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Silicon Valley

Hungarian exiles created modern tech

Former Intel CEO Andy Grove, centre, with Steve Jobs in 2006. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Silicon Valley was built on microchips, says tech pioneer Marc Andreessen in an interview for the podcast series The Rest Is History. In the 1960s and 1970s, white American Protestants living in California were joined by a group of “genius” Hungarians who had escaped communism with PhDs in engineering. Together they “basically created Intel”, the company that invented the first microprocessor chip in 1971. Andrew Grove, Intel’s CEO, had escaped from Hungary on foot in 1956, when he was 20, “dodging tanks” as he fled. Silicon Valley had a “frontier spirit”, drawing the “best and brightest” from all over the world.

The chip paved the way for the personal computer. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak founded Apple in 1976. Wozniak was the “weird” nerd, Jobs the “brilliant salesman” who packaged up the hippie California ethos and sold it. The internet wasn’t “up and running” in its modern form until the 1980s, although its technological origins lay in Cold War control networks for nuclear command. Even then, only a tiny elite of “technically sophisticated users” could access the internet before the early 1990s. “It was not obvious at that time that the internet was something that normal people would ever use”, and it had a “utopian element” long before the emergence of hate speech, trolling and misinformation.

Listen to the podcast here. Start at 3 minutes 33 seconds.