SILICON VALLEY FEVER: Growth of High-Technology Culture by Everett M. & Judith K. Larsen Rogers

SILICON VALLEY FEVER: Growth of High-Technology Culture

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This latest, muddled treatment of Silicon Valley's microelectronics industry does identify, and elaborate on, some of the well-known components of its success: venture capital, information networks, highly competitive workstyles. In putting together their book, however, Stanford marketing prof Rogers and SV researcher/consultant Larsen have stumbled at almost every turn. The intrinsic technology isn't explained; the chronology--of inventions, industries (semiconductors, microcomputers, etc.), firms--isn't made clear, Illogic and inconsistency abound. The opening section, on Apple Computer, concludes that founders Jobs and Wozniak ""are just two young men who happened to stumble into a pot of gold""--yet the firm's story is meant to be characteristic. The section on venture capitalists makes much of a particular office building, ""just off the Stanford University campus""--then introduces three luminaries, with offices elsewhere. (Extreme stress is laid on Stanford's importance--obscuring, among other things, earlier developments around Boston's Route 128.) The reader capable of processing the various elements can expect a few rewards. There's a coherent, almost cogent chapter on Intel, the microprocessor giant--almost because it begins with co-founder Gordon Moore's ""learning curve"" theory of production (costs, and therefore price, decline with experience) but fails to mention lntel's superior manufacturing technique. Still, an Intel semiconductor plant is described. The chapter on networks duly connects job mobility and information-dissemination--without attempting to weigh the low-turnover rate at highly successful Hewlett-Packard. Similarly, no conclusion is drawn from lntel's ""highly structured"" management style--as against the supposedly loose Silicon Valley norm. Almost nothing, in short, goes beyond the usual journalistic observations about Silicon Valley's ""free-wheeling, high-energy"" entrepreneurship. Note is taken of the dark side--the personal costs of workaholism, the ""two-class structure"" (professionals, workers). Two late chapters conventionally assess the Japanese threat and briefly profile other ""Silicon Valleys"" (around Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs, etc.). A final catchall ""impact"" chapter--office automation, microcomputers and children, Atari, the Atari Democrats/""high-technology political movement""--concludes platitudinously: ""If we nurture this system, it can thrive and be shared."" Elsewhere, more acutely: ""Microelectronics is not the answer to America's unemployment problems."" (Plus: Silicon Valley failures ""probably outnumber the successes. . . ten to one""; ""Silicon Valley individuals express almost completelack of concern for social, civic, or charitable activities."") The analysis and prognosis are as muddled as most of the content.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1984
Publisher: Basic Books