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

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“$40 million makes up for a lot of sexist baloney.”)

In that environment, Kurtzig adopted a strategy that embraced her femininity, a strategy that might strike women today as distasteful. She carried a hard-case briefcase in pink and lavender business cards. “Being a woman often gets you in an office easier than a man,” she tells Berlin. For Kurtzig, such was the reality of being a female executive. It was a man’s world; women just had to adapt to it.

All in all, “Troublemakers” is an interesting trip back in time, taking readers through the recent history of a place that has transformed both business and society. (As an aside, I was surprised to learn that Bushnell, founder of Atari, then went on to successfully start another company: Chuck E. Cheese’s, which had started as a subsidiary of the gaming company.)

Berlin pegs the birthday of the Internet as Oct. 29, 1969, when a Sigma 7 computer at the University of California at Los Angeles sent a command to an SDS 940 machine at the Stanford Research Institute. Just 15 years later, Apple got national attention for its “1984” Super Bowl commercial introducing the Macintosh computer, and enterprising guides had started putting the original garage offices of Hewlett-Packard and Apple on tech-related bus tours. The New England Journal of Medicine started to report “a new type of ligament strain: Space Invaders wrist.”

In “Man-Computer Symbiosis,” a paper in a then-new journal called IRE Transactions on Human Factors in Electronics, Internet pioneer Licklider writes that “the hope is that, in not too many years, human brains and computing machines will be coupled together very tightly, and that the resulting partnership will think as no human brain has ever thought.”

With the advent of artificial intelligence and virtual reality technologies, it seems Licklider’s forecast is bearing out. He died in 1990 at age 75, but as society grapples with these innovations—and their effect on society, equality, and democracy—it’s too bad we can’t ask him to break out the crystal ball one more time.

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