Few places in the world arouse as much fascination for technology as Silicon Valley. This American valley, just over 50 kilometers south of San Francisco, has become one of the poles of innovation – not to mention The pole, In uppercase- that any country yearns to imitate. Apple, Google and Facebook are some of the well-known names that currently give life to this region of San José; but its history has more edges, mostly unknown, that forge its idiosyncrasy. The documentary miniseries The Secrets of Silicon Valley, which premieres this Wednesday (Discovery Channel, 23h), shows in three episodes its past, present and future from the testimony of those who have contributed to its development.
One of the secrets that has gone more unnoticed between so much enthusiasm for technological innovation is machismo hidden in the middle of the valley. As Anna Lee Saxenian, a professor at the University of Berkeley, explains, Silicon Valley is an open and collaborative place, although created by men in which the male culture dominates everything. "It's not easy for women to fit in here because there's a lot of testosterone. It is an industry in which people believe that meritocracy works, but the reality is that there are almost no women, "he says in the miniseries. And reason does not lack, as detailed in the documentary, they only represent about a third of the total number of workers.
The situation reached by the valley is paradoxical if we take into account that in its beginnings, back in the decade of the 30s, women were largely responsible for technical progress. In the middle of World War II, they were an essential part of the assembly lines and dozens of engineers placed the first stones of the fundamentals of information technology. When the war ended, they disappeared as if by magic. In a jump to the most recent decades, Kim Polese, co-creator of the Java programming language and one of the most successful women in Silicon Valley, ensures that examples like yours have not finished ending this discrimination. "Things have changed in the last 20 years, but not enough", ditch.
Part of the prevailing machismo lies hidden in the most striking identity signs of organizations. The famous soccer tables, laundries and restaurants of Google do not cease to be a way to retain the employee in his job for as many hours as possible. "It's not an easy environment for women. You always have to be available and everything is organized so that you spend most of your time working, "says Saxenian. As one of the episodes of the Discovery Channel documentary mini-series progresses, which delves into the hidden side of Silicon Valley, companies also impose impossible schedules for women with children. Too many circumstances for them to have the same opportunities.
- A visionary photocopy company
Silicon Valley it is based on coincidences, paradoxes and fortunes that it calls for its great attraction for talent and innovation. As Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel, points out, he was lucky to find the right technology at the right time. Something similar must have occurred at Xerox, dedicated to the photocopying market. In the 70s, he developed a space called PARC where he sent those futuristic, hairy engineers and some geeks who had nothing to do with their business. In this small campus, his idea of office of the future was born, in which mice, user interfaces and even ethernet connections were used. Early visionaries until Apple commercialized all this technology a decade later with its first Macintosh.
The raison d'être of what we know today as Silicon Valley, despite all the changes that have taken place as a result of crises such as the 2000 dotcom or the Japanese espionage of the 70s, part of that visionary and avant-garde spirit already present in its first inhabitants. William Hewlett and David Packard, founders of HP, left the bases built in the early 30s. They began to innovate in the garage of their homes, gave free food to their employees, allowed them to take the dog to the offices, encouraged the flexibility of schedules They offered shares of the company and sold electronic products. Is the model familiar? To some, it raised a social network, a personal computer or a microchip, in the case of HP was the invention of the first pocket calculator. Each one depending on the decade.
"What is done here is another story. I could not have created WhatsApp anywhere but Silicon Valley, it would have been impossible. This place is magical, "says Jan Koum, co-founder of the courier company. His case is one of those referents from which the south of San Francisco is nourished. He left behind to feed himself with food stamps in his native Ukraine to emigrate to the United States and end up selling his company to Facebook for just over 16,500 million euros. The American dream to which all the residents of the valley aspire, but with an unknown and more real face than at first appears. As adds Vinod Koshia, co-founder of Sun Microsystems, of every thousand companies in Silicon Valley, 999 fail. "Yes, the 10 that change the world, remain, as well as its global impact," he concludes.
The hallmarks of Silicon Valley are more than linked to innovation and new technologies, but they would be unthinkable without the almost revolutionary ideas of their creators. His way of working has also been a presentation in society to the world of its principles and political ideas. One of these protagonists is Steve Wozniak, co-founder Apple with Steve Jobs. "I wanted to be part of the change and counterculture of the time, to get as far away as possible from the Vietnam War. For this reason, we jointly created the first Apple computer, "he explains. Like both creators, many other voices have risen in this valley contestario with their inventions; what not only have they revolutionized the world, but also the way we look at it.