Silicon Valley - Fact Check

Inside Silicon Valley history

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Silicon Valley - Fact Check Inside Silicon Valley history

In some ways, the name 'Silicon Valley' is a misnomer: Facebook and Google aren't famous for silicon products but for websites and software. Yet the name, which comes from the huge number of silicon chip manufacturers that called the area home, has stuck; Intel, the world's largest silicon chip producer, is the only household name still producing them in the area.

Chris Woolfrey
Chris Woolfrey

Not that the origin of the name matters to would-be entrepreneurs and tech obsessives, of course.

"I want to put a ding in the universe," said Apple founder Steve Jobs; a better summary of the outlook of the Valley's visionaries these days than anything the word 'silicon' can conjure up.

From academic beginnings

It's hard to describe the history of a place that exists as a nickname but most people agree that the origins of Silicon Valley, as we know it now, lie at Stanford University.

All the way back in 1951, the Stanford Dean of Engineering opened the Stanford Industrial Park and gave space to one William Hewlett and a certain David Packard. The university, which agreed to give subsidised rent to the companies it allowed into the park, gave the garage-founded company an important head start.

Generally speaking, Hewlett-Packard is considered the 'founder' of what we now know to be Silicon Valley. Without Stanford University, its fate may have been quite different.

To silicon chips

In 1971, Intel created its the first microprocessor. That microprocessor changed computing forever: without it, we wouldn't have computers as we know them now. Intel produced its first silicon chip (not a microprocessor, which combines several more functions) in 1969; in 1959, Robert Noyce (later a co-founder of Intel) filed his patent for the idea of producing a microchip from Silicon, just a few months after Jack Kilby filed for a microchip made from germanium.

Noyce was later nicknamed 'The Mayor of Silicon Valley' for his invention. In an alternative universe, Steve Jobs might have set foot in Germanium Valley.

And last, to software

Since the silicon days, the Valley has garnered its reputation for incubating innovative, forward thinking and world-beating software and internet companies.

Adobe, Apple, EA, eBay, Facebook, Google (these days we call it Alphabet Inc), Netflix, Visa and Yahoo! all call Silicon Valley home.

But silicon hasn't been forgotten: according to Forbes, a new silicon chip boom is on the horizon. We won't need to find a new nickname just yet.


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