The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story Lewis, Michael. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. English Clark, Jim . Book details Author: Michael Lewis Pages: pages Publisher: W. W. READ Design of the UNIX Operating System: United States Edition (Prentice-Hal [PDF] DOWNLOAD Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Business and In. Editorial Reviews. cresadtgehomual.gq Review. Michael Lewis was supposed to be writing about how Jim Clark, the founder of Silicon Graphics and Netscape, was.
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The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story [Michael Lewis] on cresadtgehomual.gq * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. New York Times Bestseller. “A superb book. New Thing, never answers this question and with good reason. People like. Jim Clark According to Lewis, Clark's talent was based on a risk-. cover title: The New New Thing: A Silicon Valley Story author: Lewis, Michael. publisher: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. isbn10 | asin: print isbn .
She loved DAYS and she loved being on the show. To be able to talk to about Peggy out of character was [wonderful]. Fans make assumptions of who we are based on what we present in the confines of the story, which is understandable. In general, I can say that the ending of the show gave us all goosebumps. Peggy wanted to work. She was a working actress. Some actors might have [rejected that story] for a variety of reasons, but Peggy poured herself into every storyline she was given.
Some people may not have known Peggy passed away. This episode will bring some sense of closure. The idea that people watch us as they progress through life [is fascinating].
In addition to being a committed actress, Peggy was also a huge animal advocate. You know the famous lobster story? Please share! Well, like any story there are several versions of it. Matt never saw the lobster! Another version of this has Peggy taking the lobster over to the props department at the show and asked them to get the lobster to the right place. In that version, the prop guys had a great lobster dinner that night!
Either way, her heart was in the right place no matter which tale you believe! You didn't interact with him so much as hitch a ride on the back of his life.
Once you proved to him that you wouldn't complain, or weep, or vomit into the gearbox, he was not unwilling to pick you up. He offered you a choice of vehicles: His array of possessions was hardly original. He could be made to seem like yet another newly rich guy trying to demonstrate to the world just how rich he'd become. Either that or Page 29 one of those people who try to prove how interesting they are by risking their lives in various moronic adventures.
This was not his motive, however. He didn't need to show how much money he had; the number was in the newspaper every day. The number was always changing. In any case, it never would have occurred to Clark that anyone of his machines was a mere display of wealth, or some kind of thrill ride. No matter how reckless his mode of travel might appear, he never considered himself anything less than the soul of caution.
No, for him all the joy came from mechanical intimacy. He loved to know about them, to operate them, to master them, to fix them when they were broken. More than anything he liked to upgrade and improve them. I came to believe they were the creatures in the world to whom he felt closest. They were certainly the only ones he really trusted. If anything, Clark used his machines not to impress other people but to avoid them.
They were his getaway vehicles. Once it became clear that a person would not permit himself to be gotten away from, Clark would load that person into the back of his stunt plane, launch him five thousand feet straight up in the air, and switch off the engine. The maneuver was known as the reverse hammer.
The plane would plummet back toward earth, tail first, spinning like a top. The passenger rarely returned for a second trip. Unsettling as these rides often were, they were never dull.
Something always happened on them that wasn't supposed to happen. An hour after Clark phoned, he picked me up in one of his designer sports cars. He wore dark sunglasses and the pained expression of a man enduring the aftershocks of two bottles of fine Burgundy. I lobbed into the haze a series of conversation starters before he took a swing at one of them: Veblen was a quixotic social theorist with an unfortunate taste for the wives of his colleagues in the Stanford economics department.
Between trysts he coined many poignant phrases, among them "leisure class" and "conspicuous con- Page 30 sumption. He argued that since the economy was premised on technology and the engineers were the only ones who actually understood how the technology worked, they would inevitably use their superior knowledge to seize power from the financiers and captains of industry who wound up on top at the end of the first round of the Industrial Revolution.
After all, the engineers only needed to refuse to fix anything, and modern industry would grind to a halt. Veblen rejoiced at this prospect. He didn't much care for financiers and captains. He thought they were parasites.
