Charged Bodies (PragProg)

In the beginning was the chip . . . _Charged Bodies_ chronicles the rise of Silicon Valley via the voices of those who shaped it and those forever changed by it.

Thomas Mahon @TomMahon

edited by Margaret Eldridge @Margaret

At the heart of Silicon Valley’s meteoric rise is a story etched in the lives of those who shaped it and those who were forever transformed by it. Author Tom Mahon provides an insider’s perspective on the birth of the semiconductor industry, which sparked the region’s transformation from sleepy farmland to the heart and soul of the high-tech revolution. Through twenty-five extended, in-person interviews you’ll meet a diverse cast of characters whose goal was to create technology and tools in service to humanity. In the Afterword to this edition, the author questions whether they accomplished their objectives and urges readers to rise up and rethink technology.

What did it take to create the atmosphere that transformed rich farmland into the wealthy center of high-tech? Five climates lined up in just the right way. Educational institutions (Stanford and Berkeley); an attractive location with balmy, Mediterranean-like weather; a history of technology development (Federal Telegraph in the early twentieth century); financial risk taking (the gold rush); and a cultural climate near the center of an ideological revolution (the hippie movement). The Santa Clara Valley had them all. In spades.

Before personal computers, or the Internet, or social media came chips. Inventive minds took advantage of the quad-electron structure and unique properties—insulative and conductive—of silicon to create semiconductors. But Charged Bodies is more than just the story of new technologies emerging from “The Valley of the Heart’s Delight.” Using an approach like The Canterbury Tales, Tom Mahon captures the spirit of Silicon Valley in the 80s through the stories of the people all around him. The inventors and bankers have their say. But so do a range of other people who lived through that transition. Listen as artists and hackers, detectives and journalists, lawyers and scientists, flappers and philosophers tell the story of Silicon Valley in their own words.


Tom Mahon was a documentary filmmaker when he was engaged to produce a commercial film for a computer company in 1974, the year the microprocessor was launched and began to change everything. Soon after, he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and began a half-century career as an industry publicist, as well as writing about Silicon Valley as novelist, playwright, essayist, and public speaker.


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This looks like it’ll be a fun read!

I wonder if any of Tom’s documentaries are still online somewhere :film_projector:

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I couldn’t find any of Tom’s documentaries, but let’s ask.

Tom, @TomMahon, are any of your documentaries available online?

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Margaret, What are documentaries?

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@TomMahon Your bio says you were a documentary film maker at one time.

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Tom, Margaret is wondering if any of your films are available online. If you have copies of any films that aren’t online, you might consider uploading them. YouTube would be the obvious site, and you can link to them in your social media accounts.

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Ashton, I apologize for my confusion at this end. I was a documentary film editor in the early 70s before I started writing about high-tech. None of those films is online. But I have some recent short films at https://www.youtube.com/@tmahon3. Thanks, Tom

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Thanks Tom! I had the first video on in the background and liked what you were all talking about. We’ve spoken about ethics in tech on the forum so it was nice to see that you were talking about it all those years ago :smiley:

Yes, Ashton, I began to see some of the dark side showing up in the early 1990, but really got bad after Cambridge Analytica in 2015

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Imagine how much worse it is now Tom, with the advent of AI/ML - scary times ahead!

At first, I assumed it was a book on physics. :slight_smile: