MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Traffic should have clotted back up onto 101,
a honking prelude to the screaming fans and lightning paparazzi
flashes, red velvet ropes and helicopters thumping overhead.
instead there was a quiet orderliness, white-jacketed valets helping
seniors from their cars before deliberate, unmolested strolls into
the Computer History
These were legends of Silicon Valley, the pistons of a great engine
that propelled us to where we are today, and yet if they'd been in
the movies or on reality TV, it would have been breathlessness and
buzz, pure bedlam.
Instead, there was, all by himself, Bernie Marren, who cut his teeth
at Fairchild before a long and distinguished career that included
serving as the first president of the Semiconductor Industry
Association. I said to him, "Bernie you don't know me from Adam, but
your son, John, was a great source of mine 20 years ago. How are
your grandkids?" And we chatted amiably for a time.
There was Ben Anixter (AMD) and his wife. Ann Bowers, Bob Noyce's
widow, attended, as did Ted Hoff, Andy Grove, Gordon Moore, Federico
Faggin, from Intel and Fairchild. There was Ned Barnholt from HP,
heir to Bill and Dave. Arthur Rock. That whippersnapper Trip Hawkins
was there, too.
There were first wives (Betty Moore) and not a few second and third
wives. There was the silicon soldier I was introduced to, sitting
contentedly in a motorized wheel chair, absently explaining his
affliction and then shrugging as if to say "that's life."
"We had a blast didn't we?" he said he a big grin. "Those were
There was Gary Morgenthaler squiring his dad, David, a giant in
stature and in the venture capital industry and its history. We
stood in front of an exhibit of the DEC PDP-10 and Gary talked about
the smell and slippery, ancient wood floors back there in Maynard,
Mass., back in the mists of memory. We chuckled when I pointed out the
exponentially more powerful computers that rest on hips and hide in
our pockets, but there's a childlike and wondrous look too, a look
that says "tell me again how did we did that?"
There they gathered, all smiles, soap bubbles of laughter and
recognition; some of the legends were in declining health; others
the picture of it. They gathered to watch a sneak-preview of a PBS
American Experience documentary called "Silicon
Valley," which premiers Feb. 5.
In the crowd was a smattering of the progeny of those times; Skype
was there. Google. LinkedIn. Young software looked odd next to old
hardware, like an iPhone photographing a PDP-10. The night was
dominated by the generation that transplanted innovation into
orchards; a generation in which the extraordinary was perfectly--and
appropriately--ordinary... humans who awoke every day to confront
and conquer the impossible without fanfare.
Later, I watched as the silicon soldier folded up his motorized
walking aid and, with some help, deposited it neatly in the back of
his vehicle. He cautiously moved himself behind his steering wheel,
and drove slowly off, alone, unmolested by photographers and
screaming fans and surging crowds, into the night in the heart of
the valley. Related stories:
The documentary on Venture Capitalists was good also but I liked it better when it focused more on the tech companies and entrepreneurs they worked with. I always wondered what the story was with the Cisco Systems founders.
I enjoyed watching the PBS documentary and thought it was well done! Very much worth the time!
I work in Illinois' Research and Development Cooridor just west of Chicago. While I'd hardly claim we are the "Silicon Prairie", I sure wish they'd stop pulling the Embedded Systems Conference out of Chicago! :'(
I lived in Santa Clara (by the Lawrence Expressway) in 1980-81, and I also remember there were still orchards left. Those were exciting times, but the industry has really matured. Not the same as it was back then.
It was my great privilege to meet Gordon Moore at Intel, and later, Julius Blank at Xicor. Both of these industry giants were true gentlemen, modest and unassuming. Julius built the industry's first diffusion furnace by hand. I also remember the "slippery wood floors" at DEC in Maynard: slippery because it was a 150-year-old woolen mill on the banks of the Assabet River, and lanolin from the wool had soaked into the floors. "Building something from nothing" has been a hallmark of our industry, and this creativity (and creative destruction) will continue to lead us into the future.
Not all of us were developers. Some of us built systems using the new devices, ones that helped American defense. EDL was just up the street from Fairchild. good times, long hours,doing things noboy thought could be done but asked us to try - and we usuallly succeeded.
I'll be anxious to see the PBS documentary. There were still a few orchards left (but not many) when I arrived in silicon valley to start my career in semiconductors in 1980. It was a fun and exciting time, but I wish I had been there to experience it 10 years earlier. I worked at National Semiconductor during the Charlie Sporck era. He was an inspirational figure to me at the time.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.