Artist’s rendering of a futuristic off-planet settlement floating in space.
Artist’s rendering of a futuristic off-planet settlement floating in space.
Image: VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images

Sixty-five years ago, William Shockley laid the foundation for the region’s domination in tech

With the past year’s rise of remote work and exodus from the Bay Area to cheaper cities, many people have wrung their hands about whether or not Silicon Valley is dead. The truth is that Silicon Valley has gone through many eras of boom and bust over the decades and has bounced back after each of them. The work may be more distributed, but the heart of Silicon Valley is still beating.

Over the past decade or so, we’ve gotten used to new tech startup founders hyping bold promises that they’ll change the world. But none have had the same…


“Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Hail Mary …”

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British European Airways (BEA) Viscount. Photo: Courtesy The Flight Detective

The soft Irish brogue and insistent click, click, click of rosary beads from the seat behind me steadily increased in volume and intensity as our British European Airways (BEA) commuter flight from Belfast, Northern Ireland circled over London. For distraction, I searched for familiar landmarks along the River Thames. Through low, scudding clouds, I glimpsed the pagoda and glistening glasshouses of Kew Gardens tucked into a great curve of the river directly under the flight path to Heathrow.

I’m typically…


By David Laws

“What’s in a name?” — Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare

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First use of the name in print. Electronic News, January 11, 1971 page 1.

Fifty years ago, long before the advent of Facebook, Google, or the later reincarnation of Apple, a front-page article in the tech-industry’s leading newspaper, Electronic News, introduced a new nickname for a cluster of sleepy agricultural communities near San Jose, California. [1] Known nationwide as the “Valley of Hearts Delight” for its bountiful orchards, the Santa Clara Valley would henceforth be known as “Silicon Valley” after a key material used in semiconductor manufacturing, a booming new industry of the area.

As the fleshpots of San Francisco 60…


“So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay” — Robert Frost

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Pronghorn, sometimes called California Antelope Photo: David Laws

I pulled my jacket close against the chill stirring of an early breeze. A heavy silence enveloped the world in the final, darkest minutes before dawn. To the east, a gray sliver of pending morning peeked from beneath bands of straggling clouds to silhouette the rugged crest of the Temblor Range. …


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Condors socialize on the High Peaks of Pinnacles National Park. Photo: Courtesy Gavin Emmons

The dusty pick-up truck pulls up at a ranch gate in rural south Monterey County, California. Against a backdrop of dry, rolling, oak-savanna foothills, three generations of hunters and their dogs wait for the driver to join them. Soaring on the first thermal uplifts of the morning, shadowy silhouettes of turkey vultures circle silently overhead. Their wavering flight pattern signals a quest for food as their extraordinary sense of smell seeks carrion for the first meal of the day.

Mike Stake, senior wildlife biologist with the Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS), reaches into the back of his truck to retrieve packages…


“I see little difference in magic and science, except to have the opinion that magic is one step ahead of science” — Sybil Leak

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Evening shadows fall on Burley market cross.

For most of us, dragons, ghosts, and witches raise goosebumps but once a year. For the citizens of Burley, deep in the woods of England’s New Forest National Park, every night must feel like Halloween.

The hamlet of Burley is far from an undiscovered tourist gem. Quaint tearooms and souvenir stores straddling its winding, one-block main street bustle by day. …


“Bruton is the only spot in the world I have refused to see again since John died.” — Elaine Steinbeck (1992)

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Discove Cottage watercolor painted by Betty Guy for Elaine and John Steinbeck in May 1959. Courtesy: Betty Guy.

Elaine Steinbeck’s comment in a 1992 letter to artist Betty Guy refers to the time that she and her husband, Nobel-prizewinning writer John Steinbeck, spent at Discove Cottage in Bruton, Somerset, England while he worked on his “reduction of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur to simple readable prose without adding or taking away anything.”

Steinbeck became fascinated with the legends of King Arthur and the Round Table after his Aunt Molly Martin presented him with a child’s version of the…


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The Old Custom House built in 1814, California Historical Landmark # 1. From a vintage postcard in the Mayo Hayes O'Donnell Library postcard collection.

Monterey, California, planned a big celebration on June 3, 2020, of the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city in 1770. Sadly, all birthday events, from historical reenactments to block parties and patriotic parades, were canceled or postponed due to the great Covid 19 pandemic. Instead, other-worldly masked figures haunt the streets of Old Monterey and the venerable adobes are silent and shuttered. We cannot visit them in person, so I invite you to join me on a virtual tour of some of my favorite spots.

A video recording of this story is posted here on YouTube.

Monterey is…


The first four decades

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Intel/Micron NAND Flash Memory Chip

Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) devices are read/write, electronic data-storage elements that continue to hold information after power is removed from the device. They include magnetic disk-drive units and certain semiconductor chips. Semiconductor NVM devices play important roles in every aspect of the digital universe, from storage cells in vast databanks in the cloud to personal portable devices, and comprise one of the largest segments of the $400-billion semiconductor industry today.

As with every significant semiconductor product development, from the transistor to the microprocessor, NVM devices evolved from the work of pioneering researchers who built on the efforts of their predecessors through…


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Golden California poppies light up Machine Gun Flats in spring

BEACH RANGE. ENGINEER CANYON. MACHINE GUN FLATS. These are not typical landscape features you’d expect to find on maps of a California “coastal gem” and “hiker’s paradise.” Their roles in decades of service under military ownership are now largely forgotten, replaced by the delights of wildflowers, bird calls, and jingling mountain-bike bells. Explosions, gunfire, and the mayhem of army maneuvers no longer echo across the rugged back-country and ocean-front dunes of Fort Ord National Monument, set between Salinas and Monterey in the heart of historic Steinbeck Country.

Established by the U. S. Army for infantry training in 1917, the base…

David A. Laws

I photograph and write about Gardens, Nature, Travel, and the history of Silicon Valley from my home on the Monterey Peninsula in California.

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