Richly detailed, swiftly moving work of modern business history, recounting a truly world-changing technology and the people who made it possible.
It began with an invention, then a revolt. The invention owes to three physicists, who, just after World War II, developed a replacement for the vacuum tube. “Neolithic-looking in its first incarnation,” the semiconductor had countless uses, and it immediately made fortunes for all concerned—except for those three physicists. Writes longtime Silicon Valley watcher Malone (The Guardian of All Things: The Epic Story of Human Memory, 2012, etc.), one of them, William Shockley, resenting that fact, set up his own manufacturing firm. The trouble was, no one who had ever encountered him wanted to work with him, forcing him to recruit far outside the usual Caltech/Bell Labs fold. That introduction of new blood was certainly good. It was also bad, however, since Shockley—later to become infamous for his inflammatory pronouncements on race—really and truly was detestable. This all set the innovative trio of Noyce, Moore and Grove on the way to establishing Intel. Noyce got things going as founding CEO of Fairchild Semiconductor; his confidence, Malone writes, “would play a key role in making Fairchild, and later Intel, look far bigger than it really was.” It didn’t hurt to have Moore, the far-seeing technologist and coiner of Moore’s law—which Malone invokes like a mantra perhaps one too many times—and Grove, another shrewd master of the market, along for the ride. Malone has his technological history down cold, though sometimes it can be a little daunting, as when he discusses the fraught business of developing the silicon gate, bootstrapping “each gate atop its partner transistor, something heretofore considered impossible.” Fortunately, the author discusses that complex technology within the context of commerce, broadening its appeal to the business audience as well.
Essential for aspiring entrepreneurs, to say nothing of those looking for a view of how the modern, speed-of-light world came to be.