A History of Silicon Valley

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

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi)

5. The Hippies (1961-68)

by Piero Scaruffi

The Era of Large Computer Projects

This section has moved to A Brief History of Electrical Technology

As the costs of owning and operating a mainframe were prohibitive for most companies, time-sharing became a lucrative business. In July 1966 Tymshare, founded by two General Electric engineers (Tom O'Rourke and Dave Schmidt), started one of the most popular time-sharing services out of Los Altos. It was the company that brought the software business to Silicon Valley in earnest. The importance of time-sharing for the spreading of software skills cannot be overstated. Before time-sharing systems, only a small elite had access to computers. Time-sharing allowed students to programm all they wanted. It multipled by an order of magnitude the number of hours of programming around the world. Indirectly, it also enabled the concept that software can be a hobby, just like reading comics or playing the guitar. It helped not only computer lovers in high-tech cities like Boston but also and especially computer buffs in low-tech parts of the world like the Midwest. Tom O'Rourke and Dave Schmidt

Tymshare later (1968) created a circuit-switched network, Tymnet, that predated the Internet. Most of the development was done by Laroy Tymes, who had come on board from the Lawrence Livermore Labs. When the Arpanet was still expensive, worked only with high-speed terminals and connected mainly universities, Tymnet was the commercial network of choice.

Another predecessor of the Arpanet was the Octopus network, implemented in 1968 at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories by connecting four Control Data 6600 mainframes, a project begun in 1964.

Computerized dating originated at Stanford in 1959 with a matchmaking program running on an IBM 650 mainframe computer designed by math students Jim Harvey and Phil Fialer for the Happy Families Planning Service; but the first commercial computer-based dating system was Operation Match, launched in 1965 by Compatibility Research, i.e. Harvard students Jeff Tarr and Dave Crump, and run from a dormitory of the university.

Progress would be slow if non-existent until two decades later, when the Internet would come to the rescue with newsgroups and bulletin board systems.

Computers in the Bay Area

Project MAC and the Arpanet, plus government-funded research on computer graphics and artificial intelligence at the MIT, further increased Boston's lead over the rest of the nation. The Bay Area received Project Genie, but it went to Berkeley, leaving the south bay (and Santa Clara Valley in particular) still with no significant computing investment. Meanwhile, the computer industry was still mostly concerned with the big financial institutions of the East Coast and the manufacturing base of the Midwest. There was no major business or industrial user of computers in the Bay Area other than Bank of America.

The big computers were at Lockheed and NASA, used for military projects and for space projects. For example, in 1966 Roger Summit at Lockheed in Palo Alto developed the first version of Dialog on an IBM /360, an online information retrieval system that was then implemented at NASA Ames on a CDC 6000 computer to search a catalog of 500,000 articles. That was the precursor of the "search engine". Lockheed's Information Systems Laboratory, established by the mathematician Gene Duncan in 1964, worked on computer vision (Oscar Firschein) and speech understanding (Lois Earl).

Culture and Society

The cultural life of San Francisco could care less about computers. It was, in fact, moving in the opposite direction, towards primitive, grotesque and provocative forms of expression. The assault to the senses was global. In 1959 dancer and mime Ron Davis had founded the R.G. Davis Mime Studio and Troupe, better known as the San Francisco Mime Troupe, specializing in silent anti-establishment mimed comedies inspired by the Italian "commedia dell'arte". And, incidentally, San Francisco's most famous dancer was Carol Doda, who became famous because, at the age of 26 in 1964, she performed topless in a bar, the Condor Club, creating a whole new profession. In 1961 Bruce Baillie and Mildred "Chick" Strands founded the San Francisco Cinematheque to show experimental films and videos. At the same time Bruce Baillie started the artist-run cooperative Canyon Cinema that also distributed the films (one year before Jonas Mekas started the more famous Film-Makers Cooperative in New York). In 1962 composers Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender established the San Francisco Tape Music Center to foster avantgarde music. Pauline Oliveros' dadaistic chamber music and Terry Riley's repetitive patterns had little to do with classical music. Subotnick indulged in chaotic live electronic music, thanks to Berkeley-based hobbyist Don Buchla, who built his first electronic synthesizer in 1963. The experimental music of the Bay Area was, again, representative of an alternative lifestyle and an anticonformist approach to innovation. The first technical director of the Tape Music Center, Michael Callahan, was still a teenager when he helped poet Gerd Stern create the multimedia show "Verbal American Landscape". The duo then moved to New York where in 1964 they helped Steve Durkee form USCO, whose first mentor was a luminary like Marshall McLuhan at the University of Rochester. Their multimedia performance "Who R U" shocked San Francisco in 1963. In 1966 their show "Shrine" at New York's Riverside Museum coined the term "be-in". Unlike Europe and the East Coast, where the audience was mainly music specialists, in San Francisco experimental music reached a broad and diverse audience. It was, yet again, the spirit of the eccentric independent, indifferent to the rules and the traditions of the genre.

