A History of Silicon Valley

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These are excerpts from Piero Scaruffi's book
"A History of Silicon Valley"


(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi)

1. The Pioneers (1900-25)

by Piero Scaruffi

Just over 20 thousand people lived in San Jose in 1900, compared with San Francisco's 342 thousand, one of the top 10 cities of the USA. There is a good reason to argue that the San Francisco counterculture was founded in 1859 by Joshua Norton, an English Jew raised in South Africa who had emigrated to San Francisco at the time of the Gold Rush but ended up dealing with rice instead of gold, and who in that year declared himself Emperor of the United States. He wore Napoleonic clothes and issued his own currency. Not only was he respected by the citizens of San Francisco, but a huge crowd showed up at his funeral (he died penniless in 1880).

An Italian Jesuit priest named Giuseppe Neri, who had studied chemistry, built his own electrical lighting system using a device that had been used in the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and demonstrated such futuristic system to the public in 1871, eight years before Edison (on the other coast) demonstrated his light bulb. In July 1876 (the centennial of the US declaration of independence) Neri lit San Francisco's Market Street with arc lamps (the predecessors of the light bulb). In 1879 the California Electric Company (now known as PG&E) started providing electricity to customers in San Francisco, although that electrical power could be used only for arc lamps. San Jose followed suit and, eight years before Paris had the Tour Eiffel, the city erected the 72-meter tall San Jose Electric Light Tower, inaugurated in 1881 by newspaper publisher JJ Owen, the world's tallest free-standing iron structure.

When he died in 1876, James Lick was the wealthiest man in California. His "high-tech" occupation had been piano manufacturing. He had in fact accumulated a little fortune by building and selling pianos in South America. In Peru he had met Domingo Ghirardelli, a maker of chocolate. When Lick had moved to California, he had invited Ghirardelli to set up shop in San Francisco, an advice that had turned out to be golden: one year later gold had been discovered near Sacramento, and both immigrants benefited by the economic boom. Lick had been smart enough to buy land all around the Bay Area, while living in the small village of San Jose. Lick had been planning to use his fortune to build himself the largest pyramid on Earth, but somehow the California Academy of Sciences convinced him to fund the Lick Observatory, the world's first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory, to be equipped with the most powerful telescope on Earth. That observatory, erected in 1887 on nearby Mt Hamilton, was pretty much the only notable event in the early history of San Jose.

Denis Kearney was the exact opposite of Emperor Norton. A populist agitator and demagogue during the economic depression of 1873-78, his rallies attracted thousands of people in San Francisco. He railed against the political establishment, the media, and the illegal Chinese immigrants (that constituted about 20% of the labor force). In 1878 his Workingmen's Party won the elections and changed the state constitution to ban Chinese immigrants (a measure popular enough that in 1882 the US Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act).

In 1872 California's governor Newton Booth, a saloon keeper turned lawyer, enacted the state's first civil code, which was revolutionary in scope and reach. One section in particular made California unique: it banned "non-compete agreements", i.e. it made it illegal for a company to require that its employees join a competitor or start their own firm to compete with their former employer.

Stanford University

Until 1919 the only road connecting San Jose to San Francisco was the old "El Camino Real", a dusty country road (at the time known as US 101) that snaked its way through orchards and barren hills. The way to go was the Southern Pacific Railroad, which had been acquired by the railway empire of Leland Stanford, the president of the company charged with the western section of the first transcontinental railroad, a former governor and now a senator. The Stanfords donated land and money to start a university near their farm, and had a station built on the Southern Pacific route, the station of University Park, later renamed Palo Alto. Stanford University opened in 1891. It was not the first university of the Bay Area: the Berkeley campus of the University of California had opened in 1873 at the other end of the bay. However, Leland was a man with a plan: his express goal was to create the Harvard of the West, and he hired the best he could find, half of them from New York state's Cornell University. At the time, despite the huge sums of money offered to them by Leland, neither the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, nor the president of Cornell were willing to move to such a primitive place as the Bay Area from their comfortable East Coast cities; so Leland had to content himself with a humbler choice: a relatively young Cornell graduate, David Starr Jordan. In 1892 he hired Albert Pruden Carmen from the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton University) to teach electricity (at the time still a new discipline) within the Physics Department, and the following year another Princeton graduate, Fred Perrine, became the first professor of electrical engineering within a department furnished with equipment donated by local electrical firms.