When I told Clark about Veblen, he did a good imitation of a man who was bored out of his skull. When he didn't want to seem too interested, he pretended he wasn't paying attention. Now, his head splitting, he was particularly keen on the idea of the engineer grabbing power from the financier. In the Valley. The power is shifting to the engineers who create the companies.
Engineers created the wealth. And during the s Silicon Valley had created a fantastic amount of new wealth. The venture capitalist John Doerr, Clark's friend and Valley co-conspirator, liked to describe the Valley as "the greatest legal creation of wealth in the history of the planet.
The new new thing : a Silicon Valley story
But such a great new event in economic history raised great new questions. For example, why had it happened? What caused this explosion? Why had it happened here?
The old economic theories of wealth creationthat wealth comes from savings or investment or personal rectitude or the planet earth or the proper level of government spendingfailed to capture what was happening out here in the engineering division of the American economy.
The people who make a living trying to explain where wealth comes from were just starting to get their minds around the phenomenon. In the mid- s a young economist named Paul Romer had written a couple of papers that put across a theory, which he called New Growth Theory.
Soon after Romer published his papers, Robert Lucas, the Nobel Prize-winning economist from Chicago, delivered a series of lectures at Cambridge University on the subject; inside of ten years New Growth Theory had become something like the conventional wisdom Page 31 in the economics profession and the business world.
New Growth Theory argued, in abstruse mathematics, that wealth came from the human imagination. Wealth wasn't chiefly having more of old things; it was having entirely new things. The metaphor that Romer used to describe the economy to noneconomists was of a well-stocked kitchen waiting for a brilliant chef to exploit it. Everyone in the kitchen starts with more or less the same ingredients, the metaphor ran, but not everyone produces good food. And only a very few people who wander into the kitchen find entirely new ways to combine old ingredients into delightfully tasty recipes.
These people were the wealth creators. Their recipes were wealth. The transistor. The microprocessor. The personal computer. The Internet. It followed from the theory that any society that wanted to become richer would encourage the traits, however bizarre, that led people to create new recipes.
Qualities that in eleventh-century France, or even s America, might have been viewed as antisocial, or even criminal, would be rewarded, honored, and emulated, simply because they led to more In short, the new theory conferred a stunning new status upon innovation, and the people responsible for it. The Prime Mover of Wealth was no longer a great industrialist who rode herd on thousands of corporate slaves, or the great politician who rode herd on a nation's finances, or the great Wall Street tycoon who bankrolled new enterprise.
He was the geek holed up in his basement all weekend discovering new things to do with his computer. He was Jim Clark. Clark drove far too fastin the car pool lanethrough the lower half of the Valley to the San Jose Jet Center.
The Jet Center is the place where they keep the growing number of private planes in Silicon Valley. Clark had hired a local cop to teach him how to operate his latest acquisition. The cop had flown helicopters in the Vietnam War. He had been in combat. He hadn't crashed or been shot down. It was a start. The first half hour Clark spent sluggishly running down a safety Page 32 checklist. Even when he headed out to start a new company, he looked as if he were dressed for a day of bait fishing.
The cop barked out a list of parts, and Clark located each of them and ensured it was in the right place. It was his own peculiar cure for a hangover. At one point he looked up and said it was such a beautiful machine that he thought he might download the company that made it. He was perfectly serious. He'd already looked into it. He'd talked it over with his friend Craig McCaw, who had made his fortune in cell phones and had now moved on to putting enough satellites into geosynchronous orbit that a person could log onto the Internet by satellite modem anywhere on the planet.
Clark and McCaw were thinking of submitting a private bid for the helicopter companyas a kind of hobby. Anyway, as he bounced around his new machine, pushing and pulling levers and buttons and blades, Clark was completely absorbed. His headache waned; he entered into a silent spiritual discussion with the shiny metal objects. The cop, perhaps sensing he was being ignored, offered a bone-chilling lecture on the perils of helicopter flight.
