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Issue date: December 15, 2000


@caphd:Mayor Rosemary Stasek and Emily Shockley, the widow of William Shockley, dedicated a plaque commemorating Shockley's work as the founder of the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory, formerly at 391 South San Antonio.

@vcredit:Justin Scheck

City commemorates Shockley Lab site City commemorates Shockley Lab site (December 15, 2000)

By Justin Scheck

Many people look for the origins of Silicon Valley in the Hewlett-Packard garage or the Fairchild Laboratories in Palo Alto. But, unbeknownst to many, Mountain View holds a legitimate claim as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

Dr. William Shockley did much of the groundbreaking work in the 1950s and '60s that led to the creation of the first microchips. On Monday, the city of Mountain View gave official recognition to the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory site.

Mayor Rosemary Stasek and Shockley's widow, Emmy, unveiled and dedicated a plaque honoring the legacy of Shockley's work. The 11 a.m. ceremony was attended by Mountain View officials and former Shockley Lab employees, many of whom have gone on to distinguish themselves in the computer industry.

"Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore (co-founders of microchip manufacturer Intel Corp.) came to the Santa Clara Valley to take a job in this building, and it was here that they learned much of the technology ... behind the genius of the Valley," said Mike Riordan, author of Crystal Fire, a book recording the role of Shockley Lab in Silicon Valley history.

The laboratory, founded in 1956, was the training ground for a group of ambitious young scientists who later dispersed to form many of Silicon Valley's major companies.

"We were at the cutting edge at that time," said engineer Bill Hooper, who came to Mountain View from New Jersey in 1960 to work with Shockley. "But I don't think any of us could have looked this far into the future, except maybe for Shockley."

Like many other Shockley alumni, Hooper went on to work at Fairchild Semiconductor, and enjoyed a four-decade career in the high-tech industry.

Despite Shockley Laboratory's breakthroughs, "The company never succeeded. It was always an R&D company," Riordan said. But, he added, the many engineers who left the company to seek opportunity elsewhere "created the whole culture you see in Silicon Valley now. Spinning off was not something that happened nationwide in 1956; these guys not only created the technology, but they created a different culture."

Emmy Shockley said her husband "had a feeling his work was important, but he had more of an interest in just getting work done." He may have seen the potential of his work to grow, but foreseeing such a pervasive influence was impossible, she said.

Shockley, who died in 1989, became a controversial figure toward the end of his life for advancing a theory of the intellectual inferiority of African-Americans. 


 

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