The light bulb (Edison) and the alternating current motor (Tesla) had been invented on the East Coast, but California pioneered their domestic use. In 1860s Horatio Livermore's Natoma Water and Mining Company, based in Folsom, had built an extensive network of dams to supply water to the miners of the Gold Rush on the American River. Leveraging that investment, in july 1895 his company opened a 35 km hydroelectric power line to bring electricity from Folsom to Sacramento, with water powering four colossal electrical generators (dynamos), the first time that high-voltage alternating current had been successfully conducted over a long distance. In september 1895 Sacramento celebrated the coming of electricity with a Grand Electrical Carnival, and very soon the streets of the state's capital were roamed by electric streetcars. Unlike the East Coast, where electricity mainly served the industry, in the Bay Area and in Los Angeles electricity first came to the cities for public and domestic use. That also explains why electric consumer goods (such as the washing machine) would spread more rapidly in California, creating a myth of high-tech living.

The Santa Clara Valley (the valley between Palo Alto and San Jose) was known as "Valley of Heart's Delight" because it was an endless expanse of orchards. Its agriculture was growing rapidly and, thanks to the invention of the refrigerated railroad car, it would soon become the largest fruit production and packing region in the world. At one point there were 39 canneries in the valley, notably the San Jose Fruit Packing Company. At the peak Chinese workers represented 48% of agricultural labor in Santa Clara Valley. In 1863 the second railroad of California (after the pioneering Sacramento-Folsom of 1855) connected San Francisco to Mayfield (now Churhill Avenue in Palo Alto), a rough town popular with loggers (and later with students), and then to San Jose (in 1864) with a daily ride that took three and a half hours. The Menlo Park depot (built in 1867) was the major station of that route until Palo Alto began to grow. The first transcontinental railroad was finally completed in 1869, linking the East Coast with Oakland (and then by ferry to San Francisco).

Perhaps the first "high tech" of the Bay Area came in the form of the aerial tramway invented in 1867 by the British-born Andrew Hallidie, a former gold miner and a bridge builder. Installed on high towers that frequently overlooked incredibly steep slopes, it was used across the Sierra Nevada to transport ore, supplies and miners. In 1873 Hallidie, using a similar design with help from German-born engineer William Eppelsheimer, inaugurated the Clay Street Hill Railroad in San Francisco, the world's first cable-car system.

At the time the Bay Area also had its flirt with oil, in fact predating the celebrated Edward Doheny well of 1892 that started the oil rush in Los Angeles. In 1879 a San Francisco banker and politician, Charles Felton, founded the Pacific Coast Oil Company (PCO). Within a few months the new company discovered large oil deposits on Moody Gulch, a few kms west of San Jose in the south bay. In 1880 PCO opened a refinery in the island Alameda, located near Oakland by the bay, i.e. with good access to the railroad terminal and the port. In 1902 Rockefeller's Standard Oil, that two years earlier had acquired PCO, built a new refinery further north, in what is now Richmond, one of the largest and most advanced refineries in the world. In 1907 this refinery invented Zerolene, one of the most successful Standard Oil products.

The agricultural boom increased the demand for firewood and lumber, which made the fortune of the Santa Clara Valley Mill & Lumber Company of Felton. (But mostly the boom made the fortune of the "railroad barons", who provided the main form of transportation for goods and people. In fact, Santa Clara county confronted the arrogant railroad empires in a case that became famous in and had consequences for the whole nation: in 1886 the Supreme Court of the USA decreed that corporations should have the same rights as persons, and therefore the Southern Pacific Railroad Company was entitled to deduct mortgage from its taxable income just like any household). And, of course, ports dotted the bay, notably Redwood City's port that shipped lumber to San Francisco. Redwood City was located in the "Peninsula", i.e. the stretch of land between San Francisco and Palo Alto. Most of the Peninsula belonged to San Mateo County and was underpopulated. The county road from San Francisco to Belmont (north of Redwood City) served the wealthy San Franciscan who had bought a mansion in the countryside, typically for the summer, when San Francisco was blanketed by the famous fog. These mansions usually controlled a large tract of land and constituted self-sufficient agricultural units. The first World War (1917) populated one town, Menlo Park, just north of Palo Alto, where the Army established Camp Fremont to train tens of thousands of soldiers.