The history of helicopters, he argued, is a story of mechanical failure. Not long ago the two finest helicopter pilots on the local police department lost the main rotor blade in flight. The whole mechanism for remaining aloft just flew right off the top. There was nothing left of the helicopter. Just dust. Once all the parts were checked, Clark and the cop climbed into the front seats equipped with the controls.
We rose with a disturbing jolt. The helicopter lifted and swiveled toward the south end of Silicon Valley. Beneath us lay the salt pools and the sewage dumps that used Page 33 to upset local environmentalistsback before environmentalists were priced out of the local real estate market. From a height of three thousand feet the waste was the most beautiful thing in sight. The cop leaned out the window to stare, leaving Clark to fly his new machine. It was his sixth hour of flying a helicopter.
From where I sat, immediately behind Clark, I could see little of his expression beyond the pale yellow of the back of his head. But I could hear the cop shouting to make himself heard; he was singing the praises of the new helicopter. The helicopter tilted over.
We actually flew on our side, heads parallel to the ground. The gauges gyrated wildly. Dozens of circles and needles and lights and switches. About two people on the planet could know what it all meant.
But the world breaks down neatly into people who can look at a control panel and know instinctively what it all means, and those who can't. And Clark was the king of control panels.
He wanted to practice his takeoffs and landings; he wanted to know everything at once. He was not satisfied learning to fly a helicopter at the rate the cop wanted to teach him. Clark was teaching himself. The cop was a mere formality, the instructor required by law. There's not much to say about a man who insists on learning all by himself how to fly, other than he has a tendency to terrify his passengers. Essentially, Clark taught himself by trial and error. He'd poke buttons and push levers, seemingly at random, to see what happened next.
Each time he did this I flinched and waited for the inevitable tailspin. There was nothing left but dust. Oddly, the man who'd just a few minutes earlier spoken those words didn't seem to mind. While Clark poked and pushed, he just nattered on about the perils of helicoptering. Landed on a driving range. Dumb bastards kept wacking golf balls at us. It was like Vietnam all over again. The overwhelming impression made by Silicon Valley at a distance of three thousand feet is one of newness.
The houses are new, the grass is new, even the people are new. And not merely new: With the exception of Stanford University no structure on the horizon had been built to last any longer than it took some engineer to think up a good excuse to tear it down. Everything in Silicon Valley, including the people, was built so that no one would find it tragic, or even a little bit sad, when it was destroyed and replaced by something new. It was one great nostalgia-prevention device. It ensured that the greatest wealth-producing machine in world history was never gummed up by pointless emotions.
The McDonnell Douglas helicopter is supposedly known for its silence to those on the outside of it. On the inside, however, it makes a fearsome racket. I could only just hear the cop as he hooted with glee, "They don't even know we are up here! None of this whop whop whop crap. Weekenders glanced skyward in terror. Somehow in the suburban sprawl Clark had found a field of alfalfa, and decided it was time to practice his landings.
It was illegal for him to do it, but the cop bowed to the inevitable and said, "By the time they reach us, we'll be out of here. Clark still hadn't spoken much. From the moment we climbed into the helicopter, he had been perfectly silent, and concentrated on teaching himself how to fly his new machine. Now, for the first time, he turned his head slightly, and I had a glimpse of his face. His mouth was already in full pucker. He shouted over the whop whop whop to the cop, "Were you controlling it?
The pucker was its way of letting you know he was irritated. Irritation, for him, was not an ordinary low-level emotional event. Along Page 35 with its brother, impatience, irritation was the sensation Clark felt most keenly. He was rarely irritated by machines, but he was often irritated by people, especially when they stood between him and what he was after. His face would redden, and his mouth would twist up into a mouth-of-the-volcano pucker as if it were trying to suppress the inevitable lava.
The mood in the air once his mouth went into its full pucker was a bit like the feeling you might get when, climbing what you thought was a mountain, you looked up and saw smoke billowing from the top. When you spotted the pucker, you froze, turned, and scrambled back down to safety. You found another place to pass the afternoon. The cop didn't know about the pucker.
