The Secret History of Silicon Valley by Steve Blank (Transcript)

Steve Blank Speaks on Silicon Valley

Hidden in Plain Sight: the Secret History of Silicon Valley by Steve Blank.


Male Presenter: Welcome everybody. It’s my pleasure to introduce Steve Blank. Steve Blank is a serial entrepreneur, he is lecturing at Stanford at the Engineering School of Stanford? Berkeley, at the business school of Berkeley, and the business School at Columbia University. He is a long time Silicon Valley denizen, he is into computer history, he was a marketing guru. That’s how I met him, the previous company where I worked at, Epiphany. And he’s here to give a talk which I think will tie nicely into Tom Perkins’ talk which was given a couple of weeks ago and I don’t know whether you have been to that one or not, Tom Perkins of the KPCB fame. And he talked a lot about Bill and Dave Packard and his relationship with them, and them being a mentor to him. And he touched on a lot of Silicon Valley history. But I thought Steve Blank’s talk will open this a lot more. I’ve seen this talk awhile ago and I can tell you it’s really interesting. Steve, please. Please give Steve a warm welcome.

Steve Blank: So I appreciate being here at the center of the universe and as Boris pointed out, I do drive by teaching in a number of universities which is what you do when you actually cash your Google stock when it crosses a thousand.

So the talk today is Hidden in Plain Sight: the Secret History of Silicon Valley. And a few caveats about the talk. I’m not a professional historian, some of this, hopefully not all of it, is probably wrong. And all of the secrets I’m going to share with you are from open source literature. I find history, particularly history of the Valley, kind of interesting because you could never tell where you’re going unless you know where you’ve been. And the Valley has several waves of innovation. The defense wave, integrated circuit wave, personal computer wave, internet wave, and it doesn’t mean that every one of these waves meant that everybody in the valley was just doing this. But it meant at that period of time, there was a core concentration of expertise in Silicon Valley, in this local area, on each one of these domains.

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And what I want to talk about today, briefly, is an area you probably know very little about. And that’s the area about defense.

Silicon Valley was and in some cases still is the heart and mind of NSA, CIA innovation. And I’m going to illustrate this with five very short stories.

World War II

The first story is about World War II. And a surprise to me is the title. World War II is the first Electronic War. How many of you have ever seen World War II movies? Anyone? Okay. Planes, bombers. Anybody seen, you know, Air Force movies in World War II. Every movie you’ve ever seen about World War II that involved bombers were wrong, every one of them. Not because people were lying, but simply that the directors and the screen writers don’t know and still don’t know what I’m about to tell you today.

Just to set the scene, in September 1939, World War II started in Europe. By the summer of 1940, the Germans had overrun continental Europe. They owned everything from the English Channel and they were moving, starting in June 1941, into western Russia. Britain stood alone. And by December 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the US joined them.

But the only way to affect German power in Europe, in 1941, 1942, 1943, and half of 1944, was the start of strategic bombing campaign to destroy the industrial capacity of Germany. And this was called the Combined Bomber Offensive.

British planes and then American planes, took off everyday to fly from Britain to industrial targets over Germany. The British bombed with four inch of bombers called Lanchesters and Halifaxes, they bombed at night. Their goal was what they called area bombing, or euphemistically to dehouse the population. Unfortunately, if you were in the house, they also had some other effects on you. But since they couldn’t barely see what they were bombing at, this is carpet bombing of cities.

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