Thursday, August 20, 2009

SIRS lecture yesterday

I had a great invitation to give a luncheon talk about the forthcoming book yesterday, to the "Sons in Retirement" group in Mountain View, CA. These folk, some 225 strong, are all retired by definition, and for the most part, they looked older than I feel. Although truth be known, I couldn't hardly see them; my eyes were dilated from an earlier visit to a Vitroretinal specialist (good guys to know if you have my problem, but better if you never need to know them).

I held forth for a half-hour, mostly reminiscing about "the origins of Silicon Valley" and filling in gaps for them that the Steve Blank lecture from a year ago managed to omit. Key things like the correlation between the US Forest Service, Cyril Elwell, and the use of short-wave Poulsen transmitters that GE and Marconi wanted "removed from service". The US Navy commandeered all radio manufacturers during WWI, and allowed GE to persuade the US govmt to set up RCA in 1919, and withhold returning assets to the West Coast companies for another two years.

The HP early years, especially the General Radio vs HP evolution, was a fun topic; some of the people were old enough to have been there...

I did manage to irk some ex-IBMers in the crowd apparently; during Q & A, one challenged me saying that IBM earns double the profits of HP. My rejoinder was, perhaps, unkind, citing the recent Biz Week article which noted that IBM has been specifically unfriendly to Americans and hardly worthy of its heritage by spending $73 billion on stock buybacks, creating 133,000 jobs abroad, and jettisoning 36,000 US jobs in the past eight years. Probably shouldn't have been so chary, but it certainly doesn't fit the "citizenship" or "community service" instincts that HP (and IBM) so long espoused. Dunno why I keep beating this dead horse...

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