SiliconBase is a Stanford University-based resource for scholars, students, and writers interested in Silicon Valley's past and present. More information about the site is available below.

Around/About the Valley

In the News

San Francisco's emergence as a multimedia center in the early 1990s was helped by its proximity to Silicon Valley; now the Valley and SOMA may be reshaping as rivals for talent. Tia O'Brien's "High-Tech Slugfest," Silicon Valley Magazine (15 October 2000) explores the cultural differences between the two, and what it means for the Valley.

The digitization of San Francisco has not been hailed by everyone: arguments that it has remade the culture of the city are now legion. Paulina Borshook's "How the Internet ruined San Francisco," Salon (28 October 1999) was the first major salvo in the Kulturkampf. In contrast, Bill Wyman replied that "San Francisco ruined itself," Salon (3 November 1999); more recently, Jade Hayes' satirical "I miss crack babies," Salon (17 October 2000) argued that things weren't all that great before the dot-coms.

Some of the most visible displacements have been small business, nonprofits and arts organizations. Amanda Nowinski's "Vanishing point," San Francisco Bay Guardian (12 July 2000) is a lengthy (and openly anti-growth) article on the impact of growth on these more marginal institutions, while Janelle Brown's "A dot-com call to art," Salon (14 July 2000) suggests high-tech patronage of the arts as one solution.

The anti-dot-com backlash now extends to the ballot box. Two measures, Propositions L (sponsored by a group calling itself Save San Francisco) and K, would limit business growth within the city (though to different degree): for background, see Damien Cave, "Ballot measure threatens San Francisco dot-coms," Salon (29 September 2000).

Douglas Robson, "Office space: The monster that ate San Francisco," San Francisco Business Times (24 April 2000) provides an overview of the current office space crunch; his "Any big-league brokerage must field a team in S.F.," San Francisco Business Times (24 March 2000) describes the impact of the crunch on real estate brokers.

Local culture

Reading lists. The Bay Area is already well-known for its microclimates; thanks to Amazon.com's purchase circles database, we can see that there are reading equivalents of microclimates.

In Silicon Valley, classics dominate the list (go figure), along with books on health, home-buying, and school entrance exams:

  1. Mark Allen, et al, Workouts For Working People: How You Can Get in Great Shape While Staying Employed
  2. Flavius Arrianus, The Campaigns of Alexander
  3. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Selected Works
  4. Arthur A., Jr. Thompson(Editor), et al, Readings in Strategic Management
  5. Julius Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul
  6. Gish Jen, Who's Irish?
  7. Sophocles, The Three Theban Plays
  8. Ralph Warner, et al, How to Buy a House in California (5th Ed.)
  9. Max Peters, Jerome Shostak, How to Prepare for the Coop Hspt Catholic High School Entrance Examinations
  10. Jeff Goodell, Sunnyvale: The Rise and Fall of a Silicon Valley Family

In San Francisco, in contrast, guidebooks-- whether for walks and hikes in the area, dining, or schools-- dominate the list:

  1. Kristi Hein, Choosing a Public Elementary School: San Francisco 1997
  2. Adah Bakalinsky, Stairway Walks in San Francisco
  3. Susan Jacobson, Getting the Public School You Want : San Francisco: An Independent Guide
  4. Dan Leone, Eat This, San Francisco
  5. Susan Vogel, Del Leach(Illustrator), San Francisco Private Schools (K-8)
  6. Vera R. Obermeyer, et al, Finding a Preschool for Your Child in San Francisco
  7. Jack Boulware, San Francisco Bizarro
  8. John Newenham Summerson, The Architecture of the Eighteenth Century
  9. Don Martin, et al, Hiking Marin: 133 Great Hikes in Marin County
  10. Gray A. Brechin, Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin

(View a list of suggested news sources, or previous coverage.)


The San Jose Mercury News has worked up a list of the "Millenium 100," people who shaped Silicon Valley. Like all lists, it's interesting for who gets in, and even more interesting for who gets left out. Are Jerry Garcia and Peggy Fleming (in) really more important than Larry Ellison and John Doerr (out)?

Elsewhere on SiliconBase


We have assembled a list of research centers, groups, and other organizations in the Bay Area working at least in part on Silicon Valley. If you know of other groups (including informal gatherings, reading groups, etc.) that would like to be included on this list, send e-mail.


A short list of link to other Web sites with material on Silicon Valley and the history of computing.

About SiliconBase

Few regions in the world are as famous today-- as an economic engine, as a cultural space, as a piece of immensely valuable real estate, or as a center of innovation-- as Silicon Valley. (What other region has been the target of a villain in a James Bond film?) Nor are there many places whose histories are so much in danger from the very forces that make it famous-- nonstop corporate change, personal mobility, and technological obsolescence. SiliconBase seeks to assist in understanding the history, sociology, politics, economics, and culture of the region, by working with researchers and area companies, identifying important materials, and working to preserve records for future researchers.