The Bay Area became one in the early years of the 20th century. In the 1880s Frank Smith, who had made his fortune with his borax mines in Nevada and Death Valley, settled in Oakland and began to create a network of railways that eventually (1903) would become the Key System, connecting San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

Not much else was going on in the sleepy bay accidentally discovered in 1769 by Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola.

A lot was going in the rest of the USA. The nation was booming, with innovative ideas revolutionizing agriculture, industry, mining and transportation. Since there were more and more numbers to crunch, it is not surprising that in those years inventors devised several computing machines. The most influential were William Burroughs' adding machine of 1885 and Hermann Hollerith's tabulator of 1890 (chosen for the national census). However, the sensation at the turn of the century was electricity, which was enabling a whole new spectrum of appliances, from the light bulb to the phonograph.

Stanford and Radio Engineering

The railway brought people to the Bay Area, and created the first fortunes, but then the Bay Area needed electricity. California had plenty of water, coming down from its mighty Sierra Nevada. Entrepreneurs understood that dams (hydroelectric plants) could provide the electrical power needed by the coastal cities, and engineers were working on solving the problem of how to distribute that power. The East Coast had not faced the problem of carrying high-tension voltage over long-distances, but that was precisely the problem to be solved on the West Coast. Stanford professors and students under the leadership of the new head of the Electrical Engineering Department, Harris Ryan, another Cornell alumnus who had arrived in 1905, helped solve the problem, thereby inaugurating a cooperative model between university and industry. The Bay Area's electrical power companies used the Stanford High Voltage Laboratory (as well as the one at U.C. Berkeley) for the development of long-distance electric power transmission. That cooperation, in addition, raised a generation of electrical engineers that could match the know-how of the East Coast.

At the same time, San Francisco's port exhibited a voracious interest in the radio technology invented in Europe at the turn of the century. The Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, now relocated to Britain, had galvanized the sector with his long-distance radio transmissions, beginning in 1897 and culminating with the radio message from the USA president Theodore Roosevelt to the British king Edward VII of 1903. Marconi's company set up radio stations on both sides of the Atlantic to communicate with ships at sea. However, it was not yet trivial how to create a wireless communication system.

In 1906 an independent with a degree from Yale, Lee DeForest, had built a vacuum tube in New York without quite understanding its potential as a signal amplifier. In fact his invention, the "audion", was useful to amplify electrical signals, and therefore to wireless transmissions. (In 1904 the British chemist John-Ambrose Fleming had invented the two-element amplifier, or "diode", and a few months before DeForest the Austrian physicist Robert von Lieben had already built a three-element amplifier, or "triode"). In 1910 DeForest moved to San Francisco and got into radio broadcasting, a business that he had pioneered in january when he had broadcasted from New York a live performance by legendary Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. In fact, DeForest is the one who started using the term "radio" to refer to wireless transmission when he formed his DeForest Radio Telephone Company in 1907. However, his early broadcasts did not used the audion yet. Interest in radio broadcasting was high in the Bay Area, even if there were no mass-produced radios yet. A year earlier, in 1909, Charles Herrold in San Jose had started the first radio station in the USA with regularly scheduled programming, including songs, using an arc transmitter of his own design. Charles Herrold had been one of Stanford's earliest students and founded his own College of Wireless and Engineering in San Jose.

Also in 1909 another Stanford alumnus, Cyril Elwell, had founded the Poulsen Wireless Telephone and Telegraph Company in Palo Alto, later renamed the Federal Telegraph Corporation (FTC), to commercialize a new European invention. In 1903 the Danish engineer Valdemar Poulsen had invented an arc transmitter for radio transmission, but no European company was doing anything with it. Elwell understood its potential that was not only technological but also legal: it allowed to create radio products without violating Marconi's patents. Elwell acquired the rights for the USA of the Poulsen arc. His radio technology, adequately funded by a group of San Francisco investors led by Beach Thompson, blew away the competition of the East Coast and in 1912 won a contract with the Navy, which was by far the biggest consumer of radio communications. So it was that commercial radiotelegraphy developed first in the USA. The "start-up" was initially funded by Stanford's own president, David Starr Jordan, and employed Stanford students, notably Edwin Pridham. The Bay Area had stumbled into electronics almost by accident. And Jordan had just inaugurated venture-capital investment in the region.

