Stanford historian Leslie Berlin discusses her book about Silicon Valley's origins, and some little-known yet significant innovators.
United States


00:00:01this podcast is brought to you by knowledge of Wharton we have no Silicon Valley to be a place of great innovation over the last few decades but with the good has come the bad the culture in that region of the country is taking its lumps whether it be
00:00:22sexism in those companies or lack of opportunities for women the issues have crept to the forefront of media coverage we know that some of the household names in that region like Steve Jobs over the years but what about some of the lesser known names who are just as
00:00:37important to the innovation but also part of the cultural issues as well Leslie Berlin is a project historian for the Silicon Valley archives at Stanford University and she looks at what has happened and why it is happened in her new book troublemakers how Silicon Valley came of age
00:00:56and it's a pleasure to have Leslie on the show with us right now Leslie welcome thank you so much glad to be here thank you so they I mean obviously in in archiving a lot of what Silicon Valley is and was the the the seeds of doing a
00:01:10book like this germinated yeah that's absolutely right at Stanford has an incredible archives that collect at old papers and video audio email of people and companies all across the lake in valley and I mean you can't help but fall in love with the history if you touch the
00:01:30thing that these people touched read what they wrote thinking no one would ever gonna see this notebook but then you know years later they decide to give it to Stanford and yeah the magic is very realistic it's so exciting to see that and then get to try to
00:01:43put all of these at at times it can seem like random bits of information in incredible stories from across the valley into two covers so when you talk about Silicon Valley now obviously the innovation and what is being brought forth in our culture the good part of it
00:02:03is obviously discussed with some of the issues as well was Silicon Valley and like that you basically the same back in the seventies yeah I think that when you look at Silicon Valley almost from the beginning there's there's always been and says wait for everybody right the the
00:02:22same thing that makes the place incredible or a person incredible can sometimes be there blind spot so in the seventies you have the same sort of pursuit of innovation and excitement and also to change it and doing things that people really felt needed to happen I'm in the
00:02:42spirit that we can do this %HESITATION and honestly in the seventies with the Vietnam War and then Watergate a real sense not only that we can do this but we have to do that that the big institutions are not going to protect us and combine that with the
00:02:56California counter culture that we already here and you get that sort of spirit on on the flip side then you end up with as people who and on the outside can can seem sort of and you know audacity can sometimes slip to arrogance and then of course Silicon
00:03:15Valley was part of the broader American culture which at the time was you know incredibly sexist in nineteen seventy four of them women couldn't get a credit card without her husband signature sexual harassment wasn't even acknowledged %HESITATION as illegal until nineteen seventy seven I believe so I think
00:03:37it's just you know with the good comes the bad of course well it in your book focuses all light on some of the lesser known names of Silicon Valley and obviously as I mentioned you know Steve Jobs is probably one of the the the largest teams in the
00:03:55history of that region but what why what is it about these other people that really drove you to want to do **** to write about them but also really to drive them to to have the successes that they had so I think there's there's so many reasons I
00:04:15think that it takes nothing away from the people in the spotlight to recognize that usually just outside the border of that spotlight are so many people without whom the other person couldn't beat out where they are as I talk about in the book having gone to a party
00:04:34one where the CEO of the company with a very famous celebrity CEO was singing a little song call and and I'd literally the only lyrics to that song where I did all the work he got all the credit and I think that innovation is a team sport and
00:04:53we need to recognize all the different people on these teams that said for me the criteria I had was with pretty straightforward wine I did want these to be people whose names were not household names not just for the fun of discovery but because these are the people
00:05:10and how often you hear about a celebrity engineer but then again no no engineers know Silicon Valley so I wanted them to be people who weren't necessarily well known people who were important and people whose stories themselves were absolutely fascinating so in the case of the apple I
00:05:28write about Mike Markkula yeah who owned a third of apple with jobs and Wozniak and who was the person who is able to sort of parlay their genius into a company at a time when there were dozens of little start up with people trying to build personal computers
00:05:47but it's Markkula who turn that company into the youngest company ever to hit the fortune five hundred well Markel was actually stop some I wanted at you about anyway because when you think about what apple has become today I don't know if anybody really even associate him with
00:06:03the company in any way shape or form yeah it was it was a really exciting discovery for me and you after a little bit about how did I come to this and so I had written my my first book was a biography of Bob Noyce who is the
00:06:18co founder of Intel and the co inventor of the microchip and actually an important mentor to Steve Jobs and %HESITATION acts while I was writing that book Mike Markkula who had worked with noise and Intel had said Hey if you ever do another book and I'd be happy
00:06:34to help you with it and I didn't really think anything of that then when I came to start looking at this time period and looked really looked at the early apple and I started realizing wait a second a job than Markkula are signing the annual report together you
00:06:48know what is this about and I realized not only was mark was so important but that entire generation that had come before of of people who worked in the semiconductor industry if you look at apple when it went public in nineteen eighty you had the president the chairman
00:07:06of the board the V. P. manufacturing VP of HR the the chief legal counsel VP sales each go all all of their first important investors they were all former chip people and all the sudden something that Steve Jobs said in his two thousand five commencement address at Stanford
00:07:23makes so much sense to me he talked about how when he had been fired from apple and he said he felt like he had dropped the baton that had been passed from David Packard to Bob Noyce to him and I thought wow this is this is a real
00:07:38thing this generational hand off is a really important part of understanding what makes Silicon Valley tech well you also add me speaking of the issue surrounding women you also talk with a center critic as well who was one of the I guess one of the first female entrepreneurs
00:07:54in Silicon Valley yes he was a software entrepreneur at a time where I mean Larry Ellison tells a story about trying to raise money up for oracle and going around with his two co founders add to venture capitalists and and not only being told we don't want to
00:08:13help you having them he I mean I'm sure the graduating because they would check in the brief case to make sure you know you hadn't stolen a copy of business week this thing like such a crazy idea Silicon Valley was all about hardware at the time and here
00:08:26comes the end records big not only doing software but a woman people thought she was selling lingerie when they heard that she was doing software she really built this entire company from her kitchen table out side the existing networks that existed in Silicon Valley what is she said
00:08:45about the the the issue of culture in Silicon Valley and and even to this day still being in it a problem to a degree well I I was just talking with her about this the other day I mean she was saying that you know the the opportunities for
00:08:59women now has never been greater and that the you know the companies that are going to really look at this very solid research that shows the value of add diversity not just among and gender but race you know that those are the companies that have been shown to
00:09:20be more innovative and and created in their thinking I think that %HESITATION sandy is a very practical person and that's something that comes across and not just about her but everyone in this book and and she took the situation that was handed to our and and turned it
00:09:39into what she needed it to be we are joined now by Leslie Byrne Berlin who is the author of the book troublemakers silicon valley's coming of age Leslie also project historian for the Silicon Valley archives at Stanford University your comments are welcome at eight four four Wharton eight
00:09:54four four nine four two seven eight six six of you can't get your phone shoot me a tweet at bizrate one eleven or my Twitter account which is at dammit Loni twenty one one of the other people that you talk with is this book and I'm old enough
00:10:09to remember this was the developer of palm and can I do remember playing it and now you think about that game and I'm speaking about Alan Alcorn you look at that what that game was an obvious it was one of the you know the first ventures into gaming
00:10:27video gaming but it mean it was it it was so simplistic when you think about it now but back then it was kind of transformational yet absolutely was and I mean we're talking about a time when when people like me obviously people didn't have computers in their houses
00:10:47when you had as green what you were looking at either was a lie or one of these a transparency that people used to have at their jobs or most likely what you were seeing was broadcast by the television networks so the notion that you could do anything on
00:11:05a little box in front of you for example if we're talking about the poem that comes to your housing and home phone and what you did affected the movement you saw on the screen this is astonishing to people even back in the arcades this was crazy to people
