Silicon Valley History — Overview

— From 1938 till 2000

Ardan Michael Blum
Silicon Valley History


Silicon Valley’s Birth at Stanford

Frederick Emmons Terman [1] [2] is known as the “Father of Silicon Valley” [3]. He suggested to his students that they stay in the Palo Alto area to establish their Tech firms.

William R. Hewlett [4] and David Packard [5] were the first to follow this guidance. They were to become the original pioneers of startups in what would become Silicon Valley.

From their garage (established on the first of January 1939) on Addison Avenue in Palo Alto, their firm would grow to become one of the world’s largest technology companies.

We are reminded by Britannica that in 1951 “Terman spearheaded the creation of the Stanford Industrial (now Research) Park, which granted long-term leases on university land exclusively to high-technology firms”.

Hence, Terman was the motivator in the late 1930s and the creator of Tech expansion in 1950!

According to Britannica: “(…) In 1956 William Shockley, Nobel Prize-winning coinventor of the transistor, established his new Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory in the park. Within a year a group of dissatisfied engineers resigned en masse to join with Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation to establish Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation in nearby Santa Clara. (…) This was the first of many corporate fractures that shaped the American semiconductor landscape. Of 31 semiconductor manufacturers established in the United States during the 1960s, only 5 existed outside the Valley; the remainder were the result of different engineers leaving Fairchild. (…)”.

We read: ‘(…) Engineers at local firms like Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel invented processes for miniaturizing and combining thousands of transistors onto integrated circuits embedded in silicon wafers. The wide availability of these “chips” spurred the development of personal computers. (…)’ — Source (The Smithsonian Institution).

Intel Corporation was founded in 1968 by Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, both former employees of Fairchild Semiconductor. Intel’s success in producing the first commercially available microchip helped establish the region as a center for innovation and technology.

Microchips made by Intel became the cornerstone of the computer and electronics industries, and the company remains one of the largest and most influential technology companies in the world today.

Backstory To The World Wide Web

Ideas for the World Wide Web date back to 1946 when Murray Leinster (1896–1975) wrote under the pen-name William F. Jenkins the short story “A Logic Named Joe’ [6].

This is a tale of a world in which computers (referred to as “Logics”) are connected to a central device and are capable of providing information to anyone with access.

In ‘A Logic Named Joe’ the search functions were carefully designed to not reveal harmful or potentially dangerous knowledge, such as information on making poison arrows. It serves as a cautionary tale about the responsible use of information technology.

Internet Early Days

The ARPA Network, also known as ARPANET, was a pioneer in the development of computer networking and the Internet.

It was developed by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense (ARPA) in the late 1960s as a way to connect computers at research institutions across the United States.

The ARPANET used the Interface Message Processor (IMP) to connect computers, and was instrumental in the development of electronic mail, newsgroups, and other early Internet technologies.

The development of these tools and the standardization of computer networking laid the foundation for the modern Internet as we know it today.

Tech History | Key Events:

The computer mouse is invented in the late 1960s: “(…) Douglas Engelbart, a professor at Stanford Research Institute (#SRI) in Menlo Park, dreamed up a wired box that would point and click its way into computer history. (…)”. Read more.

Further reading: and

In New Mexico Microsoft was founded in 1975.

In 1976, in Los Altos, Apple Computers, Inc. followed.

Hundreds of other Tech firms appeared.

In 1982 Sun Microsystems, Inc. was established. (…) This association sold computers and computer based hardware and software products. Information technology services were also provided by the crew. The institution is most popularly known for the development of JAVA language. It also created the Solaris Operating System and the File System for Networks. Sun remarkably contributed in the development of various technologies including RISC, UNIX, client and virtualized computing. (…)” Source (Website:

HTML and the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, was working in 1989 in Geneva at the CERN, where he wrote a proposal called “Information Management: A Proposal”. This paper describes the World-Wide Web (W3) global information system initiative, its protocols and data formats, and how it is used in practice.​

​In November 1990, Tim Berners-Lee, together with CERN colleague Robert Cailliau, submitted a formal management proposal for ‘World Wide Web: Proposal for a HyperText Project’.

