Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Newsweek 'Founders of Silicon Valley' special edition on newsstands provides overview history of HP, Fairchild, Intel, Google, Facebook, etc.

cover Newsweek Special Edition The Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley 2016

PHOTO: Cover of the "Newsweek Special Edition: The Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley, Exploring 60 years of innovation Betrayal, Triumph and Tragedy on the Road to the Digital Age," Topix Media Lab Displayed on newsstands until May 28, 2016 or purchase for $10.99 The publisher's description of this magazine says, "Newsweek's The Founders of Silicon Valley takes you from the dawn of the computer age to the cutting edge of Web 2.0 technology to examine how tech titans such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and more got their start. This 100-page, special issue chronicles how a group of disrupters created and then improved on technology that both opened up and flattened the world, changing the way we communicate, socialize, date, eat and shop in ways that continue to evolve." See an excerpt: "Tech & Science: How the Internet Was Constructed, Starting 60 Years Ago," Newsweek Special Edition, posted Mar 19, 2016

Having lived in Silicon Valley in the 1970's and 1980's, including starting my PhD at Stanford University and working for Hewlett-Packard while doing computer research on the Stanford campus, I was quite impressed by the "Newsweek Special Edition: The Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley" because it provides an excellent history overview of how the computer technology that we use today was developed at Hewlett-Packard, Fairchild, Intel, Google, Facebook, etc. over the last 60 years.

I find it ironic that I first saw and bought a physical paper copy of this magazine at a newsstand located inside an ordinary grocery store in Corvallis, Oregon, which is still the home to a Hewlett-Packard research division and also the home of computer engineering research at Oregon State University, because so far it appears that this magazine is only available in printed paper form, despite the fact that it is a history of the computer and network technology that has caused many printed paper documents to disappear from circulation. Perhaps I am biased, but I still find this printed magazine to be much more useful than an online version and I know that I will not have to worry about the link rotting away and disappearing, or have to worry about technology obsolescence of the reader required to read it in the future (e.g. forty years from now I bet those Kindle books that I own won't be readable without being repurchased or downloaded again, if at all.) The magazine is printed on low-acid glossy paper and so it will not deteriorate for centuries, like a high-acid newspaper page does when it gets old.

Here are some of my notes on the "Newsweek Special Edition: The Founding Fathers of Silicon Valley":

