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Remembering Shockley lab, birthplace of Silicon Valley

Computer History Museum hosting Wednesday event in Mountain View

Over 60 years ago, when much of Mountain View was still a landscape of orchards and pastureland, a small industrial shop off San Antonio Road developed the modern semiconductor. The research laid the foundation for the tech revolution and enshrined the area as a hotbed for innovation.

Today the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory is considered the crucible of Silicon Valley, its former employees founding a string of other companies today valued at more than $2 trillion.

On Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 15, the Computer History Museum will commemorate the Shockley labs in an event headlined "Celebrating the Birthplace of Silicon Valley." James Gibbons, former dean of engineering at Stanford University, will give a talk on the small firm's immense influence and his personal experience collaborating with the Shockley team.

The actual lab building was demolished last year as part of the second development phase of San Antonio Shopping Center. To mark the location's significance, San Antonio Shopping Center developer Merlone Geier commissioned a series of sculptures of early semiconductors and silicon crystals. Plaques at the site explain the site's history and impact.

The event, which includes tours and refreshments, starts at 3 p.m. at 2585 California St., Mountain View.

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Remembering Shockley lab, birthplace of Silicon Valley

Computer History Museum hosting Wednesday event in Mountain View

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Aug 14, 2018, 10:43 am

Over 60 years ago, when much of Mountain View was still a landscape of orchards and pastureland, a small industrial shop off San Antonio Road developed the modern semiconductor. The research laid the foundation for the tech revolution and enshrined the area as a hotbed for innovation.

Today the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory is considered the crucible of Silicon Valley, its former employees founding a string of other companies today valued at more than $2 trillion.

On Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 15, the Computer History Museum will commemorate the Shockley labs in an event headlined "Celebrating the Birthplace of Silicon Valley." James Gibbons, former dean of engineering at Stanford University, will give a talk on the small firm's immense influence and his personal experience collaborating with the Shockley team.

The actual lab building was demolished last year as part of the second development phase of San Antonio Shopping Center. To mark the location's significance, San Antonio Shopping Center developer Merlone Geier commissioned a series of sculptures of early semiconductors and silicon crystals. Plaques at the site explain the site's history and impact.

The event, which includes tours and refreshments, starts at 3 p.m. at 2585 California St., Mountain View.

More information can be found at the Computer History Museum's events page

Comments

student
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm
student, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2018 at 1:02 pm

Interesting obituary for William Shockley in the New York Times: Web Link

National Geographic Magazine discusses William Shockley. "As a co-inventor of the transistor, William Shockley brought silicon to Silicon Valley. Unfortunately, he was also an unrepentant racist." Web Link

The Southern Poverty Law Center says today Shockley's legacy is celebrated more by the Ku Klux Klan than by Silicon Valley. Web Link


Mister Tee
Cuesta Park
on Aug 14, 2018 at 2:32 pm
Mister Tee, Cuesta Park
on Aug 14, 2018 at 2:32 pm

Everyone is entitled to their opinion, as protected by our Constitution. William Shockley's contribution to semiconductor physics cannot be diminished by his other activities. He was a genius and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics.


Meh
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2018 at 2:48 pm
Meh, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2018 at 2:48 pm

So just talk to him about electronics and not race.
Also, for anyone who cares about the reality of things, the museum is celebrating the lab not the man


Max Hauser
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Aug 14, 2018 at 3:01 pm
Max Hauser, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Aug 14, 2018 at 3:01 pm

Yes, the first comment seemed to miss that this article is all about the *laboratory* that opened in February 1956 (62 years ago, not quite near 70 as the article text currently states). Not about its founder's well-known eccentricities: Web Link

In fact, within a year or so, Shockley's personality had driven away most of the technical talent he'd hired. They formed Fairchild Semiconductor, and developed there the phenomenally successful planar silicon fabrication process that enables almost all semiconductor devices today to be produced photolithographically, in a process not unlike printing.

Fairchild and the planar process, in their turn, spawned a quickly-growing family tree of further integrated-circuit manufacturers, a tree already so large by 1971 that it prompted journalist Don Hoefler, in a trade-journal article about this family tree that I read long ago, to popularize a new term "silicon valley" for the Santa Clara Valley. That company family tree continued to grow, it gave both this region's nickname, and the longest-understood meaning of "silicon valley."

-- A phrase that over the next few decades (I witnessed this) gradually moved beyond the electronics industry, into mainstream popular usage (including by many people who did not know what it meant or came from). Once the phrase had entered popular culture (long after its coinage), extended meanings became attrbuted to it, and other firms not fundamentally concerned with semiconductors (including Hewlett-Packard) claimed roles in the region's creation, although in truth, non-semiconductor and even non-electronic high-tech industry had a long history in the region, starting in the early 20th century and independent of the semiconductor industry that from 1956 had made it specifically "silicon valley."

It can be argued, therefore, that Shockley's notorious personal eccentricities, by quickly alienating his best employees, helped to create (or at least accelerate) the industry phenomenon that became the classic meaning of "silicon valley."


PaulC
Cuesta Park
on Aug 14, 2018 at 3:08 pm
PaulC, Cuesta Park
on Aug 14, 2018 at 3:08 pm

"William Shockley's contribution to semiconductor physics cannot be diminished by his other activities."

I agree that transistors will continue to work the same independent of Shockley's racism. I still find it funny that this article did not briefly acknowledge the controversy over his later views on race, but left it as the elephant in the room. Informed readers are certainly going to be aware of it.

His contributions themselves may not be diminished, but the people we choose to celebrate says something about our values as a community. Shockley as a person does not represent the values of 21st century Silicon Valley, where only recently the names of two other eugenicists were removed from public schools. Normally I am in favor of historical preservation, but I never lost a minute of sleep over the demolition of his lab.

It's fine to celebrate the work that won Shockley the Nobel, but don't try to whitewash the other part of his legacy, which he himself thought to be "the most important work of his career" (wikipedia). These are inseparable parts of the same man.


Pat Thorson-Hallberg
Old Mountain View
on Aug 14, 2018 at 7:37 pm
Pat Thorson-Hallberg, Old Mountain View
on Aug 14, 2018 at 7:37 pm

Congratulations to Jacques Beaudouin for 30 years of focus and determination. I am very very proud of you.
Pat Thorson-Hallberg


Neighbor
Shoreline West
on Aug 14, 2018 at 8:43 pm
Neighbor, Shoreline West
on Aug 14, 2018 at 8:43 pm

This sounds great! But you had to register and "Sales Ended." :'(


BriteLight
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2018 at 12:39 pm
BriteLight, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 16, 2018 at 12:39 pm

I'm an African-American student of physics, condensed matter physics specifically. I went all in while at SJSU to center my career around semiconductor physics and explored esoteric fields in engineering and computer science to complement my concentration. Ironically, while clearly influenced by the ground breaking work of William Shockley, I was also impressed by the philosophy surrounding the interpretation of Psi in the Schrodinger Equation, which many know to have sparked much of the debate leaning to the Copenhagen Interpretation. In my enlightened university experience in the mid-90's I found "The Shaky Game" by Arthur Fine of University of Chicago Press, to be eye opening. Therein is I found N.O.A., the Natural Ontological Attitude. It changed me. I saw things differently. There's a vetting process, a refinement that must take place for models of science. From that time onward, I could see so many false notions and pseudo-science in the public sphere.
We tend to overstate the truth on matters we want to believe in and often make solid claims when we actually know the absolute truth in unattainable. Had William Shockley applied N.O.A. to his notions on race he would likely have used his trial-and-error approach he employed in his transistor research, refining obscure assertions and finding the limits of what science can and cannot say. The successful failure of Shockley shows that he was a close-minded genius. I find it ironic that Shockley failed to challenge his own close-minded racist assumptions stemming from his interpretation of a field of science not of his expertise while I found myself humbled by open-ended nature of the refinement of scientific models and the when and where science can be carefully applied, or not.
I hope that Silicon Valley will continue the progression of open-mindedness that Shockley's ex-colleagues appeared to have embraced despite Shockley's rigid attitude. From my prospective, the attitude adjustment is all part of the progress we've all been witnessing since those days. Shockley's misgivings can be placed right on the forefront, alongside his monumental technological breakthroughs, provided we can all see progress made and progress to be made. So, weather we learn from traditional European teachings, from women in science, or from different people of color, indigenous peoples, eastern, or otherwise different ethnic cultures, we all stand more to gain from an open approach as a human endeavor rather than to feed into close-minded racist assertions. Let Shockley be fully known for who he was so that we might know how much further we have to go.


DC
Sylvan Park
on Aug 16, 2018 at 8:01 pm
DC, Sylvan Park
on Aug 16, 2018 at 8:01 pm

So if a person hate almost everyone he encounters is he still a racist?

They guy was smart but no one liked him... ask his 8 co workers at the lab.


student
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2018 at 8:22 pm
student, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2018 at 8:22 pm

If he spends decades using his wealth and fame actively promoting restrictions on education and job opportunities for non-white Americans, then yes, he is definitely racist.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Aug 17, 2018 at 11:49 am
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Aug 17, 2018 at 11:49 am

Great to celebrate this historical lab in Mountain View.

However, we shouldn't hide other associated parts of that history: it's the lab where Shockley made the fortune that funded his "unrepentantly racist" campaigns, it's also the lab that created an industry that has contaminated many parts of Mountain View and of Santa Clara County (US County with the most superfund sites (23))


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