Tony Martin also injected the light show (pioneered by Seymour Locks and Elias Romero) into the artistic mix of the Tape Music Center. Locks' improvisational light shows were an early influence on trumpet player Stan Shaff and electrical engineer Doug McEachern. Starting in 1963, they crafted public three-dimensional sound events and in 1967 established the sound theatre Audium, which in 1975 would move to a new location on Bush St and begin offering weekly performances in complete darkness. Bill Ham took Locks' light show into the psychedelic era, "decorating" a 1965 rock concert in Virginia City and organizing a three-week performance of "electric action painting" in San Francisco the following year. Both Martin and Ham had been trained in abstract expressionism as art students. The light show spread to New York (where Danny Williams animated Andy Warhol's "Exploding Plastic Inevitable", that also stage a sensational act in San Francisco in May 1966), to Seattle (notably Don Paulson's Lux Sit & Dance and Ron McComb's Union Light Company, both formed after a November 1966 concert held by community-based radio station KRAB) and to Los Angeles (Single Wing Turquoise Bird in 1968). The other influence on the light show was free jazz. Bill Ham's Light Sound Dimension (LSD) debuted in 1967 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and featured electronic jazz improvisers. In 1968 became a weekly light and sound event at the Light Sound Dimension Theatre.

In 1962 Michael Murphy, a former Stanford student who had spent two years in India to practice meditation, opened the "Esalen Institute" at Big Sur to promote the integration of Eastern and Western philosophy, and what came to be known as "spiritual healing". Esalen became the epicenter of the "human-potential movement" after Aldous Huxley's lectures on the idea that humans are not fully realizing their potential, a potential that could lead to much better lives.

The visual arts found a new haven in the east bay. Peter Voulkos, who had started the "Funk" movement by applying the aesthetics of abstract expressionism to ceramic sculptures, had moved to U.C. Berkeley in 1959. U.C. Davis (between Berkeley and Sacramento), in particular, became a major artistic center. Pop art was pioneered by Wayne Thiebaud (even before Warhol made it famous in New York), who moved to Davis in 1960. Ceramic artist Robert Arneson became the local leader of the funk aesthetics pioneered by Voulkos. William Wiley, who joined Davis in 1963, expanded funk to painting. Roy De Forest joined the faculty in 1965. The most influential of the Davis group was perhaps Wayne Thiebaud's assistant Bruce Nauman, who (after joining the San Francisco Art Institute in 1966) went on to dabble in a variety of media (photography, neon, video, printmaking, sculpture, performance), therefore establishing a praxis of interdisciplinary art.

In 1962 John Irwin started the magazine Artforum in San Francisco, although it moved to Los Angeles three years later.

In 1967 Peter Selz organized an exhibition titled "Funk" at the Berkeley Art Museum that gave a name to a loose association of dissident artists. Just like "beat" literature, "funk" art was an attitude, not a specific style. Unlike Bay Area's figurative painting, that originated programmatically from art schools, funk emerged spontaneously from the bohemian counterculture of San Francisco. The funk and beat scenes are better characterized as a network rather than a movement: free from the pressures of the art and literary markets, these creators were mostly motivated by the goal of impressing their peers. It was mostly a private, not public, practice.

