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Silicon Valley Culture Originated In Radio Days

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the engineers-money-and-risk dept.

Businesses 84

yroJJory writes to recommend a piece up at SFGate on the history of Silicon Valley and its roots in radio, accompanied by some great old photos. "When the Traitorous Eight [founders of Fairchild], as they're sometimes called, held their hush-hush meeting in San Francisco, they had reason to fear discovery — but no way to know that by quitting safe jobs for a risky startup, they would earn a place among what Stanford University historian Leslie Berlin calls the 'Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley'... Roughly 30 years before Hewlett and Packard started work in their garage, and almost 50 years before the Traitorous Eight created Fairchild, the basic culture of Silicon Valley was forming around radio: engineers who hung out in hobby clubs, brainstormed and borrowed equipment, spun new companies out of old ones, and established a meritocracy ruled by those who made electronic products cheaper, faster and better."

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This is just the European guild model. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804091)

This is just how guilds worked in Europe from about 800 AD until the industrial revolution.

You'd have groups of craftsmen who were skilled in a particular trade. Some would excel at trenching. Others were best at masonry. Some were masters of carpentry. There were glassblowers, window paners, plough craftsmen, and a wide variety of other trademasters. These individuals would form guilds, where they would study and promote their trades.

These were very meritocratic groups. Those who truly excelled would often form their own guilds, drawing talent away from the existing guild. Essentially, it's what we've seen in Silicon Valley over the past century.

Although I don't know much about them myself, I'd imagine that there were similar groups in Arabia, Asia, Mesoamerica, India and many other areas of the world, perhaps far earlier than the Europeans. So this really isn't a unique concept, by any means.

Not Historically Accurate (5, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | about 7 years ago | (#20804407)

This is just how guilds worked in Europe from about 800 AD until the industrial revolution...These were very meritocratic groups. Those who truly excelled would often form their own guilds, drawing talent away from the existing guild. Essentially, it's what we've seen in Silicon Valley over the past century.

Well, no. The guild system existed to restrain the flow of ideas and competition. The idea of the guild was to control all the knowledge in a particular craft to reduce competition. If you were in a glassblowers guild, you did not tell someone else how to blow glass, and you also worked to try and control production so that too much glass was not blown. So, they restrained knowledge and restrained trade. To some extent, the guilds also shared a common interest with the church. The guilds didn't want too much technological advance, and neither did the church, as the pace of change could well mean a loss of power for both, and ultimately did.

What killed the guilds? Free trade and the emergence of nation states over city states. The idea of copyrights and patents were promulgated by the emerging central governments to kill two birds with one stone. First, was to break the guilds, and the second, was promote freer trade. The idea of state funded educational centers did not help the guilds either. It actually wasn't that hard to learn how to blow some basic level of glass, for example, and so, once the guild system was broken, industrialization could take place, bringing further revenues to the crown. In this sense, craftsmen of the guilds began the transformation to employees of an emerging industry. It would take the idea of using investment capital to buy industrial machines that would ultimately make that transformation complete, so, in a sense, when Andrew Carnegie sent the Pinkertons in, he was ultimately breaking the guild system once and for all.

The emergence of labor unions, to a degree, could be seen as a response to the breaking of the guild system. Except that, labor unions could never monopolize knowledge of a particular skill the way the guilds did, because the companies owned all the big machines that needed to be learned (and they were rapidly obsolete anyway), and had to turn to other arguments to try and monopolize labor.

And your source on that is? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804861)

> The guilds didn't want too much technological advance, and neither did the church, as the pace of change could well mean a loss of power for both, and ultimately did.

[citation needed]

As far as I'm aware, the church was not concerned with technology in and of itself. Now, they might have been against things like alchemy (which some practitioners practiced as a religion), but it's hard to say that they were somehow against learning itself, especially when you had monks like Mendeleev doing research that was rather ahead of their time.

The Church and Technology (2, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | about 7 years ago | (#20805439)

As far as I'm aware, the Church was not concerned with technology in and of itself

That's true to a point. The Church's interest in technology was to understand its theological implications before it would really adopt a position on it. To wit, the Church had the idea that all knowledge could bit fit together in a single integrated whole. Back in the day, the Church saw the Bible as a backing to an oral tradition, so, it could always modify the oral tradition to clarify the Bible as needed. With that in place, they would then try and think through the implications of everything in order to ensure that their congregration would remain on the path to God.

The undoing of the Church, of course, was really that technology came too fast and at a time when consumers wanted it to change. Of course, there were other factors as well. The disasters of the Black Death (1389) and the Great Schism both put the Church on wobbly ground. In the former case, the Church had no real answers in the face of so much death, and in the latter, it appeared, with multiple Popes running around, that the Church couldn't get its act together. And, of course, too many preachers had too many hands in the cookie jar - the wealth, the concubines, and other worldly trappings irritated a great many people. All of these things, undermined the core claim of the Church, and, to many people, it seemed that the Church really had no right to make any sort of judgement on technology at all.

Thus, the renaissance ensued, and with it, mankind took one step forward and, it now seems, one step back. The step forward was that technological adoption would no longer be slowed by an introspective and analytical type of people - the idea that the users of the technology would decide if it was worthy. Free trade and capitalism were ultimately born of an extension of this idea, that economic systems should be geared to giving as many people technology as possible. Guilds, and later unions, would all be swept away, and the rapidity of the adoption of technology is the sole means by which a man's modernity is judged. Those who would question a technology, are harshly judged.

Re:The Church and Technology (1)

nilbud (1155087) | about 7 years ago | (#20805983)

"Guilds, and later unions, would all be swept away, and the rapidity of the adoption of technology is the sole means by which a man's modernity is judged. Those who would question a technology, are harshly judged." In neocon America you mean. The rest of the world does quite well in social partnership with unions. Real clinical trials of medicines and food additives is also kind of handy. ADD/ADHD isn't at plague proportions except in the US, US beef isn't considered safe to eat due to growth hormones. Checks and balances are required in certain areas such as the food chain and medicine. The role of the church was that of the only player in town, they had the money to fund technological development, noone else was in that position. The church funded Galileo after all.

Re:The Church and Technology (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 7 years ago | (#20806411)

In neocon America you mean.

Christ, if Bush really was a neocon as half as bad as the left makes him out to be, that anti-America traitor Soros would have had his head on a pole by now.

Re:The Church and Technology (1)

Suicyco (88284) | about 7 years ago | (#20825697)

Wow, that was the strangest demonization of unions ever. Capitalist libertarian dogma at its best right there. Lets frame the history of industry in modern capitalist ideas, and oh my gosh! socialized labor is an anachronism!

In the bizarro world that is America, perhaps thats a bit true. Our leaders have squashed the entire idea of a working class, so much so that people like you don't even realize that they ARE the working class. Pity you let yourself be a slave in such an idealistic way.

You are confusing "technology" with gadgets. "Technology" is the means of production, the users are corporate entities, not consumers. The economic systems of today are not geared to giving as many people technology as possible. They are geared to keeping technology profitable (and powerful) by producing useless items which the workers buy, with the accumulated tokens of their labor CREATING those items. Its a feedback loop whose existence is dependent on the concept of obsolescence, of "progress" because things are New! and Improved! You pay your workers with chicken feed, in which they feed to the chickens at the farm they work, in order to eat chicken. Its a useless system that only perpetuates itself, as a means of control and power ultimately. Ah well, people just love being sheep lined up to be sheered. Thats the true sadness of all this, we have breed ourselves into domestic cattle, whose sole purpose in life is to consume and produce. We all deserve the shackles we are born into, because we make them every single day.

I also like how you demonized the church and turned around to compare it with unions.

Re:And your source on that is? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20806203)

Pshaw. Mendeleev was not a monk. He went to seminary as an adolescent, but in later life he was a bigamist. It's like calling everyone who attended a parochial school a monk.

Not a monk, yes; but only technically a bigamist (1)

Mathinker (909784) | about 7 years ago | (#20807915)

From Wikipedia:

In 1876, he became obsessed with Anna Ivanovna Popova and began courting her; in 1881 he proposed to her and threatened suicide if she refused. His divorce from Leshcheva was finalized one month after he had married Popova in early 1882. Even after the divorce, Mendeleev was technically a bigamist; the Russian Orthodox Church required at least 7 years before lawful re-marriage.

I agree he's far from a monk, but I think calling him an unqualified bigamist is a bit much...

This is not Wikipedia (1)

flydpnkrtn (114575) | about 7 years ago | (#20806515)

Please go peddle your [citation needed] tags somewhere else.

Also I'd like to thank the grandparent poster - I received some insight on history just now from his post. Now it's my job to go read about the subjects he talked about offhand and if I want to, make sure what he said was true.

Re:Not Historically Accurate (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 7 years ago | (#20808589)

It would take the idea of using investment capital to buy industrial machines that would ultimately make that transformation complete, so, in a sense, when Andrew Carnegie sent the Pinkertons in, he was ultimately breaking the guild system once and for all.
No, that was the American Dream. He was breaking the American Dream once and for all.

Re:This is just the European guild model, NOT (3, Informative)

enrevanche (953125) | about 7 years ago | (#20804547)

This was a highly dynamic and constantly changing environment where new companies and partnerships were created based on new ideas. The guild system was highly static and very closed. It's purpose was to limit competition, not foster new ideas. Most workers in the guild system were skilled in a particular trade, not because they had a special talent, but that they got in to the trade via family or other relationships.

