Vivek Haldar

The origins of Silicon Valley

If you work in tech, your Mecca is Silicon Valley. And this story (from back in 1983) traces in lifelike detail the journey of a mid-western boy called Robert Noyce from Iowa to Palo Alto, and how he founded what is now called Silicon Valley. Even if you think you know about the Valley’s history, read this.

What stood out to me was how the culture of those who work in the Valley is essentially unchanged from what Noyce created half a century ago.

People who run even the newest companies in the Valley repeat Noycisms with conviction and with relish. The young CEOs all say: “Datadyne is not a corporation, it’s a culture, ” or “Cybernetek is not a corporation, it’s a society, ” or “Honey Bear’s assets”? the latest vogue is for down-home nontech names?“Honey Bear’s assets aren’t hardware, they’re the software of the three thousand souls who work here.” They talk about the soul and spiritual vision as if it were the most natural subject in the world for a well-run company to be concerned about.

And at the root of all that was Noyce’s hatred of the class system in corporations from the East Coast, then dominant.

Noyce realized how much he detested the eastern corporate system of class and status with its endless gradations, topped off by the CEOs and vice-presidents who conducted their daily lives as if they were a corporate court and aristocracy. He rejected the idea of a social hierarchy at Fairchild. Not only would there be no limousines and chauffeurs, there would not even be any reserved parking places. Work began at eight A.M. for one and all, and it would be first come, first served, in the parking lot, for Noyce, Gordon Moore, Jean Hoerni, and everybody else. “If you come late,” Noyce liked to say, “you just have to park in the back forty.” And there would be no baronial office suites. The glorified warehouse on Charleston Road was divided into work bays and a couple of rows of cramped office cubicles. The cubicles were never improved. The decor remained Glorified Warehouse, and the doors were always open.