Making Silicon Valley
Innovation and the Growth of High Tech, 1930-1970
- Winner, 2009 Computer History Museum Prize given by SIGCIS
408 pp., 6 x 9 in, 32 illus.
- Published: August 24, 2007
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: November 18, 2005
- Publisher: The MIT Press
In Making Silicon Valley, Christophe Lécuyer shows that the explosive growth of the personal computer industry in Silicon Valley was the culmination of decades of growth and innovation in the San Francisco-area electronics industry. Using the tools of science and technology studies, he explores the formation of Silicon Valley as an industrial district, from its beginnings as the home of a few radio enterprises that operated in the shadow of RCA and other East Coast firms through its establishment as a center of the electronics industry and a leading producer of power grid tubes, microwave tubes, and semiconductors. He traces the emergence of the innovative practices that made this growth possible by following key groups of engineers and entrepreneurs. He examines the forces outside Silicon Valley that shaped the industry—in particular the effect of military patronage and procurement on the growth of the industry and on the development of technologies—and considers the influence of Stanford University and other local institutions of higher learning.
Lécuyer argues that Silicon Valley's emergence and its growth were made possible by the development of unique competencies in manufacturing, in product engineering, and in management. Entrepreneurs learned to integrate invention, design, manufacturing, and sales logistics, and they developed incentives to attract and retain a skilled and motivated workforce. The largest Silicon Valley firms—including Eitel-McCullough (Eimac), Litton Industries, Varian Associates, Fairchild Semiconductor, and Intel—dominated the American markets for advanced tubes and semiconductors and, because of their innovations in manufacturing, design, and management, served as models and incubators for other electronics ventures in the area.
Lécuyer's book is the most scrupulous scholarly exploration so far of the cluster of innovative firms that has come to be called Silicon Valley. It is a book that should be read by anyone curious about the emergence of the high-tech electronics firms that have created this remarkable concentration of innovative talent.
Nathan Rosenberg, Professor of Economics (Emeritus), Stanford University
Silicon Valley wannabes search for the Valley's secrets of success. Lécuyer's impressively informed response reminds them that God is in the manufacturing details.
Thomas P. Hughes, author of Human-Built World: How to Think about Technology and Culture
Making Silicon Valley is meatier than its contemporaries. Dense and replete with footnotes, it's an expert book written for experts-readers who already know Robert Noyce from Gordon Moore. For them, it's a detailed and nuanced discussion of how and why Silicon Valley emerged as a center of manufacturing, product engineering, and management.
HBS Working Knowledge