Modern industrialization begins in the 1800s (1)

m0llusk (789903) | about 7 years ago | (#20805415)

The earliest elements of modern industrialization began in the 1800s starting in England and spreading to other nations including France, Germany, and the US. What goes on in Silicon Valley is a particular specialized form of this that is particularly prevelent in the US where places of higher learning are used to increase the pace and quality of research and development, thus advancing the possibilities for industry.

Thanks to George W. Bush, Sillicon Valley exists! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804135)

If it weren't for George W. Bush, we would still have Silicon Valley. Those terrorists would have gone after and blown up Silicon Valley just like they did in Manhattan. Instead, Bush stood up to them and declared War On Terror! Those Bin Laden in his men are all scared shitless and hiding from the World's Most Divine Military.

When I go to bed at night, I thank God that a man as good as George W. Bush exists. I pray to the Lord that we can have George W. Bush for a third term to win the war in Iraq and cleanse the world of terrorists.

Write in George W. Bush in 2008!

Bush is the man that won't take any left turns, even when Congress will.

Re:Thanks to George W. Bush, Sillicon Valley exist (1)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 7 years ago | (#20804203)

We know it's you, George. The grammar gave you away. Now go back to the oval office and stay there like a good boy.

Re:Thanks to George W. Bush, Sillicon Valley exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804251)

Write in George W. Bush in 2008! Bush is the man that won't take any left turns, even when Congress will.

LOL... there are some good bumper stickers here.

Bush-Cheney 2008
Why stop them now?

"Warning: vehicle does not make left turns"

Re:Thanks to George W. Bush, Sillicon Valley exist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804829)

Write in George W. Bush in 2008!

Absolutely. If we can get half the Republicans to write in GWB, then the Democrats will have a field day.

Too bad . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804151)

. . . that assholes with MBAs and the high priests of political correctness run the companies now. Too bad meritocracy has been discarded for favoritism and "affirmative action". It's hard to find a real engineer in management anymore.

Re:Too bad . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804211)

Too bad meritocracy has been discarded for favoritism and "affirmative action".

1984 called... they want their problems back.

Re:Too bad . . . (4, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804217)

It's hard to find a real engineer in management anymore.

Engineers as managers don't necessarily do any better than managers trying to serve as engineers. A company run solely by engineers will generally fail: the disciplines are too different, too many basic assumptions don't carry over. There are exceptions to that, of course, some engineers acquire solid business acumen. That's rare, though. What's needed is management that understands engineering, its strengths and weaknesses, and is capable of working with it rather than trying to fight it for every last penny. Good engineers go hand in hand with good business people to build quality products and steady profits. You need both.

But you're right, though. America does have plenty of good engineers to go around. We just don't have management that is capable of using them properly.

Re:Too bad . . . (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804483)

America does have plenty of good engineers to go around. We just don't have management that is capable of using them properly.
As other posters and the telling of the Silicon Valley story has shown, this is nothing new. Many companies there and other places were started by individuals who worked for other companies where they felt management wasn't going to listen to their ideas or properly share the rewards if they did listen.

Engineers and others that feel this way as well as having an idea for a new product or service they believe can make money should consider following the lead of many before them, forming their own start up businesses. Many seem afraid to leave the protective umbrellas of the current existing world, those who do not or end up with no choice in the matter often end up the next innovators and success stories. As many have shown before, it can even be by taking an entirely new direction in their careers, ie your new business doesn't have to be in the same field as your old job.

Re:Too bad . . . (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804807)

Quitting a full-time job that supports you is a terrifying proposition for many people, as it should be. Most startups fail miserably (the vast majority of them, in fact) and usually because of a complete lack of understanding of the business world. If you're a good engineer and you have a solid product idea and you are qualified to develop it, odds are you'll succeed in that. But producing a quality product is maybe 5% of a successful product.

My perspective is perhaps a little different than most. Right out of college I started my own business (this was back in 1978-79) and ran it right up 'til 1999, when I finally got out of it. I specialized primarily in the industrial and manufacturing businesses ... sold a bunch of testing systems to fastener manufacturers among other things. What I did learn from that experience is that you a. can't do everything yourself, b. can't be good at everything and c. at some point have to trust other people who can do things you can't. The best you can do is ... get the best people you can.

Re:Too bad . . . (1)

crgrace (220738) | about 7 years ago | (#20811809)

I would say luck plays a larger role in the success of technology startups than most people would like to think. You can make the argument that if you were unlucky in market, competition, etc. then you really didn't have the business acumen you needed, but I think that is kind of a circular argument: successful people have business acumen, and understanding business makes you a success.