Meanwhile, the first public showing of computer art was held at San Jose State University in May 1963, organized by Joan Shogren, who had programmed a computer with "artistic" principles.

There were other symbols of the era. In 1966 Dutch coffee roaster Alfred Peet opened Peet's Coffee & Tea in Berkeley's "gourmet ghetto". Its second location was in downtown Menlo Park, the only coffee house in town. Both stores became the fashionable social hubs of the 1970s outside San Francisco.

Something truly monumental was happening in the Bay Area. In 1964 Mario Savio at U.C. Berkeley started the "Free Speech Movement", the first major case of student upheaval, peaking with the "Sproul Hall Sit-In" of december in which 768 protesters were arrested, a movement that eventually would lead to massive student marches and riots around the nation and Western Europe. The underground political magazine "Berkeley Barb", founded in August 1965 by Max Scherr, was the main organ of anti-establishment propaganda. Meanwhile that same year in the south bay, MkUltra's alumnus Ken Kesey organized the "Merry Pranksters", a group of young freaks who traveled around the country in a "Magic Bus", lived in a commune in La Honda and experimented with "acid tests". LSD began to be manufactured in large quantities by Owsley "Bear" Stanley at the Berkeley campus. It soon became widely available and relatively cheap. The Berkeley campus had hosted an Institute for Personality Assessment and Research since 1949. The CIA was involved in it from inception, and probably contributed to the diffusion of psychoactive drugs in the campus. Incidentally, the most famous of LSD gurus, Timothy Leary, was at the time (late 1950s) the director of the Kaiser Foundation Psychological Research in Oakland and did teach at U.C. Berkeley, but did not try LSD until 1960, when he had just moved to Harvard. Whatever the original source of hallucinogenic drugs, they became the common denominator of the Bay Area's cultural life, and the symbol of an attack on the "American way of life". In 1965 the cultural world became even more effervescent. For example, Ron Davis of the San Francisco Mime Troupe published the essay "Guerrilla Theatre"; Ben Jacopetti inaugurated the Open Theater as a vehicle devoted to multimedia performances for the Berkeley Experimental Arts Foundation; and the Family Dog Production organized the first hippie festival. The authorities had lost control of the situation and a youth culture was taking over the area, headquartered in the Haight-Ashbury district. Word of mouth was spreading throughout the USA and young people were attracted to San Francisco's extravagant and tolerant society. By 1966 the media could not ignore the phenomenon anymore: in january Steward Brand, who had been a volunteer at Stolaroff's International Federation for Advanced Studies and a member of the Merry Pranksters, organized the "Trips Festival" that collated Ken Kesey's "Acid Test", Jacopetti's Open Theater, Sender's Tape Music Center and rock bands; the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead popularized a new genre of music inspired by psychedelic drugs, acid-rock; Willie Brown formed the Artists Liberation Front at the Mime Troupe's Howard Street loft; the first issue of the San Francisco Oracle, an underground cooperative pamphlet, was published; Emmett Grogan and members of the Mime Troupe founded the "Diggers", a group of improvising actors and activists whose stage was the streets and parks of the Haight-Ashbury district and whose utopia was the creation of a Free City; the first "Summer of Love" of the hippies was going on, including a three-day "Acid Test" with the Grateful Dead performing; Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and other African-American Oakland-based activists founded the socialist-inspired and black-nationalist "Black Panther Party" (the violent counterpart to the pacifist "flower power" ideology of the hippies).

In June and July of 1966 landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and his wife, dancer Anna Halprin, started a series of cross-disciplinary workshops titled "Experiments in Environment" that involved architects, environmentalists, musicians, filmmakers, choreographers and light shows. They were held at the Sea Ranch (a coastal community envisioned by Al Boeke and designed in 1964 by Lawrence) and on Mt Tamalpais, both located north of San Francisco.

Coming out of the Free Speech Movement, the Free University was inaugurated in 1965, operating out of a trailer at San Francisco State University. Within a few years that would be dozens of Free Universities around the USA, that provided both free college-level education and country-wide networking. Next door to the Free University of Menlo Park in 1966 Dick Raymond founded the Portola Institute to bring computer education to schools and hired Stewart Brand and Bob Albrecht. In 1968 Willis Harman started teaching the influential class "Human Potential" at Stanford University.

The gay community, that on New Year's Day of 1965 had staged a widely publicized "Mardi Gras Ball", was indirectly a beneficiary of the hippy phenomenon. Eureka Valley, the area south of the Haight-Ashbury (the headquarters of the hippies), was a conservative middle-class neighborhood that did not quite appreciate the crazy circus going on a few blocks away. Many families decided to emigrate to the suburbs and the Eureka Valley became a ghost town. Gay couples, unwelcome elsewhere, were able to snatch up cheap Victorian homes and renovate them. The district soon became known for its main street, Castro Street.

The revolution was widespread and octopus-like. In retrospect, nothing has undermined the "American way of life" and its traditional moral values as much as California: the male society of the Gold Rush, the sexual promiscuity of the hippies, the same-sex families of gay couples, the decadent lifestyle of the Hollywood stars, and the eccentric indulgence of the tycoons.

Science in the Bay Area

Stanford University too was hyperactive. Continuing Hansen's work on a particle accelerator propelled by ever more powerful klystron tubes (i.e. microwaves), Ed Ginzton, the co-founder with Russell and Siguard Varian of Varian Associates who still kept one foot in Stanford, had built by 1952 a one-billion electron-volt (1GeV) particle accelerator, the Mark III, which was the most powerful in the world, and founded Stanford's Microwave Laboratory. In 1951 Pief Panofsky had been hired away from the Berkeley's Radiation Lab, where he had designed the latest proton accelerator. The two joined forces to launch "Project M" for building a more powerful machine. The result was the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), the longest linear accelerator in the world, which started operating in 1962. In 1963 John McCarthy (the founding father of artificial intelligence) moved to Stanford from the MIT, and in 1966 he opened the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) on the hills a few kilometers away from the campus. It became a West-Coast alternative to Project MAC. Another transplant from the East Coast, Herbert Simon's pupil Ed Feigenbaum, designed the first knowledge-based or "expert" system, Dendral (1965), an application of Artificial Intelligence to organic chemistry in collaboration with Carl Djerassi. It differed from Simon's Logic Theorist because it aimed for a specific domain (organic chemistry), just like humans tend to be experts only in some areas, and it emphasized the importance of domain heuristics, the "rules of thumb" that experts use to find solutions to problems. Douglas Engelbart at the nearby SRI toyed with the first prototype of a "mouse" (1963), part of a much bigger project funded by NASA to reinvent the human-computer interaction. In 1965 Charlie Rosen at SRI started a project for an autonomous mobile robot with the idea of combining all the fields of Artificial Intelligence: knowledge representation, logical reasoning, machine learning, computer vision, etc; and all of this on an IBM mini-computer with only 64 Kbytes of memory. The machine would eventually be named "Shakey the Robot". The project was almost entirely funded by the DARPA. Indirectly McCarthy and Engelbart started two different ways of looking at the power of computers: McCarthy represented the ideology of replacing humans with intelligent machines, whereas Engelbart represented the view of augmenting humans with machines that can make them smarter. Following his former scientist Carl Djerassi, Al Zaffaroni relocated biotech pioneer Syntex from Mexico City to the Stanford Industrial Park in 1963, and the following year the birth-control pill was introduced commercially. In 1967 a graduate in music composition and a pioneer of computer music who had been using the computer at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, John Chowning, invented "frequency modulation synthesis", a technology that allowed an electronic instrument to simulate the sound of orchestral instruments (an invention refined in the 1970s by Yamaha to manufacture electronic keyboards). Stanford had become an ebullient scientific environment and it was rapidly expanding beyond the original "Quadrangle". In 1968 Niels Reimers established an office at Stanford University, later renamed Office of Technology Licensing (OTL), to literally market Stanford's inventions to the industry. By 2001 it would pass the $1 billion income mark.

The Semiconductor Community

Progress at Fairchild had been rapid, and mainly due to two new employees from the Midwest: Dave Talbert (hired in 1962) and Bob Widlar (hired in 1963). In 1963 Widlar (a wildly eccentric character) produced the first single-chip "op-amp". In 1964 Talbert and Widlar created the first practical analog (or "linear") integrated circuit that opened a whole new world of applications. Their work set the standards for design of semiconductor devices. Another isolated genius at Fairchil was Frank Wanlass, a Utah engineer who worked for Fairchild for less than two years (1962-63) but completely changed the face of the industry. In 1963 he invented a new technique to build integrated circuits, Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS). A Metal-Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) element consists of three layers: a conducting electrode (metal), an insulating substance (typically, glass), and the semiconducting layer (typically, silicon). Depending on whether the semiconductor has been doped with electrons (n-type) or holes (p-type), the MOS circuit can be nMOS or pMOS. CMOS, by combining both types in appropriate complementary symmetry configurations, greatly reduced current flows. Thanks to CMOS, MOS circuits thus provided low power consumption, low heat and high density, making it possible to squeeze hundreds of transistors on a chip, and eventually to drop semiconductors into digital watches and pocket calculators. Wanlass quit Fairchild in december 1963 to join General Microelectronics (GMe), where the first MOS product was completed in 1964, a few months ahead of Fairchild; but Wanlass quit again after just one year and moved to the East Coast, and then back to his native Utah. The gospel of CMOS spread thanks to Wanlass' continuous job changes and to his willingness to evangelize. CMOS wasn't the only innovation of the time. In 1963 Sylvania introduced the first commercial TTL integrated circuits, the Universal High-Level Logic family (SUHL), developed by Thomas Longo, who in 1962 had created the first gigahertz transistor, the Sylvania 2N2784. Initially the main customers of MOS circuits were government agencies (NSA and NASA). Lee Boysel, a young Michigan physicist working at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica, met Frank Wanlass of General Microelectronics (GMe) in 1964 and learned about MOS technology. In 1965 Lee Boysel moved to IBM's Alabama laboratories to apply his MOS skills. In 1966 Fairchild hired Boysel from IBM to start a MOS group. Boysel perfected a four-phase clocking technique to create very dense MOS circuits. In 1967, at a time when computer memories made of transistors were still a rarity, Boysel proved that one could build an entire computer with MOS technology. Under the casual management of Noyce, however, Fairchild Semiconductor was basically run by the marketing people. The competitors were catching up and the company posted its first loss in 1967. Finally, there was another independent genius, Federico Faggin, originally hired in Italy who relocated to Fairchild's Palo Alto labs in 1968. Faggin invented silicon-gated MOS transistors. Silicon control gates are faster, smaller and use less energy than the aluminum control gates that had been commonplace until then. Now that both contacts and gates were made of silicon, the manufacturing process was simpler. It was this invention that allowed for the exponential growth in chip density (in number of transistors that could be packed into a chip). Fairchild introduced the first silicon-gate integrated circuit in october 1968.

Several semiconductor companies dotted the landscape between Stanford and San Jose, and almost all of them could trace their roots back to Fairchild, such as: Amelco (a division of Teledyne), co-founded in 1961 by three Fairchild founders including Jean Hoerni, that delopved one of the first analog integrated circuits; Molectro, founded in 1962 by James Nall and of Fairchild, that in 1965 hired the two Fairchild geniuses, Bob Widlar and Dave Talbert, and that was acquired in 1967 by East-Coast based National Semiconductor (controlled by pioneer high-tech venture capitalist Peter Sprague) that eventually relocated to Santa Clara (in 1968) after "stealing" many more brains from Fairchild (notably Charlie Sporck, Pierre Lamond, Don Valentine, Floyd Kwamie and Regis McKenna); General Microelectronics (GMe), founded in 1963 by Fairchild engineers (including Don Farina and Phil Ferguson), that developed the first commercial MOS (Metal-Oxide Semiconductor) integrated circuits in 1965 (for the Victor 3900 calculator), and was eventually (1966) bought by Philadelphia-based Philco (that in turn had been acquired by Ford Motor); Applied Materials Technology (AMT), founded in 1967 by Mike McNeilly; Electronic Arrays, founded in 1967 by Jim McMullen; Intersil, started in 1967 by Jean Hoerni to produce low-power CMOS circuits for electronic watches (funded by a Swiss watchmaker); and Monolithic Memories, founded in 1968 by Fairchild's engineer Zeev Drori. Fairchild was generating the same phenomenon of "spin-offs" that had been witnessed two generations earlier by FTC. Virtually the only semiconductor companies that were not based in the Santa Clara Valley were Texas Instruments, Motorola and RCA. They did not spawn anything closer to the genealogical tree of Fairchild's spin-offs. The Bay Area was quite unique in encouraging engineers to continue expanding their ideas outside their employer and to continuously innovate over already successful businesses.

The vast incestuous network of local spin-offs was creating a self-sustaining manufacturing community that mixed Darwinian competition/selection with symbiotic inter-dependent cooperation. It was this odd coupling of competition and cooperation that made the rapid pace of technological progress in semiconductors possible. The start-ups were very jealous of their industrial secrets but at the same time very aware of who was working on what, and not shy to band together when advantageous. As a whole the system of companies that were easily born and easily "killed" was highly flexible and therefore capable of adapting quickly to changing circumstances. The system "metabolized" a complex technology by way of inter-related specialized technologies. The system exhibited a form of collective learning from the responses to its actions. The network as a whole, in fact, constituted an efficient organism that, just like biological organisms, was capable of adaptation, evolution, reproduction, metabolism and learning. It is not true that Silicon Valley companies shared knowledge (they were actually were jealous of their industrial secrets) but it is true that the network as a whole did so through its dynamics.

In 1965 Gordon Moore predicted that the processing power of computers would double every 12 months (later revised to 18 months, what came to be known as "Moore's law"). The semiconductor industry experienced a rapid acceleration towards increased power, smaller sizes and lower prices. The military played a fundamental role in fostering this process. The new technologies were too expensive and unstable to be viable for the general market. The armed forces were the only entity that was willing (in fact, eager) to experiment with novel technologies, and that did not bargain on the price. The "Cold War" was even more powerful than World War II in motivating the USA government to invest in research: global intelligence and communications were becoming more important than the weapons themselves (that were really used only in Vietnam). And these systems were built out of microwave devices that were the Bay Area's specialty. The USA government served as both a munificent venture capitalist that did not expect a return (and not even co-ownership) and an inexpensive testbed.

In 1964 the head of Sylvania's Electronic Defense Lab (EDL), Stanford alumnus Bill Perry, took most of his staff and formed Electromagnetic Systems Laboratory (ESL) in Palo Alto, working on electronic intelligence systems and communications in collaboration with Stanford and in direct competition with his previous employer. His idea was to embed computers in these systems, something that had become feasible thanks to Fairchild's integrated circuits. By turning signals into digital streams of zeros and ones, ESL pioneered the field of digital signal processing, initially for the new satellite reconnaissance systems designed by Bud Wheelon, a former Stanford classmate who in 1962 had been appointed director of the Office of Scientific Intelligence at the CIA. ESL's innovation was not only technological. Perry's intention was to replicate Hewlett Packard's corporate culture, and in fact to better it: HP handed out stock only to management, but ESL was the first company to extend the program to every employee. (For the record, Perry went on to become secretary of defense under president Bill Clinton).