  • (p. 20-23) the article "In the Garage" shows a photo from 1987 of HP founders Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett standing in front of the garage they started their business in Palo Alto, California, near Stanford University -- in the heart of today's Silicon Valley. This photo was taken as part of a ceremony that legally designated Hewlett's garage as a historical landmark and "The Birthplace of Silicon Valley." I had the honor of attending this event in person at the invitation of Bill and Dave whose offices were across the aisle from where I my desk was located at the time. The same photo of Bill and Dave also appears in the center of the magazine cover shown above. The magazine claims HP entered the computer business in 1972 with the HP-35 calculator, but in fact HP had been building both computer controllers for their electronic instruments and also desktop calculators prior to the pocket-sized HP-35 scientific calculator. The magazine also notes that Hewlett worked for HP until 1987 and Packard retired in 1993, however, both men were still actively involved in division reviews until Packard died in 1996, at the age of 83, and Hewlett died in 2001, at the age of 87. My last business interaction was with them was in 1994, when they were both still sharp and asking technically insightful questions about the research work I was managing.
  • (p. 2-3 unnumbered pages inside front cover) photo of women wiring a program into the ENIAC computer in 1945. The magazine claims, ". . . most computer codes and calculations were done by women," which doesn't tell the whole story. In my experience, there were only one female computer scientist or computer engineer for every ten men, but the physical "wiring" of programs was almost always done by female production workers who were trained and supervised by an engineer.
  • (p. 8-9) photo in the brick-walled lobby of Fairchild Semiconductor of the "Traitorous Eight" who left William Shockley's lab to form Intel, including Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. I recognized this lobby because it was later rented out to HP to home some of the researchers who were working for me at the time, when I didn't realize the historical significance of this building. (Also, see p. 16, 18)
  • (p. 12) Alan Turing (born 1912) is credited as the inventor of an electro-mechanical computer during World War II that was used break the German's Enigma Code. Turing is often credited as the father of Artificial Intelligence and the "Turing Test" that is still being used today to measure machine intelligence -- if you can't tell by interacting with a computer, whether it is a machine or another man, it is an artificially intelligent computer. Turing was also famously gay and persecuted for it.
  • (p. 20, 25, 26-27, 42) Steve Wozniak (born 1950) is credited as the co-founder of Apple with Steve Jobs. In 1976, he built the Apple I and a year later the Apple II, which were both based on his work as a technician at Hewlett-Packard where similar desktop computer calculators were being designed and built.
  • (p. 28-29, 38-39, 42-45) the article, "Infectious Ideas: The story of Steve Jobs, Xerox, and who really invented the personal computer," correctly credits the research by Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Rsearch Center) for the invention of modern computer window interfaces using a mouse (invented by Oregon State University alum Douglas Engelbart, p. 29). However, missing from this magazine and most histories of computing, is the fact that HP was manufacturing computers with window operating systems and mouse pointing devices in the 1980's including the Integral PC or IPC that was a portable computer with one of the first flat panel displays and built-in inkjet printer using the technology invented at HP Labs in Palo Alto and then refined by the Corvallis HP division. The first version of Microsoft Windows was released in 1985, but it wasn't until Windows 3.0 was released in 1990 when it started to be adopted widely. (p.39) Bill gates (born 1955) founded Microsoft in 1975 (p. 40-41)
  • (p. 30-33, 42-45) Steve Jobs (born 1955, died 2011 at age of 56) and "Apple vs. Everyone" outlines the history of Apple Computer being founded in 1976, Jobs being ousted from Apple and then going on to form NeXT computer and later Pixar computer animation before coming back to lead the creation of the iPhone and the Renaissance of Apple. One thing missing from this and many other histories of Apple is how Jobs hired away engineers from HP. Jobs tried to hire me and a colleague of mine did go to work for Steve to create the Lisa computer, a precursor to the wildly successful Macintosh. In fact, according to my colleague and others in Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs was a ruthless businessman and hard to work for because he had no technical background, but was very opinionated on what he wanted and he was unwilling to listen to the technical reasons why it was impossible to do at the time. Of course, in the history of technology, this type of visionary person has proven to be important to goad engineers into creating new technology that is better that what anybody thinks is possible.
  • (p. 36-37) the article "Nothing but Net" gives a brief history of DARPA and ARPANET in the 1970's and its evolution to being the network for the World Wide Web. This work was also at the center of Xerox PARC computer research and the creation of a local area network or LAN that connected computers. It was 1982 when I had a summer hire PhD student from UC Berkeley, who was working for me at HP in Corvallis, Oregon, lay the first LAN along a aisle of engineers who were designing the Integral PC network interface card.
  • (p. 52-58) "Evolution of Tech" pictorial timeline covers from the 1975 "Popular Electronics" article that announced the Altair 8800 personal computer to the wearable tech and cell phone technology of today. A photo (p. 58) of the 2007 Apple iPhone and the 1983 (note typo in headline) Motorola cellphone is shown. This new cellphone technology led me to design an interface for the handheld computers we were building as a follow on to the handheld calculators HP was manufacturing in Corvallis, Oregon in 1984. Unfortunately, a Vice President of HP cancelled my project and I then showed it to Steve Jobs who was trying to hire me at a computer convention in Silicon Valley. I could tell he was interested and would probably fund it, but I am glad I didn't go work for him because of the bad experience everyone had who I talked to that worked for Steve Jobs.
  • (p.60-61) Steve Case (born 1958) the founder of AOL, a dial-up telephone service that connected many people for the first time before the World Wide Web took over in 1994. Of course, the article fails to state that similar connections were being made before AOL via the UNIX operating system NOTES program, probably because only the hardest core computer engineers were participants.
  • (p. 68-73) Mark Zuckerberg (born 1984) cofounded Facebook and pioneered the social networking computer application that has become popular with billions of people around the world. Social networking is something that socially inept engineers would have never anticipated, even though they used the UNIX Notes program to help design software and hardware.
  • (p. 74-75, 76-79) YouTube formed in 2005 and sold to Google in 2006. Google founded in 1997, Google IPO in 2004, Alphabet launched in 2015, by cofounders Larry Page (born 1973) and Sergey Brin (born 1973)
  • (p. 80-83) Jeff Bezos (born 1964) founder of Amazon online stores in 1995 and IPO 1997.
  • (p. 88-91) "Beyond Phone Calls: How cell phones have grown from a portable telephone to a key for personal empowerment." Release of Apple iPhone in 2008 and the Apple App store.