PS I was the first engineer at a startup, so I've seen it in all its glory and pain.

Re:Too bad . . . (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20812611)

Luck is an issue, sure, but the chances of success are greater if you actually know what you're doing. What I've found is that most technical people that start companies not only don't know what they're doing, business-wise, but don't even know that they don't know what they're doing! Consequently they tend to make fatal mistakes in almost every non-technical category. Most ultimately successful entrepreneurs had to fail two or three times before they figured out how to make a business work. That often involves accepting one's limitations.

Put it this way, all things being equal, who is going to have the greatest chance of success? A group of talented engineers all on their own ... or that same group backed by an equally-talented business team?

Re:Too bad . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20805189)

Amen to that. I'm in my fifth startup in the last 15 years. A couple lessons I've learned:

If you have great technology, all you can do is sell it. If you have money, you can buy anything you need.

Many of the skills that make for exceptional engineering/science talent are useless, if not counterproductive to managerial roles. It's easier to teach a talented manager how to manage a group of engineers than to teach a talented engineer how to manage. A good manager knows it is about the people - they understand them: what motivates, de-motivates, frightens or emboldens them. A good manager knows when their people are in over their heads, without even knowing what they're doing. Technologists, in my experience, concentrate on the technical details, and don't understand what's going on in the company or in their group. I've worked with and for both. I love working with engineers and scientists, but I'll take a good manager as a boss any time.

Re:Too bad . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804271)

Let MBAs manage, that's what they are good at. The problem is that "manager" somehow has come to mean "someone who controls the company and all its finances". Managers should manage, they do an important job - but it is a secondary job like janitorial or secretarial work, they should work for the people who are actually productive.

Re:Too bad . . . (1)

jcr (53032) | about 7 years ago | (#20804389)

I don't know where you're working, but try Apple or Google, or any of about a thousand start-ups in the valley. Meritocracy is alive and well in Silicon Valley.

-jcr

Re:Too bad . . . (2, Insightful)

metlin (258108) | about 7 years ago | (#20804715)

Yes, because anyone who has an MBA is quite obviously an idiot.

Gee.

Re:Too bad . . . (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20807327)

Yes, because anyone who has an MBA is quite obviously an idiot.

Don't worry, I expect that the preception of MBA holders will improve after January 2009.

Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (4, Interesting)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804165)

... and established a meritocracy ruled by those who made electronic products cheaper, faster and better.

That's all well and good, but it's now 2007. Our electronics manufacturing sector is in ruins. What happened?

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (2, Interesting)

ZombieWomble (893157) | about 7 years ago | (#20804189)

What happened?
China?

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804231)

I'd say Japan did most of the damage a couple decades ago. China just came along to finish the job.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | about 7 years ago | (#20804393)

China?

I'd say they had a wee bit of help form various corporate managements and political administrations. China was the recipient of the gift, but the initiation of giving was almost completely home-grown.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 7 years ago | (#20804243)

What happened?

Harvard MBAs

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804263)

NAFTA

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) | about 7 years ago | (#20804355)

They dropped "better" in an effort to be "cheaper, faster"

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804543)

They dropped "better" in an effort to be "cheaper, faster"
Another good answer.

By the way, your name should be spelled "Emordnys s'regrepsA".

Bram Cohen ... is that you?

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

KudyardRipling (1063612) | about 7 years ago | (#20804763)

Dis you mean Baron-Cohen?

Damn neurotypicals plaguing the world with mediocre genes causing affinities for inane distractions such as sports and entertainment.

If AS were curable in the 1940's, no one would be reading this.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804857)

No, I was referring to Bram Cohen [wikipedia.org] , the creator of the Bit Torrent protocol. He's a self-described Asperger's Syndrome sufferer.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (3, Informative)

jcr (53032) | about 7 years ago | (#20804419)

Our electronics manufacturing sector is in ruins.

What's your next guess?

I'm working on a hardware project right now, and I've got very competitive bids from companies spread from California to Pennsylvania. If we go up to tens of thousands of units, we'll probably get them built in China or India where the costs are lower, but the USA has plenty of manufacturing capability if you're willing to look for it. Most of the American PCB/assembly shops I know about concentrate on quick-turn and small run (100-500 unit) prototyping work, because that's where the margins are better.

-jcr

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (2, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804517)

Well, when I said "in ruins" I was referring primarily to large-scale consumer product manufacturing, the kind of things that the Japanese took over from us many years ago. How many television sets, media players, LEDs, motherboards, integrated circuits, LCD panels, memory sticks and other such high-volume items are still produced in the U.S.? Not as much as there used to be ... matter of fact we don't even know how to make a lot of that stuff on any significant scale anymore. I'm sure we could probably find some Japanese or Chinese engineers that might be willing to teach us though.

