com, then to work as an insightful and articulate columnist for InfoWorld magazine. He recently became a venture capitalist with Polaris Ventures. Bob is witty, engaging, way smart, funny and an especially good writer. He is a technologist’s techie.

Dave Boggs (the other Ethernet inventor) was also at the Flea Street Café dinner with us. Currently, Dave is working on optical extensions for networks in the metropolitan area. He has steeped himself in the technology of networking since the 1970s. Another dinner guest was Ron Crane. Ron was a key technical contributor for 3Com from the very beginning of Ethernet. All of today’s Ethernet adapter cards installed in the tens of millions of PCs throughout the world are related to the first adapter cards built and tested by Ron, who is still very well connected in the networking industry.

You might think that I was invited to attend this dinner because Finisar is a major participant in the Ethernet industry through its Gigabit Ethernet transceivers and other Ethernet modules and because of a professional association I have with Bob. But that’s not the reason we were there.

We were invited to this dinner because my cat-loving daughter Alana attended preschool in the late 1980s with Julia Metcalfe, daughter of Robyn and Bob. My wife Wynnette and Robyn also became friends and have stayed in touch. At the time our daughters first met, Bob was already an industry icon and I had to use my wife’s and daughter’s friendships to wedge my way in with the Silicon Valley geniuses behind Ethernet.

Bob and Robyn really liked Wynnette and Alana (and eventually me, too!), so our family would often be invited to their social occasions. During those times I would listen carefully for pearls of wisdom on how Finisar could grow and make its mark on the world.

One evening years ago, Bob and I talked about Finisar’s early product line and he pointed out that since we were not supporting established standards, our appeal to the industry was being limited. Over the next few years Finisar changed our direction in line with Bob’s counsel and this was a major factor in Finisar's growth during the second half of the 1990s.
As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story!   

ships_pare2.jpg (1273 bytes) A Tale of Lambs, Preschoolers and Networking, by Frank Levinson, 2001



Silicon Valley Entrepreneurial Phenomenon in more detail:

Founding Fathers  by David Jacobson, Stanford Magazine, July/August 1998
In the midst of the depresssion, two sons of Stanford started a company in a Palo Alto garage.
How Did Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard end up launching the high-tech revolution?

Silicon Valley and Route 128  by Paul Mackun
Two main areas of the  American hi-tech kitchen:
West Coast - Silicon Valley , East Coast - Route 128

       See also another version of The History of Silicon Valley, by Alexander Loudon, 1998

Copyright ©1995-2002 Gregory Gromov