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The Silicon Boys

The Silicon Valley BoysWhile I and the family were at the library this weekend, I picked up a book called The Silicon Boys and Their Valley of Dreams, by David A. Kaplan of Newsweek. I wondered if the book had dropped out of a timewarp, as it was written way back in 1998, published in 1999 but was listed as a 'New Non-Fiction Book'. I can understand books taking while to get through the system, but 4 years? Whatever the case, The Silicon Valley Boys has turned out to be a great read and I've not even reached the 100th page yet [1].

The book is the story of Silicon Valley, its history and events surrounding its movers and shakers like Jerry Yang (Yahoo!), John Doerr (Venture Capitalist), Gordon Moore (Intel), Marc Andreessen (Netscape), Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Jobs (Apple) to name but a few.

Before Kaplan gets into the story itself, he offers a glimpse of Silicon Valley culture in the prologue, which reads like a journal of the rich, famous, and the geeky weird! Money flows in Woodside, the residence of most Silicon Valley CEOs, and so does quirky behavior and arrogance. Of course this was written in the midst of the Internet bubble, so things may have changed. Kaplan offers a short epilogue on post-bubble life on Silicon Valley (I peeked) so it should be interesting to compare this section to the prologue.

The story then moves to a historical overview of Silicon Valley starting with Sutter's Mill and the gold rush of 1848-49, Stanford's beginnings, Lee de Forest and the invention of the vacuum tube amplifier, the invention of transitors, Hewlett-Packard's garage startup and the advent of personal computers. I can imagine the story continues on to the exapnsion of the Internet, IPOs and excesses of the late '90s. I found this historical view very intriguing -- I'd not connected the links between what made the area flourish and the hi-tech revolution that began there. Of course I've only read about and visited the area a few times, so this is all news to me, a Midwestern boy.

I'm currently on page 84 of 331, in the middle of the Steve Wozniak story, so I still have a bit of reading, but so far I really like the story's flow. Kaplan has a great dry sense of humor and pays attention to historical details and their relationships. Based on what I've read so far, I can already highly recoomend this book if you're curious about the history of Silicon Valley. I'll report back here once I've completed the book with a final update.

[1] My 100 page rule states that if a book cannot draw me in by the first 100 pages, it's more than likely not worth completing.

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