I hope your product is successful, but even if you do have it manufactured here, odds are most of the components won't be.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804571)

>How many television sets, media players, LEDs, motherboards, integrated circuits, LCD panels, memory sticks and other such high-volume items are still produced in the U.S.?

42

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804591)

"What do you get when you multiply six by nine?"

"Six by nine? 42?"

"I always knew there was something fundamentally wrong with the universe."

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (2, Informative)

Skreems (598317) | about 7 years ago | (#20804577)

What happened is economic disparity between countries. It's cheaper to employ people elsewhere, because they get paid less relative to workers in the US. It's like asking why there are no electronics manufacturing plants in downtown Manhattan, but on a global scale.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804609)

That's not a sufficient answer. There's always been economic disparity.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

jcr (53032) | about 7 years ago | (#20804859)

You seem to have a weird hang-up about where particular business activities take place. We used to have 80%+ of our population working on farms. Is it bad that most of us no longer have any idea how to grow a crop of potatoes or milk a cow? We're moving up the value chain, and that's a good thing.

-jcr

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20805067)

Your example isn't relevant. Technology reduced the need for large numbers of people to work on farms, granted. Those displaced farmers ended up working in manufacturing plants, and the thousands upon thousands of businesses that supported our industrial base. If we don't need them to farm, and we don't need them to make things ... what the hell are they going to do? Where are their paychecks going to come from? Do you have anything resembling an answer to that?

You seem to have a complete lack of understanding of what it means to be an industrial superpower, and why, if you want to maintain your "superpower" status it's important to keep the "industrial" attached to it. Let me ask you this: if we don't manufacture goods for export, where is our wealth going to come from in this new-fangled "global economy"? How are we going to pay for all the consumer goods and military equipment coming from China that we apparently need so desperately? We can only run on inertia for so long before the inevitable economic collapse comes. This time it will be worse because we've literally sold, for pennies on the dollar, much of our heavy equipment and machine tooling. China and Japan, in particular, have been snapping it up. They may or may not need it themselvers ... but the point is that we don't have it any longer.

Understand that America is a powerful nation because of its industry, not because of some God-given right to be at the top of the economic heap. Sooner or later we will lose that spot, but if we fail to preserve and nourish our industry, we are going to reduce ourselves to third-world status that much more quickly. I have yet to see a rational justification for any nation to do that, other than some regurgitated "it's good for the global economy!" pablum. Sure it is: we're transferring a lot of our money to other countries right now, one in particular.

The real question to ask yourself is this: in the long run, is the global economy good for us? That's a much more difficult question to answer, but it's an important one.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20805829)

"The real question to ask yourself is this: in the long run, is the global economy good for us? That's a much more difficult question to answer, but it's an important one."

China, centuries ago when they were arguably at the top of the heap, decided "no", and it didn't take too long before things went south for them. Can't put the jinny back in the bottle - gotta work with them instead.

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20806163)

US manufacturing output is as strong as it has ever been. It may now take less employees to produce even more goods. Sorry.

http://www.ncpa.org/pub/ba/ba456/ [ncpa.org]

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

jcr (53032) | about 7 years ago | (#20806747)

in the long run, is the global economy good for us?

The answer is very obviously yes, and if you don't understand that, then I recommend that you follow your own advice, and take a course in economics at your local community college.

-jcr

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

jcr (53032) | about 7 years ago | (#20804879)

It's like asking why there are no electronics manufacturing plants in downtown Manhattan, but on a global scale.

Exactly!

Social division of labor works at all scales. Trade is voluntary, and both sides benefit: it's not a zero-sum game.

-jcr

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804717)

By "Our electronics manufacturing sector", do you mean the guy in Valetta who fixes radios, or the man whose brother built the radio on Camino lookout?

Re:Okay, so here's a loaded question ... (1)

etnu (957152) | about 7 years ago | (#20804891)

Software became much more profitable.

hope (1)

spykemail (983593) | about 7 years ago | (#20804209)

Let's hope that all of the newer technologies that we know and love do not face the same fate as radio. I would have to see the internet or personal computers controlled entirely by a couple of megacorporations... oh, wait.

Thank God for FOSS!

Re:hope (1)

spykemail (983593) | about 7 years ago | (#20804241)

That's "hate" not "have." Yay for no editing.

Pretty good article, but where's the SRI mention? (2, Insightful)

PhantomHarlock (189617) | about 7 years ago | (#20804223)

More or less a good article, but I'm very surprised that there is not a single mention of SRI, given that is the best example of university-millitary-private sector development cooperation, and the breeding grounds for such things as...the computer mouse. (Douglas Englebart)

I worked on the campus for a while in 2000 - 2001. Interesting place.

