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The Six Cities of Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley has achieved an almost mythical status in both modern American popular culture as well as the annals of world economic history. Located south of San Francisco, the name “Silicon Valley” was coined in the early 1970s due to the volume of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers in the area. Today, the valley is synonymous with technology innovation and venture capital: two mighty forces of change.

The great majority of American economic growth over the past 5 decades has been as a direct or indirect result of an omnipresent technology explosion. However, the over-simplification of Silicon Valley as a physical location belies a misunderstanding of the depth and breadth of contributions to this magnificent and ubiquitous technology upheaval. When using the moniker “Silicon Valley,” we should recognize that, as the number of technology centers across the U.S. increases in numbers, we are actually referring to a mindset as much as a place and to an entrepreneurial approach to life as much as a set of adjacent zip codes.

In truth, Silicon Valley spans the continent, as pervasive in historic eastern cities as it is embedded in New Age Pacific-Northwest locations. It permeates a multitude of lesser-known locales of the Deep South as well as the classic American towns that originally made America the greatest economic colossus that the world has ever seen. Let’s explore six additional locations that are actually connected through the ephemeral fabric of this technological titan that we call Silicon Valley.

The Sister Cities of Silicon Valley

The six sister cities of Silicon Valley are nowhere near northern California, but they are kin to it in a plethora of palpable qualities. In alphabetical order, they are Austin, Boston/Cambridge, Huntsville, Pittsburgh, Research Triangle Park, and Seattle.

Boston

Boston, in many ways, may be considered the oldest sibling of Silicon Valley. Famous as the city that inspired the U.S. Revolution, it is often thought of as the northern cousin to New York. Home to the world-famous universities of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as supremely successful professional sports franchises, Boston has a tremendous technology presence. The very notions of the technologies that the world considers to be staples were conceived in the labs and the think tanks of Cambridge. Those ideas, including the graphical user interface, the mouse, and even social media, eventually found a home on the West Coast and became innate features of every product that the world takes for granted. As the children in the world’s most obscure and financially diminished places casually stroll the streets carrying smartphones with functionality that earlier generations would have considered to be fantastic science fiction, they have the thinkers in the long shadow of Fenway Park to thank for their good fortune.

Austin, Texas

Why Austin, not Houston, Dallas, or even San Antonio? There is a saying in Austin: “Keep Austin Weird.” The Austin Independent Business Alliance adopted this slogan. Austin embraces culture, diversity, and modern innovation. These are necessary key ingredients to high-performing teams. Austin is the perfect incubator for technology innovation, and this starts at the University of Texas, which provides the vast array of local high-tech firms with talent and intellectual energy. Austin has fashioned its own center of innovation (www.austinchamber.com/innovation) whose stated goal is to make Austin the leading region to found and expand technology and innovation-based business. According to Innovate Austin, an economic development initiative, there were 46 incubators, 5,500 high-tech companies, and more than $800 million invested in Austin as of 2016.

The obvious significant contributors to this culture of invention are the historic companies of IBM and Dell Computers (nearby in Round Rock). IBM (www.research.ibm.com/labs/austin) developed the brilliant and industry-changing AIX operating system, and Dell Computers (now Dell Technologies) contributed to the creation and eventual domination of an industry that made the computer as available to the common citizen as a bath towel.

Huntsville, Alabama

Huntsville is at the technological heart of the military industrial complex. These developments may have concerned President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but a significant percentage of the technology used and adopted by the most powerful military was developed and implemented in this lesser-known technological giant in northern Alabama.

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