Silicon Valley: A History of Change – Leslie Berlin

Emily Terada

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Credit: Flickr user Intel Free Press

Robert Noyce (right) and Gordon Moore founded tech giant Intel in 1968. Noyce is the subject of Stanford Project historian and History Week speaker Leslie Berlin’s book, The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley. Credit: Flickr user Intel Free Press

On Monday, February 9, Project historian Leslie Berlin of the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford University came to school to talk about the Silicon Valley’s rich history. Berlin, author of The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley, shared some of the lesser known history behind this area’s famous roots during third period.

Berlin began her talk with a brief primer of how Silicon Valley, a lively and bustling area, was once coined the ‘Valley of the Heart’s Delight.’ With its bountiful fruit orchards and successful canneries, Berlin described how the Santa Clara Valley flourished during this time.

The Silicon Valley also played an integral role in the war effort with companies such as Lockheed Martin (formerly Lockheed) and Hewlett-Packard developing into large defense technology companies. Berlin stated that she believes forward-thinking and drive is what led this area to its eventual success.

Over her career, Berlin has had the opportunity to interview many important Silicon Valley figures, including Steve Jobs. During the presentation, Berlin conveyed the valuable insight about these entrepreneurs that she was able to gain through these interviews.

In fact, Berlin quoted Jobs recalling to her that Silicon Valley veteran Robert Noyce wanted to give him the ‘smell’ of the culture that dominated the Valley. Berlin continued to state that Noyce largely influenced Jobs’ work ethic, and ultimately, saw him as a role model in the new and expanding field.

Throughout her talk, Berlin stressed the importance of recognizing past achievements, such as, William Shockley’s invention of the transistor, which has led to many great advancements in technology. Additionally, many of these same entrepreneurs like Jobs learned their trade as understudies from other important leaders in the area.

“You can’t understand what is happening today, unless you understand what came before,” Jobs said, according to Berlin.

Berlin concluded her presentation with a question and answer session and a takeaway message that multitudes of current entrepreneurs learned from other former prominent figures, in order to become successful. She stressed the unique ‘if you can create it, you can build it’ mentality that developed into Silicon Valley’s continuing quest to innovate and discover.

This is part of an ongoing series. Check back daily for updates on LAHS History Week.