Also, yes, there are a lot more people in SV now, but it's not nearly as bad as it was during tech boom, when everyone had somewhere to be all the time. It was nothing short of amazing, but it's nice that it's back to some level of sanity. I wouldn't describe what's going on now as some sort of tech bust, I'd describe it as 'normal'.

Pretty good article, but about SLAC? (1)

LinearBob (258695) | about 7 years ago | (#20819895)

I agree SRI was important to the development of Silicon Valley, but SRI was not alone. I suggest you consider the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, too. Stanford broke ground for the construction of a two mile long linear accelerator in the early 1960's. The engineers and physicists at SLAC were early adopters and developers of many technologies including semiconductors of all kinds.

Do you remember the Homebrew Computer Club? Do you know where they met every Wednesday evening? Clue: it was on the SLAC campus.

Where did Jobs and Wozniac learn the details of what would become their most infamous (and illegal product), the "blue boxes" they made and sold to finance the Apple I? Clue: it was on the SLAC campus and open to anyone who walked in.

Final question: There were TWO garage partnerships formed at Stanford, and both partnerships brought Stanford lots of fame and money. Who were the other partners beside Hewlett and Packard? Clue: they invented and built the first klystron, which was used to power a microwave driven linear accelerator located in the basement of the Physics building on the Stanford campus. That success of that linear accelerator lead directly to the decision to build the 2 mile long microwave powered accelerator at SLAC.

I think an argument can be made that SLAC was also a significant factor in making Silicon Valley world famous. SLAC had a policy of buying local whenever they could do so, and several companies came into being specifically to sell equipment (mostly electronic) to the physicists of SLAC.

A large percentage of the membership of the Homebrew Computer Club worked at SLAC, which is why the club met there. Very soon after Intel announced the 8080, SLAC engineers were designing them into the specialized controllers needed to make the 2 mile electron accelerator work, because without a distributed control system, controlling the accelerator was nearly impossible.

history lesson (1)

kcpearly15 (1161509) | about 7 years ago | (#20804279)

In order to get where you are going, it is good to know where you have been. Plain and simple.

By radio I think they mean (3, Informative)

LM741N (258038) | about 7 years ago | (#20804319)

HAM RADIO

Re:By radio I think they mean (1)

FudRucker (866063) | about 7 years ago | (#20804349)

i once made a radio out of ham, it did not work but it sure tasted good...

Re:By radio I think they mean (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | about 7 years ago | (#20804479)

Amateur!!

Shades of my late best friend Bob Long (W6QBN) who veered into computers because someone who knew a bit about electronics was needed to fix the old LGP30's and SDS 930's. If he hadn't known what he did about radio I would have never learned that AM transistor radio trick -- put it on top of the memory register and listen to your program compile ("it's sorting its symbol table now -- hear the loops? Bubble sort too, sounds like"). Best way to instrument your code back then.

Re:By radio I think they mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804623)

Wow, do you have any OGG's available?

Re:By radio I think they mean (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804627)

We used to do that with early microcomputers and play music. Sounded like a noisy kazoo, and it was tricky getting the delay loops right ... but it worked.

back in the "good ole days" (1)

p51d007 (656414) | about 7 years ago | (#20804443)

.... .. ._. . .... .. ._. . Back in the "good ole days" when you could walk into a Radio Shack, ask someone for a certain type transistor, capacitor or some other component, and get a response such as "it's right over here". Today, go in and ask the same question and they will ask you if that is for a wireless phone, or better yet you will get a huh? or a deer in the headlights look. Radio Shack.....you've got questions, we've got the wrong answers.

Re:back in the "good ole days" (1)

LM741N (258038) | about 7 years ago | (#20804607)

Worse yet, they follow you all around and keep asking if they can help you. I found a solution. I make up some realistic sounding gizmo that really doesn't exist. That keeps them busy for a while

Re:back in the "good ole days" (3, Insightful)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#20804703)

LM741, huh. I thought about calling myself TL081, but didn't want people to think I was a bi-fet.

Radio Shack (once Allied Radio Shack, if you'll remember, the retail division of Allied Radio long before Tandy acquired them) was one of the most awesome stores I used to visit as a child. My father was a physicist and electronics engineer, so we would frequent the big Radio Shack in Bethesda, Maryland. The place was huge, full of every imaginable electronic component. I still remember the tube tester that was always over in the corner: Dad showed me how to plug in a tube and test it ... I got to push the "TEST" button and make the filament glow, while watching the meter jump up the scale.

However, I followed the path of many a budding electronics engineer when the Personal Computer revolution began. I had no doubt in my mind that I was going to be a double-E just like my father, even to starting in the Electronics Engineering curriculum when I went to college. Then I started playing around with microcomputers ... and everything changed.

