Valley Of Genius

The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley

Adam Fisher, Beaverton Library, 338.47 FIS

Interesting. Annoying. Many surprising factoids. And way too time consuming. I skipped many chapters.

The book reads like 30 long, edited twitter conversations among brilliant and eloquent people. It is pasted-together quotes from hundreds of "people who were there" interviews, not actual conversations between those people. The main story is software startup culture: informal, insane hours, uninhibited behavior, and extremes of nastiness and brilliance. The story repeats over and over again, with different clothing: SRI, Atari, Apple II, Xerox PARC, Mac, Ipod, Iphone. Ebay, Facebook, Twitter, Netscape, Goggle. Almost nothing about silicon: Fairchild, Intel, National - that happened in the different parallel universe that I inhabited. Not much about the open source movement, which was global, not exclusively Bay Area. Details about the first Hacker's Conference at Fort Cronkhite, with no mention of the subsequent 30+ Conferences; just as well, what happens at Hacker's stays at Hackers.

Page 269 to 270 briefly mentions Larry Page's fascination with the space elevator in 1995, with comments from his Stanford thesis advisor Terry Winograd, and Heather Cairns (Google HR). Then the quote-stream moves on to the evolution of Google.

The Internet Archive was San Francisco. Linux was Helsinki, then Portland (with servers in Corvallis). Microsoft was Redmond. Wikipedia was Florida. This book is about famous software happenings between Palo Alto and Cupertino. The book mentions the power shift from New York City to Silicon Valley; it does not dwell on the acres of empty office buildings and parking lots at the end of the dotcom bubble. The revolution is now globalized, and multilingual.

The future described here is untethered by physics and resources; when software folk start talking about big hardware or networks, they lose track of the supply chain and the waste stream. That's left for us Morlocks laboring on the machines underground, the "Sons of Martha" in Kipling's poem. Most of the Morlocks are in China now; hardware can live without "apps", apps require hardware, and the Eloi may discover someday that the sun does not shine for them only. Books are written by Eloi and printed by Morlocks.

So, this is one author's heavily edited and artificially arranged story of What Happened with Silicon Valley Software - without the silicon. It is a surprisingly good story, given the restrictions of the format. Vastly more story from hundreds of hours of interviews is stored in a bookshelf of printouts in the author's office. I wonder what a different author would make of all that, and what a different interviewer's transcripts would look like. I'm guessing many other reporters and authors will be inspired by this interesting format, and take the same experiences in other directions.

ValleyOfGenius (last edited 2019-02-16 10:58:02 by KeithLofstrom)