Seventy years ago, there was no Apple Campus or Googleplex. Silicon Valley itself didn’t even exist! The region was filled with sleepy towns, prune trees, and orange groves. Since then, the cluster of computer-related companies based in Silicon Valley has shifted the gravity of the United States, providing a Pacific counter-weight to the Mid-Atlantic centers of power and pulling the national economy westward. Margaret O’Mara, an Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington, unearths these transformations in her stunning new book The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America (Penguin Press, 2019)
O’Mara documents how Silicon Valley became Silicon Valley. It narrates everything from the rise of the military-industrial complex in California, the origins of personal computing in 1970s counter-culture, and longer history of the gender politics that would eventually bring us the tech-bro. The book is an entertaining but learned tour of Silicon Valley, as O’Mara ably guides readers through weird and wondrous facts as well as through the broader structures that brought this new digital economy into being. It should interest historians of technology, politics, and capitalism, along with anyone, professional or casual, who wants to know how Silicon Valley got to be so influential and important.
Dexter Fergie is a PhD student of US and global history at Northwestern University. He is currently researching the 20th century geopolitical history of information and communications networks. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DexterFergie.
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