An important boost to the industry of integrated circuits came from NASA's Apollo mission to send a man to the Moon. NASA had been using analog computers, but for this mission in august 1961 it commissioned the MIT's Instrumentation Lab to build a digital computer. The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was the first computer to use integrated circuits. Each unit used more than 4,000 integrated circuits from Fairchild. That number represented a significant share of the worldwide market for integrated circuits. In 1964 NASA switched to Philco's integrated circuits, thus turning Philco into a semiconductor giant and enabling it to buy General Microelectronics.

In 1965 Hewlett Packard employed about 9,000 people, Fairchild 10,000 and Lockheed Missiles Division 28,000 employees. The defense industry was still dominant.

The semiconductor boom also created a fertile ground for hobbyists. Halted Specialties Company, that would become the first electronics superstore of Silicon Valley, opened its doors in 1963 in Santa Clara to sell electronic components and instruments.

Few of the companies that had thrived in the age of microwave electronics made a successful transition to the age of the integrated circuit. The protagonists had changed. What had remained was the template of collaboration among university, industry and military.

Beyond Semiconductors

At the other end of the bay, Berkeley wasn't just the site of student riots and psychoactive drug tests: in 1965 U.C. Berkeley's Lotfi Zadeh invented Fuzzy Logic. There were new technology companies (notably Dolby Labs, founded by former Ampex employee Ray Dolby while in Britain in 1965 and relocated to San Francisco in 1976), and new investment companies (notably Sutter Hill Ventures, formed in 1964 by Bill Draper and Paul Wythes).

In 1961 Laurence Spitters, a Wall Street investment banker who had moved to San Francisco and joined Ampex in 1958, founded Memorex in Santa Clara taking three Ampex engineers with him to manufacture high-precision magnetic tapes that could also be used as data storage.

Towards a More Humane Electronic Brain

This section has moved to A Brief History of Electrical Technology

Hewlett-Packard still concentrated on instrumentation. They got into computers (the HP 2116A in november 1966, its first machine that used integrated circuits) and desk calculators (the 9100A in 1968) and hand-held calculators (the HP-35 in 1972) only because they were the natural evolution of instrumentation. The 2116A was marketed as an "instrumentation computer" and boasted interfaces for more than 20 scientific instruments, and it had been designed by engineers from Data Systems, a Detroit company that HP had acquired in 1964 and that already marketed a computer, the DSI 1000. It was nonetheless an engineering achievement, the second 16-bit minicomputer to be available commercially. It used integrated circuits from Fairchild and memory chips from Ampex. However casual and half-hearted, that was the beginning of the computer industry in Silicon Valley.

Unbeknownst to the masses and to the media, an important experiment was conducted at Stanford for the first time in the world. Two psychology professors, Patrick Suppes and Richard Atkinson, created a computer-based program to teach children from lower-income families, the precursor of e-learning. Later, Suppes became the Terman of e-learning, encouraging local startups in this field.


There were other high-tech industries flowering in Silicon Valley. A Stanford graduate, Ted Maiman, working at Hughes Research Laboratories in Los Angeles had demonstrated the first laser (a ruby laser) in may 1960, beating the more famous teams of Charles Townes at Columbia University and Arthur Schawlow at Bell Labs, not to mention the very inventor of the laser, Gordon Gould, who had moved to the firm TRG (Technical Research Group) from Columbia (in 1959 Gould had coined the term, which stands for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation"). Schawlow joined Stanford's Microwave Lab in 1961. Meanwhile, Eugene Watson and Earl Bell had worked at Varian in the 1950s, where Herb Dwight had led the project to build the first practical helium-neon laser (completed in 1961). To capitalize on that invention, in 1961 Dwight and Bell founded Spectra-Physics in Mountain View, the world's first laser start-up, and in 1962 they hired Watson as sales manager. Revenues went soaring, mostly because labs all over the world wanted a taste of the new technology. Watson and Spectra-Physics' young scientist James Hobart then opened Coherent Radiation Laboratories (later Coherent Laser) in may 1966 at the Stanford Industrial Park, staffing it with Spectra-Physics engineers, to commercialize the more powerful lasers invented at Bell Labs (the carbon-dioxide laser) and at Spectra-Physics (the ion laser). Another spin-off of Spectra-Physics would be Chromatix in 1969 in Sunnyvale. Spectra-Physics went on to build the first bar-code scanner ever used in a store (in 1974). The laser was a formidable invention. No other invention would be integrated so quickly in society and become so pervasive in such a short time (bar-code scanners, compact discs, cutting and welding, holography, precision surgery).