00:11:22%HESITATION it one of the founders of Atari told me that he used to get people asking him how did the networks know that you had turned the knob so that they would then change what you saw on the screen yeah eight four four nine four two seven eight
00:11:38six six or feel like some of the common via Twitter either app is radio one eleven or my Twitter account which is which is at Dan Loney twenty one up I'd be interested to get your opinion on the immigration issue and and how that is impacted Silicon Valley
00:11:53not just now but but over the years as well yes I mean Silicon Valley has always been built by people who weren't born here I mean in the beginning it with people coming from other parts of the United States but by the nineteen seventies the percent of the
00:12:09population that was born outside of the country was already about double what it is and what it was in the rest of the United States and and now we're at the point where two thirds of the people working in science and technology in the valley today two thirds
00:12:27of them were born outside of the United States more than half of the companies and you know the so called unicorn companies that are privately held with evaluation of a billion dollars or more more than half of those companies have someone born outside the United States as a
00:12:44founder co founder so you don't have Silicon Valley without immigrants and the other things we need to be working on like I I think there's been some pretty good evidence that the H. one B. visa system is not being used exactly the way it was a right handed
00:12:57to be used but that doesn't take away from the fact that and no immigrants know Silicon Valley but you also have speaking of the companies themselves you also have a variety of them that are dealing with the issues %HESITATION whether it be financial or regulatory not necessarily here
00:13:15but in other parts of the world and it is having quite an impact on those companies but also those regions of the world when you think about you know the issues that Amazon is having Google as well %HESITATION the money that is sitting off shore potentially to be
00:13:29repatriated but you know we have to have the right tax system in play yeah that's absolutely right I mean something that I think has has been a lesson that has come out again and again and again ana is that very often and these companies and the founders are
00:13:48surprised by how huge what they started out to do has become I mean one of the I I open the book and with a quote from at Indiana Jones you know from raiders of the Lost Ark and where Indian scholar talking and and in any says I'm going
00:14:06after that car in solitude how Indy said I don't know I'm making this up as I go along and that has really been part of what happened in Silicon Valley for a long time and when you're dealing with very big companies that are doing this it looks really
00:14:19different than when you're dealing with a scrappy little scarred at start up doing this Leslie Berlin is the author of the book troublemakers your comments welcome eight four four Wharton eight four four nine four two seven eight six six what's the opinion of kind of the tech movement
00:14:35now and and obviously Silicon Valley still Bob but we're starting to see more and more you know tech innovation pop up in in different places we see it here to a degree in Philadelphia we did have a segment on the show a few months back about it popping
00:14:49up in Cincinnati a little bit so I mean it's it's it it hasn't surged in a lot of other places maybe Austin being one of the ones that it has it really Silicon Valley is still the hub of this some forty years later yeah I think that I
00:15:06think there are a couple things at play here and of course you know Seattle the grading the Seattle took another huge camp region but everything you're pointing to really shows %HESITATION the shift to software and I mean you know it it used to be you needed literally billion
00:15:21dollar fab and and you had huge factories in Silicon Valley to build this stuff now that we've moved much more to software people basically with a computer and an internet connection are are able to be doing the innovation %HESITATION and that said I think that what has continued
00:15:39to make Silicon Valley on this the hub of the wheel in a lot of ways is that this there's just a finely tuned ecosystem that came up around and high tech this was more like an agricultural region before tech came here so everybody custom build essentially a business
00:15:59environment and at this point we're dealing with almost seventy five years of perfecting that environment let's really work to Silicon Valley to manage I mean it is it is it your expectation though that that we will see other hubs popping up in the years to come because of
00:16:16how how important it is to our society I mean none of us can live without a smartphone these days %HESITATION you know we have to have our our variety of other instruments to use whether be %HESITATION tablets of home computers whatever and obviously the the tech startup push
00:16:36has really pushed out into so many other sectors as well yeah I mean that's absolutely right and of course I mean the line between the tech industry in say the entertainment industry in the tech industry and and you know bio tech or the tech it's it's at this