You ask, what happened to the likes of Radio Shack and Lafayette Electronics, Heathkit, EICO, and all the wonderful hardware hacking delights that existed back in the sixties and seventies? Well, I'll tell you. It was the microcomputer. Thousands of young minds (like mine) that would have followed pc boards and components into a career in electronics or related fields got seduced by software, well, firmware at the time. It was just so much easier to bend a microprocessor to your will, than a complex assemblage of discrete parts that you'd actually have to use a soldering iron to modify.

The advent of the microprocessor, and eventually the personal computer, eliminated much of the need for knowledge of electronics and the ability to assemble circuitry by hand to achieve significant results. Companies that had previously catered to the hardcore electronics hobbyist found themselves faced with an entirely different breed of hacker. Most of those outfits didn't survive the change. I think Heathkit may still be around, but they're not what they once were.

Re:back in the "good ole days" (4, Insightful)

Miamicanes (730264) | about 7 years ago | (#20805045)

Electronics-as-a-hobby ALMOST completely died during the 90s... but over the past few years, it's been reborn and growing again thanks to microcontrollers & robots. Check out avrfreaks.net, parallax.com, fpga4fun.com, and other sites dedicated to good 'ol fashioned homebrew electronics. Well, with a few nice improvements, like the 74HCxxx family (runs on just about anything between 2.9 and 6 volts without complaining or frying), ~$180 USB logic analyzers & oscilloscopes (poscope.com). For an example of what Radio Shack SHOULD be selling (in lieu of cell phones, crap stereo equipment, and overpriced computer hardware), check out sparkfun.com.

Happy Days ARE here again. Electronics-as-a-hobby is once again alive and well. Spread the word :-)

Actually, there's another reason why people who grew up during the late 70s/early 80s love microcontrollers so much... they're like the computers we grew up with. A mortal really CAN understand one fully, and individually create something cool... something that's increasingly difficult to do on any kind of meaningful level with regard to mainstream computer software.

Re:back in the "good ole days" (1)

Crash McBang (551190) | about 7 years ago | (#20805433)

Amen, bro!

eBay is the biggest junkbox on the planet...

Re:back in the "good ole days" (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 7 years ago | (#20808179)

...and also, the classic Z80 CPU (plus peripherals like the CTC and PIO) is *still* manufactured - you can still homebrew an old-skool 8 bit computer. It's still made in the classic 40 pin DIP package, good for breadboard experimentation. Flash chips like the Am29F010 can be used as ROM, and are much faster and easier than UV erase EPROMs (your homebrew computer can now reprogram its own ROM).

Incidentally, if you like Atmel's AVR lineup of microcontrollers, there's a port of GCC for the AVR. I use it, it works well.

Re:back in the "good ole days" (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | about 7 years ago | (#20817751)

...and also, the classic Z80 CPU (plus peripherals like the CTC and PIO) is *still* manufactured - you can still homebrew an old-skool 8 bit computer.

More importantly, the 6502 is still available [westerndesigncenter.com] , along with the support chips it used. There's even a free-as-in-speech C cross-compiler [cc65.org] available for it. I used it recently to rewrite the software for my Apple II beer-fridge controller, and that software will be ported to a 6502-based (65C02-based, really, but that's a minor difference) controller board I've designed (still need to send the board out for fabrication).

Re:back in the "good ole days" (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 7 years ago | (#20834771)

Is the "classic" 6502 still made in 40 pin DIP format? It'd be nice to know that there are spares for my BBC Micro. I've been looking for a local seller for the 6502 but have not found one yet.

(I use Z80s rather more heavily though - a nice feature of the Z80 for hacking is you can clock it arbitrarily slowly, since the registers are implemented in static memory, which is useful at times). The Z80 and many Z80-based computers has a development kit called the Z88DK - which provides the C language and the standard library, and other things like a sprite library for the ZX Spectrum).

Re:back in the "good ole days" (1)

ncc74656 (45571) | about 7 years ago | (#20839673)

Is the "classic" 6502 still made in 40 pin DIP format?

Yes. [westerndesigncenter.com] For new work, it's also available in PLCC and QFP packages; the latter is what I'm going to use for my project.

Re:back in the "good ole days" (1)

fishbowl (7759) | about 7 years ago | (#20804811)

I can tell you that even in the 1970s, Radio Shack trained its salespeople *exactly* the same way as today. Upsell, add-on, metrics on the average ticket and the average time spent with customers, metrics on collection of information for the direct mail marketing (on which 9% of store revenue is spent, same as ever).
   

