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The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  591 ratings  ·  93 reviews
The epic human story of how, out of a small patch of land in Northern California, high tech recreated America in its image, for good and for ill.

Long before Margaret O'Mara became one of our most consequential historians of the American-led digital revolution, she worked in the White House of Bill Clinton and Al Gore in the earliest days of the commercial Internet. There s
Kindle Edition, 496 pages
Published July 9th 2019 by Penguin Press (first published 2019)
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Jul 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Super interesting history of the innovators, the politicians, academics, and money guys who built silicon valley. O'Mara is not a biased observer. She does a great job not idolizing the "geniuses" but also not painting them as villains. On the political side, she's very clear that SV is not just a product of the free markets (as Peter Theil might believe), but also not just a product of defense department contracting as others have claimed. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in SV, the ...more
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very thorough and commendable history of the rise of Silicon Valley as the center of the computer/tech world. As somewhat of a techie, I found the story interesting, but the narrative is not exactly scintillating. No doubt, she has done her homework, and has written a fine history.
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
I lived through all of the monumental changes described in this fascinating book, yet much of the politics and inside information had totally escaped me.

I was surprised at the monumental role Stanford University played in the foundation of Silicon Valley. As money poured out of the federal government to support all sorts of military projects during the hot war and then the cold, the university moved to become an engineering school, to the consternation of the Humanities faculty. They developed o
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Code is an attempt to cast a far-reaching net to construct a long view perspective on the rise of Silicon Valley as a culture and society in its own right. O'Mara provides a superbly readable and fresh look at an area demonstrably not previously explored in such detail. The depth of research and careful craft involved in parsing such an ambitious scope into an approachable volume is successfully accomplished. Although I found it a slightly longer read than necessary at times, it brought fort ...more
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is an ambitious effort to explain the economic rise and prominence of the Silicon Valley. For the most part the effort pays off. The importance of the Valley to California and to the nation should not be underestimated. California’s personal income tax relies on about 400 taxpayers most of whom live in the area o’Mara is writing about, so this is a story about more than technology. O’Mara’s attempt is to chronicle the history.

At the outset let me make two minuscule gripes - I am big on
Robin Frankel
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a truly enjoyable read, although probably not for everyone. It is the history of the tech industry over seven decades and it held my interest from the very first page.
Matthew Jordan
Mar 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is a quick-paced history of Silicon Valley from the Cold War to the present. Despite the audiobook being 21 hours long, it felt like a quick read because it covered so much ground so speedily. Events & people who deserve entire books of their own received a page or two of discussion. It felt like on every other page a new epoch-making character—Fred Terman, Vannevar Bush, JCR Licklider, Hewlett & Packard, William Shockey, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Mark Andreesen—was introduced, discussed ...more
Ross Nelson
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
A well-researched an evenhanded history of the rise of Silicon Valley. As someone who was there for three decades, reading the book triggered lots of memories of people, places, and times and I noted only a few small errors. This isn't a book about technology, if anything, it's more about money. Who provided it, who got it, and what they did with it. It gives lie to the myth of the entrepreneur creating new worlds from scratch by documenting how much of the valley's history was driven by the gov ...more
Jan 18, 2020 rated it liked it
This was an eye opening history of silicon valley. In this book you explore all aspects of silicon valley from where it is, to the racial and gender inequalities that exist as a part of the culture. I personally really enjoyed learning about the origins. I had no idea that WWII inadvertantly caused silicon valley to be. I gave this 3 stars because it seemed to drag at points, which made me not want to pick it up, and Additionally the book was a bit dry at times, and while this may be a nonfictio ...more
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From Apple to Facebook, the Silicon Valley has come to dominate our lives in ways that perhaps not everyone understands, either from the SV's humble beginnings to the powerhouse of a region it is today. Author O'Mara took us through the very humble beginnings to the modern day, looking at some of the dominant players, some lesser known (or unknown!) names, its role in history, the role of history had on SV and more.

It was interesting. It helped put a lot of information in context, from how and w
Lee Richardson
Picked it up to read over the holidays; very happy with the purchase. I just moved to Silicon Valley, and it was interesting to read the history of the area, and how it turned into a technological powerhouse. The book was a very well researched, well written, and easy to read though it is long). If you want to understand how the valley became the way it is, it's a great place to start.

There's a lot of interesting nuggets in the book. I didn't know much about our competition with Japan, how much
Neil McGee
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read, from government activity in the 50's, Silcon Valley, the politics of the 80's that fueled the internet & boom, to Apple, Microsoft, Netscale, Yahoo, Google, through Facebook, Twitter, PayPal.

All very interesting..

Glad to have read, glad to have this book to read.

Thank you for publishing.
Erkan Saka
Jan 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have recently read several Silicon Valley related books. This must be one of the best. In fact, it takes the history back to post-WWII and provides a more accurate scene. One can sense how Silicon Valley is inherently owing its existence to government resources and how some of its (gender) bias was there from the outset. Again, the tension between counter cultural tendencies and establishment was always there. In any case, this is very thorough historiography.
William Schlickenmaier
Sep 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best single volume history on tech and Silicon Valley. A must read for anyone interested. Highest recommendation.
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
A very well-researched book, explaining the detailed history of Silicon Valley. The book emphasizes the 20th-century history, with a short step into the 21st-century. Terrific connection of government policies, social forces, technical innovations, and the rise of tech business stars.

The Valley is not a product of government or free market - it is both. The Valley's secret? "West Coast investors aren't bolder because they're irresponsible cowboys, or because the good weather makes them optimisti
Patrick Pilz
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have read many books on the history of technology and silicon valley. This one was definitely one of the best. It spans the time from the ascent of computing to todays ambitions for driverless autonomous cars. It expands the core story of technology with excursions into the world of government, policy, defense, venture capitalism and entrepreneurialism. It touches on all major events, but does not and cannot provide depths into any of these. But despite all this, it is a fantastic read.
Dec 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very well-researched and insightful book about Silicon Valley’s history. As someone who lives and breathes in tech @ Silicon Valley, I appreciate that this book offers me different and profound perspectives.

Oftentimes we have been overly focused on the technology side of things, or the movers and shakers of the business. Yet “success came not just from their talent, but from their circumstances and timing.” In particular, I found the inner stories about how policies help shape the Val
Phil Simon
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
In a word, wow. This is a remarkably comprehensive, informative, and and well written text.

Over the years, I've read many books on eBay, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other companies mentioned in the book. That is to say that my knowledge base was far from zero when I picked it up. It's now much greater thanks to this excellent and informative tome.

I particularly enjoyed how O'Mara calls out the hypocrisy of Thiel, Perot, McNeeley, and other "libertarians." They claim that they want
Madeline Zimmerman
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Code is an excellent complement to Walter Isaacson's The Innovators. While Isaacson focuses on the details of the technology produced during the last 60+ years in Silicon Valley, O'Mara does a much needed deep dive on the Valley's defense-centric origins and the critical role federal funding and lobbying played in producing the companies and norms we recognize today. Above all, The Code is a reminder that the Valley did not grow out of a pure free market ideology. ...more
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Five stars for the first 80% for the deeply researched history. It faded near the end with fairly superficial coverage of the last 5-6 years.
Samuel Atta-Amponsah
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
How the Department of Defense Bankrolled Silicon Valley
Steve Jobs, John Sculley (the C.E.O. of Apple) and Steve Wozniak unveil the new Apple IIc computer in 1984.
Steve Jobs, John Sculley (the C.E.O. of Apple) and Steve Wozniak unveil the new Apple IIc computer in 1984.Credit...Sal Veder/Associated Press
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By Stephen Mihm
July 9, 2019

Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America
By Margare
David Holoman
Feb 29, 2020 rated it liked it
two stars for merit plus one for the hard work and the contribution.

If you wanted to write a single-volume history of a huge event, like say, World War II, you would really need to be an expert to discern the critical elements and crucial turning points required to tell the story in a concise narrative.

Ms. O'Mara has done a truly admirable job of chronicling the rise of technology in America. The amount of research and organization that went into this book must have been staggering. So chapeau f
Aug 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Margaret O'Mara's book was a walk down memory lane for me, which is precisely why my husband suggested I might like it. Along with desktop computers, we came of professional age in the early 1980s, and our teaching careers in educational technology keep pace with the myriad developments that were launched by engineers and coders in Silicon Valley.

O'Mara goes back to the beginning to find and trace the roots of how Silicon Valley came to be. She chronicles the story in a wide sweeping arc, touchi
Eric Hulburd
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A fairly comprehensive history of Silicon Valley - its subcultures, cultures, and ties to government funding. I appreciate an author that is able to leverage criticism, without indulging in high minded cynicism. O'Mara accomplishes this by sharing perspectives on tech that are both admiring and detracting without laying judgment. Perhaps the most interesting and insightful issue the books sheds light on is the relationship of Silicon Valley's libertarian ethos that has, from its inception and th ...more
Jun 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
As someone born in San Francisco to a family with roots on the peninsula including Berkeley and Stanford alumni and a grandparent who was part of the local aerospace industry, this book was to a degree about part of my own history. Throw in my background as one who had originally intended to major in history, only to end up working as a software engineer at one of the large tech companies profiled in this book and you have a perfect cocktail saying "this book is for me!" - and it is.

I very much
Oct 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Every 5-10 years I'll pick up a book about the history of high tech or Silicon Valley, partially for nostalgia and partially to see if there's anything new to learn. This book is one of those and, no, I didn't learn any thing new. Also, there are inaccuracies. Still, those problems aren't enough for me to tell folks who still don't know that story to avoid this book. It's very extensive and well written. It's a nice overview for folks reading about the Valley who still don't know much.

Ok, I've c
Kevin Whitaker
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, tech-data
A wide-ranging history of Silicon Valley through a number of lenses -- the main historical figures; the impact of government funding, competitive bidding processes, lobbying, and other outside institutions; a little bit on the diversity problem and some people that broke the mold. I enjoyed this a lot but was occasionally confused by the frequent jumps across space and time, and it's a bit dry overall.

Three things I learned:

1. A major factor in developing talent and resources for Silicon Valle
Scott Hofmeister
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was ok
The average rating for the book was 3.18 which puts it in 86th place among the 96 books we have rated. As the rating indicates, people did not love this book. The primary complaint was from people who have worked in Silicon Valley, that they did not think that the book got into much depth beyond what the members of the group already knew; “been there, done that” was a common sentiment. Eileen raised what I felt was the most interesting point. She felt that the focus of the book was really an exa ...more
Adam Omelianchuk
Nov 08, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a long detailed history of Silicon Valley that really gives a great overview of how the industry started and flourished, and how it influences our lives today. Unfortunately, it gets very tedious at points since it takes an inventory of every important investor along the way. While that may be responsible history, it doesn't make for good storytelling: the good fortune of venture capitalists is not nearly as interesting as the stories of innovation from HP to Apple to Google. Why the au ...more
Mark Hillick
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
“The Code” is a very comprehensive and expansive book describing how tech has evolved from the Silicon Valley of farms, in the 1950s, until today, where its companies rule the world.

There are many other books on the topic of the growth of tech and it’s influence on society,but they typically focus one group, one company or one place whereas O’Mara covers everything from the period of Shockley, Fairchild Semiconductors to the growth of Azure and AWS; not only San Francisco and The Valley but also
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