In 1957, decades before Steve Jobs dreamed up Apple or Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, a group of eight brilliant young men defected from the Shockley Semiconductor Company in order to start their own transistor business. Fairchild Semiconductor's radical innovations helped make the United States a leader in both space exploration and the personal computer revolution, transforming a fertile valley in California into a hub of technological ingenuity, and changing the way the world works, plays, and communicates. Their leader was 29-year-old Robert Noyce, a physicist with a brilliant mind and the affability of a born salesman who would co-invent the microchip -- an essential component of nearly all modern electronics today, including computers, motor vehicles, cell phones and household appliances.
On October 4, 1957, the young founders of the newly minted start-up heard some startling news: the Soviet Union had just launched the first artificial satellite into orbit around the Earth. With the United States scrambling to catch up, the timing could not have been better for the upstarts at Fairchild, who got the opportunity of a lifetime when President Eisenhower and Congress created NASA a year later. The new availability of government contracts immediately gave Fairchild a client who had both a great demand for their products and the deep pockets to purchase them.
In fewer than two years, Noyce co-created a groundbreaking invention that helped put men on the moon, and it had an impact far beyond the Apollo program. The integrated circuit, also known as the microchip, would re-shape the future, and launch the world into the Information Age by paving the way for the invention of microwaves, pacemakers, digital video recorders, and smart phones.
Noyce transformed the world with not only his invention, but also his management style, which launched the unique business culture for which Silicon Valley would come to be known -- openness over hierarchy, risk over stability, jeans over suits. This revolutionary new style continued at Noyce's next venture, Intel, which in 1971 introduced the world's first microprocessor, the driving force of every digital product we use today, and the heart of a $100-billion industry.
An eye-opening look at the birthplace of the modern technological era told by the people who shaped it, Silicon Valley is a fascinating reminder of how Robert Noyce and his team of trailblazers led the way in transforming California's Santa Clara Valley into a worldwide hub of industry and innovation, and laid the bedrock for modern technology.
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