By Levi Sumagaysay
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Leslie Berlin’s new book, “Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age” tells the stories of less well-known, but equally important pioneers of Silicon Valley from the 1970s and ’80s.
As Silicon Valley tech companies struggle with important questions about their influence, reach and culture, it might be the perfect time for a history lesson.
Enter Stanford historian Leslie Berlin’s “Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age.” Berlin acknowledges it’s a “fortuitous time” for her book to come out Nov. 7 after having worked on it for the past six years.
Berlin tells the stories of less well-known, but equally important pioneers of Silicon Valley from the 1970s and ’80s, such as Mike Markkula, who was instrumental in the founding of Apple; programmer Sandra Kurtzig, the first woman to take a tech company public; Al Alcorn, the Atari engineer; Bob Taylor, to whom we owe the personal computer and the internet; Bob Swanson, co-founder of Genentech; Fawn Alvarez, a woman who went from factory floor to executive suite; and Niels Reimers, who helped university innovations reach the public.
“Troublemakers” also contains some “aha!” moments as readers realize the many connections between the old and the new.
We spoke with Berlin about her book and the state of the tech industry on the phone last week. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: How does one become a project historian for the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford?
A: First and foremost, I consider myself a historian and storyteller. I pursued my Ph.D. in the history of tech. I loved everything about Stanford, which had already been collecting information in this area. I was entrepreneurial and invented a job for myself. It was a need that needed to be filled.
Q: What are the lessons entrepreneurs, tech executives and companies can learn from your book?