What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Steve Jobs and John Sculley Macintosh Desktop Computer

  • Silicon Valley wasn’t always synonymous with app developers and venture capitalists — but it sure attracted them.
  • Even before the ’60s, the region was home to dozens of companies developing silicon transistors for corporations and even the government.
  • And that’s not just by chance: Stanford University, located in Palo Alto, played a part in educating many of the dropout-turned-CEOs interested in STEM.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Before there were techies, Teslas, and multi-million-dollar price tags for tiny homes, Silicon Valley was home to rows of orchards, military bases, and a staggering fleet of Stanford University grads picking up production of the tricky technology of transistors.

It was an exciting time, the period between 1968 and early 2000: companies were being formed left and right, of the likes of Apple, Oracle and Intel. Whole entire industries were being created, too. Take for example Atari’s arcade video games, or Google’s search engine. Sprawling campuses were built, and money flooded Sand Hill Road.

Take a look back at what Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom:

In 1968, former Fairchild Semiconductor employees Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce left New York for Santa Clara, California to start Intel. At the time, the company was focused solely on creating memory chips. “I had mentioned to [Noyce] earlier that I saw some semiconductor memory as a possible open field where you could start a new company,” Moore said in 2018.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Intel

Noyce and Moore were part of the original eight to establish Fairchild, a company that created silicon transistors and known for making computers smaller, faster, and cheaper — a starting off point for many other tech companies to come.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Business Insider

In the late ‘60s, there were a handful of other technology companies in Silicon Valley. Moore remembers it as a valley with “a lot of space, relatively little traffic,” and orchards filled with apricots, prunes, walnuts, and almonds.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Mercury News

Intel has remained in Santa Clara since it was founded in 1968. Here is a photo of its campus from 1996.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Intel

IBM has had a stake in Silicon Valley before the name was even coined. It opened its San Jose headquarters in 1952. Senior engineer Rey Johnson once said in an IBM newsletter that he was told two things: to “keep the number of people in the lab to about 50 and experiment in technology that no one else in IBM was working on.”

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Mercury News

This aerial photo from 2000 shows IBM’s headquarters in San Jose, and what was once its first West Coast lab and the city’s biggest employer at one point.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Mercury News

Today, Sand Hill Road is synonymous with the plethora of venture capital companies scattered on either side. This photo from 1971 shows how Sand Hill acts as the connective tissues for Silicon Valley’s renowned towns: Palo Alto, Menlo Park, and Woodside. Back then, you could buy a home for $35,000, but now the median home price is just over $3 million.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Zillow

In 1972, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney founded Atari in Sunnyvale, California. The company was known for its smash-hit video arcade version of tennis, Pong. Atari even employed Steve Jobs for a time.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: New York Times

Bushnell told the New York Times in 2017 that he named the company after a move in the Asian game of Go. “[It’s] kind of like check in chess,” he said. For a while, Atari was the leading video game company, with annual revenues in the billions. Not too long after, the market became saturated, leading to a video game crash in 1983 where the company lost millions.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Sources: New York Times, New York Times

Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in Los Altos, California, in the childhood home of Jobs. Apple has gone through many headquarters, but perhaps the garage is its most infamous, even though they didn’t build computers there. The home was designated as a historical site in 2013.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Sources: Mashable, Business Insider

In 1984, Apple released the Macintosh — one of the most user-friendly computers at the time.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

With John Sculley at the helm during the late ’80s and early ’90s, Apple saw some extreme highs and lows. Jobs would leave, and cofounder Wozniak sold most of his shares, but the company did see success with its System 7 operating system.

Source: Business Insider

Apple opened its company store at Infinite Loop in 1993, but it wouldn’t become its official headquarters until 1997.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: 9 to 5 Mac

The campus is 856,000 square feet and has six connected buildings. When Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, he reportedly frequently expressed disdain with the appearance of the headquarters. “He wasn’t here during the time it was built, and he didn’t have ownership of the design,” said Dan Whisenhunt, the company’s former VP of real estate.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Wired

Apple’s second and current headquarters, built on a site previously owned by HP, has been informally dubbed “The Spaceship” for its circular, silver aesthetic — Jobs even presented the plans to the Cupertino City Council three months before he died.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Wired

A surprising, popular hotspot for up-and-coming innovators during the tech boom? Buck’s Restaurant located in Woodside. Throughout the years, owner Jamis MacNiven (right) has seen all kinds of future millionaires eat at his tables (and build companies, too).

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

These days, many sites where large tech companies were founded have become tourist destinations.

Source: Mercury News

Silicon Valley hasn’t always been home to techies and Teslas. However, its desire for openness, abundance, and beauty has always been a constant, as shown in this 1978 photo of a tech campus in Santa Clara.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Vox

In the 1970s, Silicon Valley “was this obscure little place, where it was gearhead engineers selling to gearhead engineers who used chips,” author Leslie Berlin told Recode in 2017. Her book “Troublemakers” focuses on the region during 1969 to 1983.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Vox

“Within not even a dozen years: The video game industry was born; the personal computer industry was born,” said Berlin. “It’s like you’re watching the Big Bang.”

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

The region has a long history with STEM industries.

Source: Vox

Stanford University, especially its Research Institute, had a longstanding tradition of producing entrepreneurial engineers before the tech boom. Many Stanford grads went on to found million-dollar tech companies.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Berlin found that when Stanford historians like herself ask companies to hand over corporate memos, photos, videos, they often do.

Sources: Vox, Business Insider

But before the tech boom, Silicon Valley was known for its production of artillery and military bases. Opened in 1939, NASA’s Ames Research Center and Moffett Field would later become neighbors to the Googleplex — Google’s sprawling headquarters.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Business Insider

Just a 10-minute drive from the future home of the Googleplex is the future home of Facebook. This satellite image of Menlo Park, California in 1984 shows the site that would later become the headquarters of Facebook.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Business Insider

This is what the Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park looks like today from above. In the next two years, the company plans to expand and open a grocery store, retail shops, housing, and office portions behind its existing site.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Vox

One of the companies staying true to pre-Silicon Valley roots was Oracle, then called Software Development Labs. In 1977, Oracle was contracted to create its namesake database program code for the CIA.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Oracle

Oracle’s headquarters opened in Redwood City in 1989, about 25 miles south of San Francisco.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Business Insider

Then came Google. With the rising popularity of personal computers, and the creation of the internet, Google — then called BackRub — was founded in a Stanford dorm by Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1995.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Business Insider

When the two exceeded the bandwidth of Stanford, they moved into the Menlo Park garage of future Google employee Susan Wojcicki in 1997.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Business Insider

Google soon became too big for a garage (a slight understatement!), and moved to an office in Palo Alto in 1999. Four years later, it would move into its current home: the Googleplex.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: Business Insider

The 4 decades prior to 2000, Silicon Valley attracted thousands of aspiring and veteran engineers along with technology enthusiasts. New jobs were being added every minute. The bubble would burst — leaving even some optimists with a bleak outlook on tech’s future. Though, that, too, would soon end.

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

Source: New York Times

What Silicon Valley looked like during the early days of the tech boom

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