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The History of Silicon Valley and San Jose

Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley and San Jose

One wouldn’t think that Silicon Valley would be old enough to have a website called the “Silicon Valley Historical Association.” After all, most American historical websites are full of black and white photos of grizzled-looking pioneers and tired-looking women. But one could argue that even though the technological innovators who lived in San Jose didn’t have to use an outhouse and had more than one pair of pants, these were still pioneers.

Let’s take a look at how San Jose and surrounding communities came to be known as Silicon Valley.

Some would argue that the term Silicon Valley was born in 1971 when a journalist wrote a piece for Electronic News entitled “Silicon Valley USA.” The journalist was referring to this area of northern California where semiconductors were manufactured. He admits that he heard the phrase from someone who worked in the industry.

Although the term “Silicon Valley” may be from the early 1970s, some would argue that the entrepreneurial seed was planted well before that. In fact, the previously-mentioned historical association says that San Jose and the surrounding area had a pioneer spirit from its beginnings since the region brought in risk-taking gold miners.

The historical association is also quick to credit the spirit of the area to Leland Stanford, Sr.

Stanford was a lawyer who grew up in rural New York. He came to California in 1852 and opened a business selling supplies to gold prospectors.

Stanford entered into politics and served as the governor of California during the Civil War. He organized the railroad, amassed thousands of acres (some that he used for his horse farm), and had a son. The son died at the age of 15, and the heartbroken parents decided to start a university in his name.

This, of course, was the beginning of Stanford University. Although there were other universities gaining notoriety across the country, Stanford was insistent that his university would focus on the sciences and other studies that would be helpful for students to earn a living.

Maybe it was a combination of the “cowboy spirit” and Stanford’s science-oriented university that created what was necessary for “Silicon Valley” to be a household name today. Whatever the magic formula was, it worked. Besides being the home of semiconductors in the 1970s, it is also where the silicon-based integrated circuit, the microprocessor, and the microcomputer was developed.

Silicon Valley near San Jose is a global center for technology and innovation. In fact, the San Jose metropolitan area has the third-highest GDP per capita in the world, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. (FYI – Zurich, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway have the first and second spots.) When you see the number of Fortune 1000 companies that are based in San Jose and Silicon Valley, it is easy to see the reason why they have earned this designation.

Silicon Valley is a part of Santa Clara County

San Jose is the largest city in the county, but it also includes such notable locations such as Cupertino, Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto, Santa Clara, and Saratoga.