Re:By radio I think they mean (1)

Ritchie70 (860516) | about 7 years ago | (#20805053)

No, they mean radio. There was a time when broadcast radio didn't exist and radio of any sort was new technology.

re: By radio I think they mean (1)

homer_ca (144738) | about 7 years ago | (#20805801)

One of the big electronics swap meets in Southern California is run by the TRW Amateur Radio Club (now Northrup Grumman). It goes back to the 60's, although that's before my time. These days it's split between radio and computer vendors. Computer equipment doesn't age well, so most of that is pretty junky unless you spot the gem you need. The ham radio equipment is even older, but it ages better.

I just doesn't add up... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20804595)

From the photo gallery link:

This check is an early installment on Fairchild Semiconductor's first sale: 100 transistors sold to IBM for $150 apiece. Equivalent transistors today cost less than a hundred-thousandth of a penny. Photo courtesy of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries
Yet the cheque shown has a dollar value of $1500. So, did they sell 10 transistors for $150 apiece, or 100 transistors at $15 apiece...? People with nothing better to do want to know.

Re:I just doesn't add up... (1)

Pudusplat (574705) | about 7 years ago | (#20807625)

This check is an early installment on Fairchild Semiconductor's first sale: 100 transistors sold to IBM for $150 apiece. Equivalent transistors today cost less than a hundred-thousandth of a penny. Photo courtesy of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries

Science Fiction Origins (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#20804901)

Modern science fiction was born in radio "catalogs" that sold mostly subscriptions to radio wannabes, especially the ones edited by Hugo Gernsback [wikipedia.org] . Science fiction is very much engineering marketing dressed as technoporn, bred to appeal to radio hobbyists.

Dead white males (-1, Troll)

Baldrson (78598) | about 7 years ago | (#20805867)

Do we have to put up with yet another mythologizing of dead white males [intheshadowofthemoon.com] ? Thank God for his Chosen Americans [csulb.edu] or we might not have had the Immigration and Nationalities Act of 1965 [majorityrights.com] to terminate that hideously white [google.com] nation.

Please deep six this article! (3, Interesting)

slashdotard (835129) | about 7 years ago | (#20806803)

This article is too damned dangerous for publication.

Decades and decades of "facts" about the history of electronics are threatened by this article.

The "facts", as was taught by California's own schools, that electronics technology was all invented by Edison and his neighbour there in Menlo Park (New Jersey), Lee De Forest, and that, at least until Mayor Janet Gray Hayes announced San Jose to be the Capitol of Silicon Valley, nothing but fruits and vegetables, beef, Disney, cowboys and movie stars came out of California.

Lee De Forest was in Menlo Park, all right--Menlo Park, California and certainly no neighbour of The Great Edison. And it seems that the first regularly broadcasting radio station was in San Jose. But let's fudge a few years or so and say it was somewhere out East, instead--Nothing but the Wild, Wild West, out there in California, no way they could be technological leaders in their own right!

California was considered "the wild west" well into the 20th century. Except by those who lived there. Kind of hard to reconcile the romantic notion of the wild west with reality, it would seem.

O well, it's about time the facts got out.

They could have used calculators.. (1)

scsirob (246572) | about 7 years ago | (#20807617)

"This check is an early installment on Fairchild Semiconductor's first sale: 100 transistors sold to IBM for $150 apiece"

Interesting detail is that it shows $1,500.00 to be paid...

INSTALLMENT (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20810665)

>> "This check is an early installment on Fairchild Semiconductor's first sale: 100 transistors sold
>> to IBM for $150 apiece"
>
> Interesting detail is that it shows $1,500.00 to be paid...

It's an installment, not the whole amount!

Giant error in article spotted (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20807865)

FTA: "...The klystron tube led to more powerful radars, helping the United States and its allies gain an advantage in World War II."

But hang on what about the cavity magnatron?

quickly look up wikipedia

"...During the second World War, the Axis powers relied mostly on (then low-powered) klystron technology for their radar system microwave generation, while the Allies used the far more powerful but frequency-drifting technology of the cavity magnetron for microwave generation...."

Research Into The First Nerds (2, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 7 years ago | (#20810265)

We can thank Dr Leaky for his groundbreaking archeological work in Silicon Valley. His famous "protonerd" fossil remains were dated via C14 and their physical association with a number of ancient nerd tools including crude slide rules, vacuum tubes, and soldering irons. A number of early nerd homes have been found including the foundation of a garage and a basement lair that are theorized to have belonged to the resident's parents. Nearby midden piles filled with snack wrappers, TV dinner trays, and receipts from Radio Shack show that these sites were used for decades. One nerd grave had what seems to be an especially large and heavily bearded nerd "lord". He was buried with many valuable personal items including an IPO announcement, QSL cards, a first edition Little Lulu comic, his soldering iron, his HAM radio license, and a large assortment of ancient snacks. He was also buried with a large number of Avalon Hill war games but unfortunately most of the counters had been taken by grave robbers along with an Altair 8800.
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