*Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age*

by on November 30, 2017 at 12:07 am in Books, History, Science, Uncategorized, Web/Tech | Permalink

That is the new and excellent history by Leslie Berlin, substantive throughout, here is one good bit of many:

In March 1967, Robert and Taylor, jointly leading a meeting of ARPA’s principal investigators in Ann Arbor, Michigan, told the researchers that ARPA was going to build a computer network and they were all expected to connect to it.  The principle investigators were not enthusiastic.  They were busy running their labs and doing their own work.  They saw no real reason to add this network to their responsibilities.  Researchers with more powerful computers worried that those with less computing power would use the network to commandeer precious computing cycles.  “If I could not get some ARPA-funded participants involved in a commitment to a purpose higher than “Who is going to steal the next ten percent of my memory cycles?”, there would be no network,” Taylor later wrote.  Roberts agreed: “They wanted to buy their own machines and hide in the corner.”

You can buy the book here, here is one good review from Wired, excerpt:

While piecing together a timeline of the Valley’s early history—picture end-to-end sheets of paper covered in black dots—Berlin was amazed to discover a period of rapid-fire innovation between 1969 and 1976 that included the first Arpanet transmission; the birth of videogames; and the launch of Apple, Atari, Genentech, and major venture firms such as Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia Capital. “I just thought, ‘What the heck was going on in those years?’ ” she says.

Here is praise from Patrick Collison on Twitter.

1 carlospln November 30, 2017 at 12:37 am

‘What the heck was going on in those years?’ 

Oh, the culmination of the greatest adventure in the history of human civilisation:

The Apollo Program.

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2 clockwork_prior November 30, 2017 at 1:19 am

But that was a government program, and as the government is clearly unable to successfully undertake such bold ventures, it was had to have been faked, right?

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3 JWatts November 30, 2017 at 12:20 pm

I respect the technical achievements of the Apollo program. However it was the quintessential government program.

A decade of dedicated efforts, thousands of engineers mobilized, $100+ billion (2010 dollars) spend and we ended up with some cool photos and 840 pounds of moon rocks.

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4 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ November 30, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Is that the full accounting, including spin offs?

(I had a friend who had been a technical writer at NASA. He claimed to have been in the room when the tested the first zip-lock bags for poop. They used a 50:50 mix of peanut butter and oatmeal, started by dropping them, and ended up throwing them around the room.)

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5 carlospln November 30, 2017 at 3:32 pm

“However it was the quintessential government program”

Like, what? Building out the Interstate Highway System? Developing and distributing the polio vaccine? Winning WWII?

“cool photos and 840 pounds of moon rocks”

Your knavery is complete.

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6 Bill Benzon November 30, 2017 at 4:43 am

Well, yeah, there’s the Apollo program. But there was also LSD, which played a role in the personal computing side of things.

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7 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ November 30, 2017 at 9:11 am

They were doing LSD at Texas Instruments?

The revolution was not really that localised. Between 1969 and 1976 Massachusetts was pretty important as well.

Looking back, as a guy who stated with an actual pong game, that could only play pong, and clipped to the rabbit ears .. this was a unique situation where miniaturization also increased power. Smaller devices meant faster and more powerful devices. Unique.

You want to know why planes, trains, and automobiles are in stagnation by comparison? No one wants to ship 1 micron containers. No one can fit in a 1 micron sports car.

The downsizing movie plays on this, a bit.

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8 clockwork_prior November 30, 2017 at 1:21 am

And in the U.S. in 2017, the updated quote is ‘They wanted to sell their own services, and hide everyone else in the corner.’

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9 Thiago Prior November 30, 2017 at 9:19 am

Also das ist, was Amerika ist gekommen?

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10 Al November 30, 2017 at 6:24 am

The self-aligned gate happened around 1968.

Likely there was more than one cause for the rapid fire innovation, but I would take a look into the economics of the gate.

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11 Dude November 30, 2017 at 6:37 am

Diversity, I imagine.

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12 rayward November 30, 2017 at 7:05 am

Is this intended as homage to net neutrality, a eulogy to the connectedness without which Silicon Valley would not have happened. If so, it’s strange coming from Cowen, who has recently offered his assessment that the hand-wringing about the death of net neutrality is much ado about very little. On the other hand, I’ve been impressed by Cowen’s calm during all this disruption around us. Disruption. Cowen’s most recent book seemed like one long tribute to disruption and denunciation to order and stability. Maybe I and others have been misreading Cowen’s book. Maybe it’s an apocalyptic warning of what’s to come from all this disruption. Maybe it’s an updated version of the Gospel of Mark. Maybe Cowen is an apocalyptic prophet.

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13 TMC November 30, 2017 at 8:17 am

Now you are mourning a death. How about if your reaction to a policy is 90% emotional you should step back and reconsider?

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14 Mark Thorson November 30, 2017 at 2:42 pm

I live in Saratoga, which is a little west of San Jose. This morning, I had no electricity for about three hours. It’s my impression that since 1980 or so PG&E’s service has become considerably less reliable. I get about the same number of blackouts in one year that I used to get in 5 years.

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