The three fundamental technologies that remain the foundation of today’s Web:

  • HyperText Markup Language -Standardized system for tagging text files to achieve font, color, graphic, and hyperlink effects on World Wide Web pages.
  • Uniform Resource Identifier -The “URI” is a string of characters used to identify a name or a web resource on the Internet.
  • Hypertext Transfer Protocol -HTTP is a protocol used to transmit data over the World Wide Web. HTTP requests are sent from a client to a server, and the server sends back a response.

The first connections to the World Wide Web came with a sound that was weird and wonderful. (Here are some details about ‘dial-up’ connections).

NCSA Mosaic was an early browser which led to the creation (in December of 1994) of Netscape Navigator/Communicator.

Mosaic browser transformed the Internet from an academic tool to become more than just a document exchange tool. It was not the first browser, but it was the first to include bookmarks and easy to use navigation with icons.

From an article found on “(…) Back in the early days, the internet was a much different creature than it is today. To most, it would be unrecognizable, primarily consisting of bulletin board systems with no multimedia aside from a few low-res inline images. These systems were disparate and had to be dialed into separately. The internet changed drastically with the advent of the World Wide Web. (…)”.

See: ‘Before Netscape: the forgotten Web browsers of the early 1990s’.

In 1994, Yahoo! Inc. was established and quickly became one of the most popular early internet companies, offering a directory of websites and a range of other online services. However, the rapid growth of the internet and the increasing number of companies entering the market led to the Dot-com bubble, which was a period of speculation and overvaluation of internet-based companies in the late 1990s.

Many companies were not able to sustain their growth and eventually went bankrupt, leading to a market crash and significant losses for investors.

Despite this, the internet continued to grow and mature, and many of the innovations and technologies developed during the Dot-com era have become integral parts of the modern internet and online services.

In 1996, Sergey Brin [6] and Larry Page [7] were PhD students at Stanford University and were working on a research project that would eventually become Google. Their initial search engine, called BackRub [8], used the PageRank algorithm to rank web pages based on their relevance to search terms, taking into account factors such as the number of other pages linking to a particular page and the relevance of those pages.

This innovative approach to search helped Google quickly become one of the most popular search engines, and it remains one of the largest and most influential technology companies in the world today.

The PageRank algorithm is widely considered to be one of the key innovations that helped to shape the modern internet and has had a significant impact on the way people access and find information online.

We read: “(…) The key was to leverage Web users’ own ranking abilities by tracking each Web site’s ‘backing links’ — that is, the number of other pages linked to them. Most search engines simply returned a list of Web sites ranked by how often a search phrase appeared (…)”. — Source (Britannica online).

Their work was supported by Hector Garcia-Molina [9], Rajeev Motwani, Jeffrey Ullman, Terry Winograd and others. (See this Stanford University page).

We read: “(…) Because much disk space was needed to test PageRank on actual World Wide Web data, Sergey and Larry assembled 10 of the largest drives available (4 gigabytes each) into this low-cost cabinet, whimsically decorated with Lego bricks. Their software could then index 24 million pages a week (…)”. — Source (Stanford).

In 1998, Larry and Sergey moved Google’s early operations to 4 rooms connected to a garage in Menlo Park. Today, you can take a virtual stroll through the Google Garage using Google Street View.


‘Silicon Valley’

The use of the term “Silicon Valley” can be traced back to the early 1970s, when journalist Donald C. Hoefler (October 3, 1922 — April 15, 1986) used the term in a series of articles for the trade newspaper Electronic News.

We read in “(…) There are many opinions on how the former, bucolic orchard region at the southern end of San Francisco Bay, better known then as the “Valley of Heart’s Delight,” gained its distinctive new moniker. Observers from industry bloggers to the New York Times credit entrepreneur Ralph Vaerst, founder of Ion Equipment Corp. They claim he suggested the name to Electronic News reporter Don Hoefler, who then titled a column on local silicon computer-chip companies “Silicon Valley USA.” Published on January 11, 1971, the name stuck. (…)”.

The term today encompass the southern region of the San Francisco Bay Area.

So ends this overview from 1937 till 2000. Do visit Wikipedia for more!

See also: The YouTube account of the Silicon Valley Historical Association for rare interviews and good presentations.

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