[SIGCIS-Members] Fwd: [COMPHIST] Fw: Bugos on Lecuyer, _Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970_

Brent Jesiek bjesiek at vt.edu
Wed Feb 6 06:57:10 PST 2008

Just a quick reminder that we will soon be turning off the old COMPHIST list -
please post to members at sigcis.org instead. Much thanks, and apologies for the
cross-cross-post! :)


----- Forwarded message from Neil Barton <neil.barton at uclmail.net> -----
    Date: Wed, 06 Feb 2008 11:23:20 +0000
    From: Neil Barton <neil.barton at uclmail.net>
Reply-To: Neil Barton <neil.barton at uclmail.net>
 Subject: [COMPHIST] Fw: Bugos on Lecuyer,	_Making Silicon Valley: Innovation
and the Growth of High	Tech, 1930-1970_
      To: comphist at uwm.edu

Apologies for cross posting

----- Original Message -----
From: <eh.net-review at eh.net>
To: <eh.net-review at eh.net>
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 2:02 AM
Subject: Bugos on Lecuyer,_Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth
of High Tech,1930-1970_

> ------------ EH.NET BOOK REVIEW --------------
> Published by EH.NET (February 2008)
> Christophe Lecuyer, _Making Silicon Valley: Innovation and the Growth of
> High Tech, 1930-1970_. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005. x + 393 pp. $40
> (cloth), ISBN: 0-262-12281-2.
> Reviewed for EH.NET by Glenn Bugos, Moment LLC.
> In this remarkable introduction to the early history of Silicon Valley,
> Christophe Lecuyer weaves a rich tale around the centrality of
> manufacturing -- sometimes mass manufacturing, but more often batch
> manufacturing to precision and reliability. He argues that manufacturing
> expertise diffused through the Valley through tacit knowledge and
> engineers in motion between firms. Planar technology for manufacturing
> integrated circuits in the late 1960s, he concludes, represented the
> pinnacle of manufacturing in Silicon Valley.
> Lecuyer has multiple goals for this book. He seeks to define Silicon
> Valley as an industrial district, akin to the Marshallian industrial
> districts that economic historians have begun to explore. Also, he
> integrates into his story the many extant, divergent strands of Silicon
> Valley historiography. Into his manufacturing-driven narrative, we see the
> trends other historians have emphasized --
> military funding, the shake-out following the McNamara consolidation, the
> role of Stanford University in generating expertise, and the importance of
> workplace culture.
> His chapters are structured around firm histories, beginning in their
> start-up years. These are concise histories of the early years of Litton,
> Fairchild, Varian, and Intel. These firms reflect broader trends in their
> industry and, Lecuyer shows, their founders thought hard about an ideal of
> Silicon Valley culture.
> The first chapter discusses the power tube industry in the 1930s and
> 1940s, focusing on Eitel-McCullough in the context of the region's amateur
> radio community. Eitel-McCullough's manufacturing prowess positioned them
> to become the largest manufacturer of vacuum tubes for radar during World
> War II. Lecuyer does a great job describing these pre-silicon electronics
> technologies.
> Litton Industries, powered by hard-charging entrepreneur Charlie Litton,
> is the focus of the next chapter on microwave tubes and magnetrons in the
> post-war period. The third chapter looks at Varian Associates and the
> manufacture of klystrons, a type of microwave tube used in defense
> applications. Perhaps most notable about Varian is the explicit
> idealization of an engineering republic -- of a cooperative approach to
> engineering that remained a fixture of Silicon Valley start-up culture.
> Fairchild Semiconductor in the 1950s and 1960s adopted the same structure
> and work culture of the earlier vacuum tube makers, but moved it into an
> entirely different material and technology --
> silicon semiconductors. High frequency silicon transistors were needed for
> guidance and control systems for missiles and aircraft. As reliability
> grew paramount, Fairchild developed a new manufacturing technology,
> leading to the planar process and the integrated circuit.
> Chapter 5 looks not at one firm, but rather at the previously highlighted
> firms in their transition from military to commercial markets, battered by
> macro-economic forces in the wake of the McNamara procurement reforms of
> the early 1960s. Eitel merged with Varian, which itself diversified into
> instrumentation and medical equipment. Fairchild created new customers for
> its integrated circuits, and moved from a precision manufacturing model to
> a mass manufacturing model. Litton surrendered to the cyclical nature of
> its business yet sought to manage it by becoming a defense conglomerate.
> Lecuyer ends with a short chapter on Apple Computer and how it shifted
> these manufacturing ideas into a new generation of personal computing
> technology. His notes and sources are also fascinating reading, reflecting
> the richness of primary materials now available on Silicon Valley firms.
> Lecuyer started this book as a graduate student in the history of science
> and technology at Stanford University, and is now an economic policy
> analyst with the University of California.
> What about the book that Lecuyer did not write? This book is limited in
> time. It's the story of the Valley in the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s,
> when the leading industrial sector was fairly well defined around tubes
> and silicon. The explosive growth in the Valley came after this period,
> when personal computers, software and internetworking soared as industries
> in the 1980s and 1990s, supplemented by biotechnology and medical devices.
> Yet Lecuyer expertly shows how the preconditions for these later
> industries emerged years earlier. More importantly, even within his
> limited time frame, Lecuyer shows how the concept of "generations" is
> important in understanding the Valley. Silicon Valley has never been about
> just silicon. New types of technologies constantly appear, and follow
> similar cycles of boom and bust, only to be replaced by the next
> generation of technology.
> Furthermore, this is good, but not great business history in that he says
> little about the rampant innovation in firm structure and financing. A
> constant refrain is frustration, or glee, in getting stock options, with
> little discussion of where stock options came from. Still, Lecuyer has a
> good ear for the importance of customers, and emphasizes the role of
> marketing and sales people in defining new markets for products. For
> example, Fairchild wrote "operational notes" that hesitant customers could
> use to manufacture consumer products around the new silicon chips: what he
> calls "educating consumers rather than occupying their space" (298).
> He neglects broader trends that enabled the rapid growth of electronics
> manufacturing. The machinery industry that emerged in The Valley of
> Heart's Delight, as the agricultural pre-history of Silicon Valley is
> known, trained a labor force able to build plants around clean, batch
> processing. The tilt-up architecture that flourished in the Valley enabled
> constant reconfiguration of laboratory and fabrication space. Lecuyer does
> discuss Hewlett Packard as an instrumentation company, but says little on
> the importance of test and measurement precision to other Valley
> manufacturers. And Lecuyer does discuss Lockheed Missiles and Space, the
> largest employer in the Valley in the 1960s, but only incidental to his
> narrative.
> This book should become, nonetheless, the new starting point for those
> seeking to emulate Silicon Valley in their regions. What can they learn?
> The Valley pioneers truly cared about being able to make the first of
> anything. Office space was less important than lab space and fab space.
> Silicon Valley enjoyed less a culture of conspicuous consumption, and more
> a culture of conspicuous production.
> Glenn Bugos is historian with Moment LLC, a corporate history consultancy
> based in Silicon Valley.
> Copyright (c) 2008 by EH.Net. All rights reserved. This work may be copied
> for non-profit educational uses if proper credit is given to the author
> and the list. For other permission, please contact the EH.Net
> Administrator (administrator at eh.net; Telephone: 513-529-2229). Published
> by EH.Net (February 2008). All EH.Net reviews are archived at
> http://www.eh.net/BookReview.
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