Science presents a 3-hour history of Silicon Valley

What do we remember or revere? When we talk about the past or history with a capital "H," we almost always are talking about military or political history, the spirit of ‘76, or the attack on Pearl Harbor. What about our industrial past? The history of making things and how those things changed the way we live?

The Science Channel presents "Silicon Valley: The Untold Story" (7 p.m., 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.), a three-part series airing in its entirety tonight. Best known as the incubator of companies such as Google and Facebook and the place where the two Steves (Jobs and Wozniak) launched the personal computer industry in their garage, Silicon Valley has been home to innovative engineers, coders, scientists and technicians for the better part of a century.

"Untold" is rich in footage of cutting-edge technology of decades past and shows primitive versions of the early internet and the first computer mouse.

It also offers interviews with contemporary innovators who acknowledge their debt to a history and culture of invention, which inspired companies such as Xerox and Hewlett Packard in the decades before the PC revolution.

These experts discuss the frequency of failure on the way to paradigm-shifting breakthroughs. One observer jokes that most buildings on the corporate campuses of Silicon Valley are two stories tall and surrounded by grass. That way no one gets hurt when they throw themselves out the window.


"Untold" challenges the myth Silicon Valley is a product of untrammeled free enterprise. For decades, most of the investment in microprocessors and other technology came from the government — and much of that from the Defense Department. As one historian remarks, well into the 1970s, nearly every microchip being manufactured was intended for use in Polaris missiles.

You don’t have to be a scientist or a geek to appreciate "Untold," a rare look back at a particular place that is all but defined by looking ahead.

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The title is apt, as it discusses his development as one of the more acclaimed playwrights of the mid-20th century. But it might also be titled "Arthur Miller: Father" or, for that matter, "Man," as it fleshes out the legend with intimate chats in his kitchen and woodworking shop, where he emerges as warm, emphatic and plain-spoken.

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