In need of better receiver amplifiers for the arc transmissions, FTC hired Lee DeForest, who by 1912 had finally realized that his audion could be used as an amplifier. The problem with long-distance telephone and radio transmissions was that the signal was lost en route as it became too faint. DeForest's vacuum tube enabled the construction of repeaters that restored the signal at intermediate points. The audion could dramatically reduce the cost of long-distance wireless communications. FTT began applying the audion to develop a geographically distributed radio telegraphy system. The first tower they had built in july 1910 was on a San Francisco beach and it was 90 meters tall, but the most impressive of all was inaugurated in 1912 at Point San Bruno (just south of the city), a large complex boasting the tallest antenna in the world (130 meters). By the end of 1912 FTC had stations in Texas, Hawaii, Arizona, Missouri and Washington besides California. However, the Poulsen arc remained the main tchnology for radiotelephony (voice transmission) and, ironically, FTT was no longer in that business. Improvements to the design by recent Cornell graduate Leonard Fuller (mostly during World War I, when the radio industry was nationalized to produce transmitters for the Navy) that allowed the audion to amplify a signal a million times eventually led FTC to create the first global wireless communication system. The audion was still used only for receivers, while most transmitters were arc-based. It was only in 1915 that DeForest realized that a feedback loop of audions could be used to build transmitters as well. DeForest had already (in 1913) sold the patent for his audion to Graham Bell's AT&T in New York, and AT&T had already used it to set up the first coast-to-coast telephone line (january 1915), just in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, while DeForest had moved to New York. DeForest himself, in 1916, had shocked the nation by broadcasting the results of the presidential elections with music and commentary from New York to stations within a range of 300 kilometers, and this time using an audion transmitter. Radiotelephony would switch from the Poulsen arc to his audion during the 1920s. In due time Leo Fuller took Elwell's place as chief engineer of FTC, in 1920 Navy engineer and former Marconi engineer Haraden Pratt was hired to launch commercial wireless telegraph service, and sugar magnate Rudolph Spreckels bought control of FTC.

The wireless industry was booming throughout the USA, aided by sensational articles in the mainstream press. Earle Ennis had opened a company (Western Wireless Equipment Company) to sell wireless equipment for ships. He also ran a radio broadcast to deliver news to ships at sea. In 1910 he organized the first air-to-ground radio message, thus showing that the same technology could be used by the nascent airline industry.

Because of its maritime business, the Bay Area became one of the largest centers for amateur radio. The Bay Counties Wireless Telegraph Association was founded in 1907 by (then) amateurs such as Haraden Pratt, Ellery Stone and Lewis Clement.

Quite a bit of innovation in radio engineering came from the "ham" radio amateurs. The first wireless communications were, by definition, done by independents who set up their own equipment. This was the first "virtual" community as they frequently never met in person. The first magazine devoted to radio engineering, Modern Electrics, was launched in April 1908 in New York by Hugo Gernsback, a 24-year-old Jewish immigrant from Luxembourg. It reached a circulation of 52,000 in 1911, the year when it started publishing science-fiction stories (thus also becoming de facto the first science-fiction magazine). Amateur wireless associations popped up throughout the country, such as the Radio Club of Salt Lake City in Utah, founded in September 1909, and the Wireless Association of Central California, formed in May 1910 in Fresno. From a social point of view, the beauty of ham radio was that it blurred class boundaries: they were known by codes such as 6ZAF, not by their last names, and it made no difference whether they were rural teenagers, Stanford PhD students or professional radio engineers. They were all on the same level.

Among the amateurs of the second decade were Charles Litton, an eleven-year old prodigy who operated an amateur station in Redwood City in 1915, and Frederick Terman, a teenager who operated an amateur station in Palo Alto in 1917. Some of those amateurs went on to create small companies. Little did they know that their hobby would in time of war constitute a strategic industry for the Air Force, Navy and Army: during World War I (in 1918) Elwell's technology would be a pillar of naval communications for the USA. The Navy had set up radio stations all over the place, and in january 1918 the president of the USA, Woodrow Wilson, proudly spoke live to Europe, the Far East and Latin America.

Founded in 1910 in Napa (north of the bay), Magnavox was the brainchild of Peter Jensen (one of the Danish engineers imported by FTC to commercialize the Poulsen arc) and Edwin Pridham (a Stanford graduate who also worked at FTC). In 1917 they introduced a new type of electrical loudspeaker.

