Had there been no Cold War, would there be a Hot Valley?

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Silicon Valley
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Watching “Silicon Valley” on PBS last night, the riveting American Experience documentary, reminded us of the way the Cold War — specifically America’s response to a belligerent Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev — was seminal to America’s high-tech industry and the rise of the Valley.

Think about the advances prompted by DARPA (or its creation in the first place), the formation of NASA in the wake of the Sputnik launch, or the guidance systems for ICBMs just for starters. In fact, the government contracts awarded to upstarts like Fairchild Semiconductor helped fund the key technological advances that created the Valley we know today long before big checks were written on Sand Hill Road.

While the brilliant vision of Fairchild’s Bob Noyce, who went on to co-found Intel, saw high-tech applications far beyond NASA and DoD, the mother’s milk of innovation would come from a sense of urgency about national security. “Landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth”, in the words of JFK, wouldn’t just be the crowning achievement of the era but also the necessity that became the mother of invention that would culminate in today’s smartphones (more computer power than Apollo 11). Here’s to more inventors, breakthroughs and inventions — and the hope that it won’t require another Soviet Union-style threat to finance them.

(When he’s not ranting on this blog, Stan DeVaughn ensures that new ventures in Silicon Valley live up to the standards set by guys like Bob Noyce.  Well, at least when it comes to the written content of their marketing.)

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