Xconomy Bookclub: “Troublemakers” Charts the Birth of Silicon Valley

(Page 2 of 3)

wish they could meet. “Troublemakers” also chronicles the creation, success, and ultimate flameout of video-game maker Atari, whose games have become one of the best-known pop culture symbols of the 1980s.

The Atari story also illustrates another legacy of those early days: the free-wheeling, rule-breaking “brotastic” company culture—from which you can draw a direct line to Uber’s meltdown, the Google manifesto, and other industry #metoo moments—that has since soured.

It’s hard not to read the book through a 2017 lens when Berlin writes that Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell hosted naked hot tub parties and once wore a T-shirt to the office that said “I love to f–k” to the office.

Of course, in the 1970s, the term “sexual harassment” hadn’t yet been coined, much less understood as a fundamentally flawed view of how to treat women in the workplace. Berlin notes that a best-selling advice book targeted toward working women at the time had a chapter called “What if They Call You a Castrating Bitch or a Lez.”

Berlin profiles two female pioneers in “Troublemakers.” Sandy Kurtzig quit her sales job at General Electric to found business software firm ASK—and became the first woman to take a tech company public in 1981. Fawn Alvarez’s story takes her from the factory floor to the executive suite at ROLM, once a large telecom firm.

Both women found themselves targets of sexist behavior. In the book, Berlin writes that Alvarez had “a supervisor stick a Post-it note on her chest and say, ‘I was looking for a flat surface to put this on.’ ”

The book details a 1973 interview with a trade publication, where Kurtzig is quoted as saying she believes in equal pay for men and women, but the reporter assures readers that “Sandy is no women’s libber.” During the road trip to take ASK public in the early 1980s, Kurtzig was given a bright yellow T-shirt that said: “ASK me if I go down.” (Kurtzig ends up holding up the shirt in front of her hired limousine, Berlin writes, adding, … Next Page »

Single Page Currently on Page: 1 2 3 previous page