Alas, after World War I it became obvious that radio technology was strategic, and it couldn't be left in the hands of West-Coast independents. The USA government basically forced a large East-Coast company, General Electric, to buy the USA business of Marconi. The USA government also helped the new company to acquire the most important patents. Thus a new giant, RCA, was born and soon became the dominant player in consumer electronics, as the number of radios grew from 5,000 in 1920 to 25 million in 1924. Hence FTC was doomed and other Bay Area-based radio companies had to live with only military applications.

Ham-radio amateurs were the first "garage nerds" of the San Francisco Bay Area, a place isolated from the rest of the country (reaching any other city required a long journey by ship, by train or by coach). Bill Eitel presided the Santa Clara County Amateur Radio Association, formed in 1921, before he went on to launch his own "startup". The First National Radio Conference took place in Washington in February 1922, and it pitted the five big corporations that owned all the patents (American Telephone & Telegraph, General Electric, Western Electric, Westinghouse and RCA) against the ham-radio amateur clubs. That conference established their legal legitimacy. A few weeks later, in April 1922, the first transpacific two-way amateur communication was established between 6ZAC (Clifford Down) in Hawaii and 6ZAF (A.H. Babcock) in Berkeley. The ham-radio operators became heroes in countless cases of natural disasters, especially in the Western states, at a time when there was no other way to communicate rapidly with the aid workers. A teenager, known as 6BYQ, sent out the first alarm when a dam broke in 1928 in Santa Paula, near Los Angeles, causing a flood that caused massive destruction. Ham-radios helped in September 1932 when a landslide wiped out the mining town of Tehachapi, east of Los Angeles, and in March 1933 when an earthquake struck Long Beach, south of Los Angeles. Ham-radios were the first "consumers" of the vacuum tubes made in the Bay Area.

Radio engineering created two worlds in the Bay Area that would greatly influence its future: a high-tech industry and a community of high-tech amateurs.

Culture and Society

In the 1890s most of California was still unexplored. A vast area of the state, the Sierra Nevada, was virtually inaccessible. The fascination for finding out what lay inside drew men from all backgrounds but especially scientists. In 1860 (just a few years after becoming a state of the USA) California had created the Office of State Geologist and had hired Josiah Whitney, professor of geology at Harvard University, to lead it. Between 1863 and 1864 Whitney had led expeditions that had included botanists, zoologists, paleontologists and topographers to explore the High Sierra, discovering" what today are known as Yosemite and King's Canyon national parks. Another geologist, Clarence King, who had traveled overland to California in 1863 from Yale, had become the first white man to spot Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the USA outside of Alaska. The mountains were largely explored by the least documented of all explorers: the European shepherds, who probably created many of the trails used today by mountaineers. The High Sierra was an ideal terrain for sheep, thanks to its many meadows and relatively mild climate. One such shepherd was John Muir, originally from Scotland, a nomadic sawyer who had reached San Francisco in 1868, having traveled by steamship from Florida via Cuba and Panama. He settled in Yosemite for a few years and eventually became influential enough to convince the USA to create Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in 1890, but never actually hiked what is today North America's most famous trail, the John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mt Whitney. The idea for that trail must be credited to Theodore Solomons, born and raised in San Francisco, who in 1892 set out to independently explore regions of the Sierra Nevada that no white man had seen before. The 1890s were the golden age of Sierra exploration.

San Francisco was still living with the legacy of the "gold rush" of 1849. "Barbary Coast", as the red-light district was known, was a haven for brothels and nightclubs. The thousands of Chinese immigrants who had been lured to California to build railways, mine gold and grow food had fathered a new generation that settled in "Chinatown", the largest Chinese community outside Asia. The port served steamers bound for the coast or Asia as well as ferry traffic to the bay and the Sacramento river, and supported a large community of teamsters and longshoremen that also made it the most unionized city in the USA. Dubious characters still roamed the landscape: the career of despised media tycoon William Randolph Hearst got its start in 1887 when his father handed him the San Francisco Examiner. But there were also honest enterprising men, such as Amadeo Giannini, who founded the Bank of Italy in 1904 to serve the agricultural economy of the Santa Clara valley (it was later renamed Bank of America). At the turn of the century one could already sense San Francisco's predisposition towards rebellion: John Muir's Sierra Club (formed in 1892) led the first environmental protest when the state planned a dam in Yosemite; the American Anti-Imperialist League (formed in 1898) organized the first anti-war movement when the USA went to war against Spain (a war largely architected by Hearst to sell more copies of his newspapers); and the Union Labor Party (formed in 1901) became the first pseudo-socialist party to win a mayoral election in a USA city. In 1871 Susan Mills and her husband Cyrus founded Mills College in Oakland, the first women's college in the western states. Most of this was irrelevant to the rest of the nation. San Francisco made the national news in 1906 because of the earthquake and fire that leveled most of it.

