William Shockley’s Robot Dream: CHF Senior Fellow David Brock Writing in IEEE Spectrum

November 29, 2013 - Philadelphia, PA

The proverb “success has many fathers” is rarely clearer than in the many stories about the rise of Silicon Valley and the diverse web of people, institutions, resources, and dynamics that transformed the San Francisco Peninsula into an astonishingly intense locus of technological activity. Several threads of this web are now legend: Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett’s garage workshop, the tireless networking of Stanford engineering dean Fred Terman, the audacious young scientists and engineers who founded Fairchild Semiconductor Corp. and later Intel Corp. Other threads are just as critical but less well known, like the electron and microwave tube industry of the 1940s and the tremendous growth in military aerospace efforts in the ’50s.

But one intriguing thread has been entirely forgotten, if it ever was really known. It connects the Nobel Prize–winning physicist William B. Shockley, the chemist and industrialist Arnold O. Beckman, the automation craze of the 1950s, and Shockley’s vaulting imagination of a robotic workforce. Read more.

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