Tuesday, May 14, 2013

IEEE History of Silicon Valley evening

Paul Wesling gave a great talk at Michael's Restaurant at Shoreline last evening for IEEE Life Fellows titled: "The History of Silicon Valley: Why and How It Happened Here"  Wesling, a long-time Valley vet, focused on 1906-1955, or until Shockley 'came to town'.   Thus it was the Tube Guys -- the Varian borthers, Eitel, McCullough, Charlie Litton, and of course Fred Terman, Dave Parckard, Bill Hewlett.

It was very well done, covering how radio really emerged here prior to television which originated here also (factoids that the East Coast still struggles with).  He did cover the rise of RCA, but not the way in which GE and the Navy conspired to put the Bay Area company Federal Telegraph out of business.  He did cover, nicely, the way in which EiMac tubes and the companies were able to defeat GE and RCA on patents for high-frequency vacuum tubes for FM radio -- a beautiful story!

Wesling noted that HP got its microwave instrument line from Varian in 1949 for $20,000, a pittance, and a number I didn't have in my book.  Packard said this was a 'dime on the dollar', but I never found the amount in our research.

Wesling emphasized that the techniques that enabled all of the tube manufacture, including the all-important microwave tubes, were in situ for the needs of the nascent silicon manufacturing that would build a new capability in semiconductors.  That was the basis of his statement that Silicon leadership HAD to happen here.  Almost pre-ordained.

He also singled out Bud Eldon for his contributions to IEEE locally and globally; nice to see Bud get praised, even if it was posthumous.

At the end, he cited several sources, putting up a picture first of Lecuyer's fine book, then The Tube Guys by Norman Pond (I did not know of this one), and then The HP Phenomenon.  WOW!  He really touted it, although he did say "it's a heavy book".  True.

I'll try to get a copy of his slides for posting or at least a pointer.

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