- Nuclear Power
- Silicon Valley
The Silicon Chip and the integrated solid-state electronics that sprang from it brought forth a revolution in the speed, power, and versatility of electronic machinery.
The Silicon Valley represents the incredible speed of scientific innovation brought on by concentrating technical industry in one place.
Early electronics relied on the vacuum tube, developed by Irving Langmuir and H. D. Arnold in 1912, to amplify electrical signals until they were useful. Vacuum tubes were indispensable, but also large, heavy, fragile, and hot. In 1948 Bell Laboratories’ Shockley, Bardeen, and Braittain developed the first transistor, a solid-state electrical amplifier that promised an order of magnitude reduction in the size of electrical circuits and machines. In 1954 Texas Instruments produced the first silicon transistors, which could be produced for a fraction of the cost of the original germanium types, and consumer solid-state electronics took off. In 1962 silicon ’chips’ were first used in integrated circuits, and in 1969 Intel produced the first solid-state microprocessor. By the mid-1970s calculators made with integrated circuits had completely replaced slide rules as the basic instrument of engineers, and by the 1980s the speed, and processing power of electronic circuits was doubling every few years, while the manufacturing cost and physical size plummeted with equal speed.
Silicon Valley (Santa Clara County, California) grew out of happy coincidence. Stanford University was one of the first in the world to offer courses in "radio engineering" in the 1920s, and from 1924 the Communications Laboratory at that university was one of the centers for technological electronics research. Consequently, Santa Clara added a huge resource in trained innovative technologists to the presence of very cheap land. The result was an explosion of technical industry in the area, starting in the 1930s with Hewlett-Packard, founded by two graduates of the Stanford Communications Laboratory. The Stanford Industrial Park was established in 1951 to lease cheap space to technology firms. Around this nucleus Silicon Valley sprang up: by the 1980s there were 90 technology firms in the Industrial Park alone, with 25,000 employees, and Silicon Valley as a whole had over 2700 electronic manufacturing firms and over 6000 PhDs, the largest concentration of technology doctorates in the world.