California was also blessed with some of the most reformist governors in the country, notably Hiram Johnson (1911-1917), who democratized California and reduced the power of the political barons, and William Stephens (1917-1923), who did something similar to curb the political power of unions. Their policies focused on rising the living standards of the middle class, and therefore of the suburbs.

Immigration had made San Francisco a cosmopolitan city. There had already been Italians when California was still under Mexican rule. They were fishermen and farmers. By the turn of the century, old and new Italians had created an Italian quarter in North Beach. Then came the Japanese, who replaced the Chinese in agriculture. At the beginning of the century San Francisco boasted two Japanese-language newspapers: "The New World" and the "Japanese American", Mexicans immigrated from 1910 to 1930, following the Mexican revolution and the construction of a railway.

San Francisco was also becoming a friendly city for the arts. In 1902 the California Society of Artists was founded by a cosmopolitan group that included the Mexican-born painter Xavier Martinez and the Swiss-born painter and muralist Gottardo Piazzoni. At the California School of Design many students were influenced by muralist and painter Arthur Mathews, one of the founders of the American Arts and Crafts Movement that tried to reconcile craftsmanship with industrial consumerism (a major national trend after the success of Boston's 1897 American Arts and Crafts Exhibition). A symbolic event took place after the 1906 earthquake when Mathews opened his own shop (both as a craftsman and a painter) and started publishing one of the earliest art magazines in town, the Philopolis. Another by-product of the American Arts and Crafts Movement was Oakland's California College of the Arts and Crafts founded in 1907 by one of the movement's protagonists, Frederick Meyer. More and more artists were moving to San Francisco. They created the equivalent of Paris' Montmartre artistic quarter at the four-story building called "Montgomery Block" (also nicknamed "Monkey Block"), the epicenter of San Francisco's bohemian life. Another art colony was born in the coastal city of Carmel, about two hours south of San Francisco. Armin Hansen opened his studio there in 1913, Percy Gray in 1922, and impressionist master William Merritt Chase taught there in 1914. Architects were in high demand both because of the fortunes created by the railway and because of the reconstruction of San Francisco after the earthquake (for example, Willis Polk). Mary Colter studied in San Francisco before venturing into her vernacular architecture for the Southwest's desert landscape. The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, held in San Francisco, for which Bernard Maybeck built the exquisite Palace of Fine Arts, symbolized the transformation that had taken place in the area: from emperors and gold diggers to inventors and investors (and, soon, defense contractors). A major sculptor was Ralph Stackpole, who in 1913 founded the California Society of Etchers and in 1915 provided sculptures for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, notably the Palace of Varied Industries (demolished after the exposition). Influenced by the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, during the 1920s Maynard Dixon created an original Western style of painting. It was at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition that the painters of the "Society of Six" (August Gay, Bernard von Eichman, Maurice Logan, Louis Siegriest, and William Clapp) were seduced by impressionism. Last but not least, in 1921 Ansel Adams began to publish his photographs of Yosemite, another small contribution to changing the reputation of that part of California, and the birth of one of the most vibrant schools of photography in the world. Literature, on the other hand, was lagging behind, represented by Frank Pixley's literary magazine the "Argonaut", located at Montgomery Block. Classical music was represented by its own school of iconoclasts. From 1912 to 1916 Charles Seeger taught unorthodox techniques such as dissonant counterpoint at UC Berkeley. Starting with "The Tides of Manaunaun" (1912), pianist Henry Cowell, a pupil of Seeger, began exploring the tone-cluster technique. That piece was based on poems by John Osborne Varian, the father of Russell and Sigurd Varian, who had moved to Halcyon, a utopian community founded in 1903 halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles by the theosophists William Dower and Francia LaDue, Varian's sons Russell and Sigurd later became friends with Ansel Adams through their mutual affiliation with the Sierra Club.

The Prehistory of Office Automation

This section has moved to A Brief History of Electrical Technology


(Copyright © 2016 Piero Scaruffi)

Table of Contents | Timeline of Silicon Valley | A photographic tour
History pages | Editor | Correspondence