00:16:51point it's really hard to disentangle the tech for everything else because it's just it's underpinning everything else and then of course we see and we have for a long time the whole whole areas of the world that are devoted to different parts of the and tech economy and
00:17:10that is just part of globalization any concerns up potentially of a tech bubble you know this is it's a cyclical economy and it's you know it's gone up is going to go down it's it's happened again and again and again and again and again I mean to me
00:17:27there was a real threat decillion valley which you can guess from what I said earlier would be some sort of integration and restrictions that I would worry about eight four four nine four two seven eight six six is the number to give us a call so are are
00:17:43there areas the of of the tech sector in Silicon Valley that still have lots of room to grow in your mind well you know one of the things that's been amazing about the valley to me is that it's just been one generation of tech after another though is
00:18:01if you had asked the chip people in the sixties are you know is there room for more are there room for more chip company they would have said well I don't know about that but then here you come with all your purse your personal computer and video games
00:18:16and biotech and then if you ask those people well you know they're more room in consumer tech I'm not sure what they would have said that then here come all the networking companies and then you know then you end up with your well now we're all the way
00:18:29it where it cloud were it mobile where it you know we had that wed to Dido but in there it's just been one thing after another after another though you know acting your friendly neighborhood historian know what's going to come next I can't tell you but what I
00:18:43can tell you is even the people who know these things and are surprised because something seemed always to bubble up next to one of the other people you that you are you interviewed in this was a Bob Swanson who was %HESITATION pretty well known person is as CEO
00:18:59of of Genentech for a long period of time what's his reaction to all that is going on in Silicon Valley and two degree with with Genentech since %HESITATION since it was bought out a bunch of years ago you know Bob Swanson is the only person on the who
00:19:15had already passed away when I started the book yet so I didn't have a chance to talk with him they are hitting on something that simple it really interesting point which is this is the first time I've written a book where all of the principals are alive and
00:19:29so I was able to actually talk with them about their reactions to change you know the changes that they've seen and of course not surprisingly %HESITATION you know they're all over the map and Bob Taylor is another one %HESITATION that unfortunately passed away last year as well correct
00:19:47yes but Bob was very opinionated and about you know Silicon Valley today he felt like it it should be called software valley which is a very justifiable thing to say more than half of all the VC investments at this point in the valley are going to software and
00:20:04and you know Bob loved he loved and being able to hit the one of the things that that his group did when he moved over the deck and was developed one of the first electronic books and he loved his candle and he kept he was an incredibly witty
00:20:20in regular email correspondent he did he was someone who from very early on with this is the guy who convinced the department of defense to start the arpanet that eventually kind of your foot into the internet felt like we can use electronics to connect and create communities across
00:20:37distance and he really felt like that happens is there still a lot of room for Silicon Valley to keep growing I you know I think as somebody who lives lives here I sort of look around and it's very very crowded and I think I don't know you know
00:20:53how much how much more the system can take and then literally I go back and look you know look at two thousand one they're saying there's no room for growth or you think you look at you look in the seventies and there and there are literally email thing
00:21:07it's the end for Silicon Valley you know too crowded too expensive no room for innovation Silicon Valley you know comes to an end and it's just I don't know I don't know how it keeps going it does just keep going any any any hints that you're hearing out
00:21:26there as to what Amazon is going to do with this going to court each cue to nope I does know inside track on that I was hoping we we might be able to get something there on on that since Philadelphia seemingly one of those areas that the that
00:21:40is a that is drawing attention on that Leslie thank you very much for your time today %HESITATION it's it's an entertaining book and we greatly appreciate you giving us a few minutes today alright I had a great time thanks for the call thank you very much the book
00:21:53is trouble makers Silicon Valley coming of age Leslie Berlin of Stanford University the author of the book for more insight from knowledge of more please visit knowledge dot Wharton dot you Penn dot EDU

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