At a documentary premier, the pioneers of the Silicon Valley watch how they transplanted innovation into orchards.
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