In addition to offering information about research activities, talks, and new publications, this site will provide an introduction to and sample material from Stanford University's Department of Special Collections. The Department contains extensive archival holdings related to the history of Silicon Valley companies, figures, and research.

SiliconBase is also engaged in working with journalists, scholars, and Valley figures to develop new research and archival projects.

On SiliconBase


Overview of recent/ongoing work, ideas for new projects, and concept pieces.


Learn about Silicon Valley-related research and primary material housed at Stanford.


Information for those who want to get in touch with SiliconBase. If you have an opinion about the design of the site, ideas for a new feature, a project to propose, etc., feel free to contact us.

Related Sites

SiliconBase members have directed development of these other sites related to the history of computing and the Valley.


MouseSite examines the work and impact of Douglas Engelbart, whose work on Augmented Human Intelligence led to the invention of the computer mouse and other devices that shape personal computing.

Weiser Memorial

Remembering Mark Weiser is a memorial site for Xerox Parc chief technologist Mark Weiser, whose ideas on ubiquitous computing and calm computing have influenced research and commercial efforts in computer design and use.

Events and Links

Bay Area Events

October 19

Morris Berman, author of The Twilight of American Culture, at Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, 7:30.

October 23

Alan Deutschman, author of The Second Coming of Steve Jobs, at Stacey's Books, Palo Alto, 7:30.

October 26

Jonathan Rosen discusses his new book, The Talmud and The Internet, at Cody's Books, Berkeley, 7:30.

October 27

"Spirit of Silicon Valley" IMAX experience opens at the Tech Museum.

October 30

Martin Davis, author of The Universal Computer: the Road from Leibniz to Turing, at Cody's Books, Berkeley, 7:30.

November 14

Thomas Frank, author of The Conquest of Cool and One Market Under God, at Cody's Books, Berkeley, 7:30.

Novebmer 16

Paul Hawken, co-author with Amory Lovins and L. Hunter Lovins of Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, at Cody's Books, Berkeley, 7:30.


Events are open to the public unless otherwise noted. Additional information, including times, directions, etc. can be found on the sponsoring organizations' Web sites.

If you have events that you would like us to add to the calendar, please e-mail us.

Online Events and Resources


Douglas Engelbart's "An In-Depth Look at 'The Unfinished Revolution'" presents "a comprehensive strategy that will enable individuals and organizations to begin to cope with the increasingly more rapid pace and constant state of change in modern society." Available through Stanford Online.

Vinton Cerf's 1999 Forsythe lectures, on "The Future of the Internet" and "Advances and Challenges in Internet Design," are available through Stanford Online.

The Computer Museum History Center has published transcripts of its events, including a 1998 roundtable on "Building Computers in 1953: The Johnniac." Its online exhibits include an Internet timeline on the history of computer communications from 1962 to 1992.


Silicon Valley Life and Culture. The San Jose Mercury News has a special section "The Cost of Living in Silicon Valley," while the California Budget Project's October 1999 report, "Making Ends Meet: How Much Does It Cost To Raise A Family In California?" provides a state-wide view of cost of living issues.

New Books

Bill Lessard and Steve Baldwin, NetSlaves

Subtitled "True Tales of Working the Web," NetSlaves focuses on the ugly underside of the new economy: the chaotic, harried worlds of freelancers, sys-admins, Webmasters, and others at the bottom of the "New Media Caste System" (which the authors outline in Industry Standard). John Katz gives it a thumbs-up in Slashdot.

John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, The Social Life of Information

The book's official Web site has a list of online reviews. I've also reviewed it here.

Elsewhere in the World

No one can quite say exactly what makes Silicon Valley successful. AnnaLee Saxenian's classic Regional Advantage argued that Silicon Valley's flexible organization and local culture-- which encourages risk-taking, innovation, and mobility among engineers-- set it apart from other high-tech regions. On my first cab ride in Silicon Valley, the driver confided that "immigrants like us made the Valley work." (Ironically, Saxenian is now studying immigrant engineers. Maybe she once caught the same cab.) But even Frederick Terman couldn't create new Silicon Valleys in New Jersey, Texas, or Korea, despite lots of local enthusiasm and support.

This hasn't stopped many other areas from trying to grow their own SiliconValleys in Scotland, Hong Kong, Israel, Turkey, and around the U.S. (see "New Power Centers," Business 2.0's January 2000 survey of emerging tech centers). Indeed, some of them are starting to get dedicated press coverage of their own. Some of the online magazines we've found:

AtNew York: New York new media.

Silicon Alley: New York new media.

Digital Coast: Los Angeles new media.

Digital South: Its coverage of "the South's new economy" gives it a wider geographical range than some others, but much of the reporting focuses on the Atlanta area. See its recent survey, "The Best Places to Grow a Tech Company in the South."

Silicon Wadi: A privately-maintained Web site devoted to Iraeli start-ups offers a list of small companies engaged in high-tech activity in Israel.

Digital 21: An official Hong Kong government site promoting Hong Kong's IT efforts.

Finally, a list of all the Silicon Somethings, from Tasty Bits from the Technology Front.

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Document created on 9 September 1999;