Culture and Society

Ironically, San Francisco was still moving in the opposite direction, away from cold technology and towards nature and humanity.

First of all, the poets of Berkeley and San Francisco had become an intellectual force mainly via oral performances. Their activity and influence peaked in 1964-65. Most poetry readings took place in coffeehouses, notably the Blue Unicorn in the Haight-Ashbury district. In 1965 UC Berkeley hosted a 24-day-long Poetry Conference. In that year San Francisco published an impressive number of limited-edition poetry books and literary magazines. In january 1967 a "Human Be-In" was held at the Golden Gate Park, and the beach town of Monterey hosted the first major rock festival in june of that year. John Lion started the Magic Theatre in 1967. In 1968 Stewart Brand of the Portola Institute published the first "Whole Earth Catalog", a sort of alternative yellow pages that listed products targeting the hippie lifestyle and featured articles on all sorts of counterculture topics. Not only did the catalog sell well (in 1971 it would print one million copies) but it also introduced the praxis of letting readers review products. The Whole Earth Catalog, just like (on a smaller scale) the flyer-based grass-roots campaigns of the hippies, pioneered the process of "going viral" without the traditional marketing that came from the mainstream media. Not only did the catalog sell well (in 1971 it would print one million copies) but it also introduced the praxis of letting readers review products. In 1968 Chip Lord founded the Ant Farm to promote avantgarde architecture and design. The news media went berserk reporting from San Francisco about the bizarre youth counterculture, and millions of young people around the world started imitating it. The whole hippie phenomenon paralleled the Bay Area's flare in interest for computer science and the growth of the Bay Area's semiconductor industry.

The Bay Area was already becoming a uniquely "inclusive" stew of ethnic and cultural traditions. Indian musician Ali Akbar Khan founded the Ali Akbar College of Music in 1967 in Berkeley to teach and spread Indian classical music, that was becoming increasingly popular among the rebellious youth like everything else from India and the Far East. In 1968 Seiichi Tanaka founded the first taiko percussion ensemble in the USA, the San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Chicano theater was born between San Francisco and San Jose. In 1965 Luis Valdez, a member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe, established the company El Teatro Campesino, specializing in improvised political theater, and this company in 1967 became the model for Adrian Vargas's company Teatro de la Gente in San Jose. In 1968 Ruth Asawa, the daughter of Japanese immigrants, started art programs in San Francisco public schools, and employed 200 schoolchildren to build a mermaid fountain in Ghirardelli Square. Cozetta and Ike Guinn (an artist and her physicist husband) opened the Nbari Art gallery in Los Altos, specializing in African art.

At the time many new residential areas were being developed between San Francisco and San Jose. Underpopulated Bay Area fostered a different urban model than the one popularized by Manhattan's skyscrapers. There was plenty of free space south of San Francisco, and therefore no need for high-rise buildings. Earthquakes also helped shape the urban environment as an endless flow of flat buildings with no particular center. The community lay horizontal, reached by walking instead of elevators. The main square had disappeared. Even Main Street and Broadway (the two staples of urban topography in most USA towns) were missing (or few knew where they were). San Francisco was called "the city" because the cities of Silicon Valley were not cities.

One of the most important events of 1965 for Silicon Valley had nothing to do with technology per se: the Immigration Act of 1965 greatly increased the quotas of immigrants allowed from various countries and allowed immigration based on rare skills, such as software or hardware engineering. For example, only 47 scientists immigrated to the USA from Taiwan in 1965, but in 1967 the number was 1,321. That immigration law started a brain drain of engineers and scientists from Europe and especially the Far East towards Silicon Valley that would have far-reaching consequences.

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi)

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