Silicon Valley – A Californian dream

Silicon Valley - A Californian dreamSilicon Valley owes its name to the element from which chips are made. Don Hoefler, a journalist, gave the valley this nickname in 1971. At that time, Silicon Valley, which lies 40 miles south-east of San Francisco, was still a rural area.

The story began with Hewlett-Packard

Silicon Valley is now home to 7,000 innovative firms. The first success story was that of William Hewlett and David Packard, who founded Hewlett-Packard in a small garage in Palo Alto in 1938. The company developed into a global player.

The second 'first' in the history of Silicon Valley was when the university lecturer Terman managed to get part of the campus of Stanford University assigned to a company foundation centre in 1951.


The third 'first' was probably the most successful. In 1954, William Shockley, the co-inventor of the transistor (1947) moved from the east coast of the USA to the vicinity of Stanford University and established a laboratory there. He was joined by eight of the most talented young men with the objective of developing a production method for transistors. William Shockley won the Nobel Prize in 1956, but the whiz kids fell out with their master. Unlike Shockley, they opted for silicon as the substance they wanted to use, and established Fairchild Semiconductors in 1957.


After this, everything happened very quickly. A variety of young companies were spun off from Fairchild in the 1960s. Robert Noyce, co-founder of Fairchild, had invented the integrated circuit (IC) in 1959, in parallel with Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments (1958). This basic innovation triggered the set-up of many more companies in Silicon Valley. For example, together with Gordon Moore, Noyce founded Intel Corp. in Santa Clara, a company that Andrew Grove led to become the world's largest semiconductor component manufacturer in the 1990s.

Silicon Valley not only attracted the biggest talents in the USA but also in the entire world, including Andreas von Bechtolsheim from Germany. As a student at Stanford University, he had the idea of building a new type of computer from standard components in 1981 - workstations. He invested 25,000 dollars, found people to finance this project - referred to as venture capitalists - and established Sun Microsystems Inc. in Mountain View in 1982 with their aid. Just a few years later, Sun had become an international company with sales of several billions.