He shook his head pleasantly. He attempted to engage the volcano in conversation. The fool. Probably not. The whole time Clark had been flying the helicopter, the cop had kept his hands on his own set of controls. From the back seat it was impossible to tell who was in charge. Apparently it wasn't much easier from the front. It was all I could do not to lean forward and scream, "Of course, he's been flying it, you idiot! You've been pushing buttons just to see what would happen! What, you want us all to be a pile a dust?
I'd seen this too many times already to hold out any hope for the cop. He shook his head again, this time not in disagreement but in shock. He was a small furry animal that realizes too late it has wandered into the jaws of doom.
With a soundless sigh he removed his hands from the controls and let them lie limply at his side. The veteran of Vietnam helicopter warfare gave the machine over to the man with six hours of flight experience. In moments Clark had the helicopter back up at three thousand feet.
There he stopped. The human mindor my mind anywayhas come to associate flight with motion: There was no denying the fact that we'd Page 36 stopped moving.
We hovered three thousand feet above the earth, perfectly motionless. After a minute or so of just sitting there, drops of sweat ran down the backs of my legs. Then Clark began to twirl the helicopter, around and around.
We pirouetted in the sky, like an ice skater at the end of a routine. Like a robot. It was pure impulse. The cop resigned himself to letting him go wherever he wanted, since he was going there anyway. We crossed over a highway and into the golden Tuscan hills that rise along the east side of Silicon Valley. The cop sat with his hands in his lap and his eyes on these dimples on the horizon. He had nothing better to do than to enjoy the viewand that is what he did.
Then he asked, "What's that shiny thing down there? Neither could I. The cop pointed, "Take her that direction. It was a plane.
More perfectly preserved than any plane that had ever landed upside down in a tree. It jutted from the giant oak as if it had been placed there by a large, sensitive hand. The terrain offered no natural landing pad, and we were unable to come close enough to peer inside the plane's windows. But when it was clear beyond doubt that the shiny metal object was indeed a plane the cop phoned the tower at the San Jose airport.
His tone suggested that an aircraft in an oak tree was perfectly normal, part of the guided tour. Once that message had been digested, a new voice came over the radio. Then he said, "This makes no sense. Jim, take it up. We're going to orbit until they arrive. There were open fields less than a mile away. Soon we were high over the crashed plane and carving wide circles over the Valley.
We took off at exactly a certain time. The sun was setting at exactly a certain angle, so that we could see the plane There was nothing to do but to wait for whoever it was who cleaned up after plane crashes, so that we might lead them to the oak tree. If it was dark and they ran out of fuel that would explain why they came down here. It was small and white and fragile; it was hard to see how it hadn't collapsed on impact.
For anyone still alive inside that plane, I thought, there was good news and bad news. The good news was that you'd been spotted. The bad news was that the man flying the helicopter leading rescue units to your aid had six and a half hours of flight experience and a hangover. And he was growing irritated at how little sense you made. For the next hour Clark circled Silicon Valley, and I finally had a good look at the place from the perspective that Clark sought to maintainthe perspective of a man gazing down from a great height.
It did not really look very much like a valley. It was more of a broad, watery plain, though if you drove far enough in any direction you eventually encountered some shy, self-effacing mountains. For that matter, it was as difficult to spot the silicon in Silicon Valley as it was to find the valley. Page 38 The Valley had a brief but curious commercial past, in which Clark showed no interest whatsoever.
It ran something like this: The sunshine, the abundance of U. Added to this was the absence of an Old World snobbery, still present back East, but nearly absent west of the Mississippi.
Back East engineering had always been viewed as glorified manual labor. No one thought of Harvard or Princeton or Yale as a place you went to become an engineer. The Valley was at least in part an attempt to reinvent the old social order. Out here engineering did not have the stigma of manual labor. Engineering was respected, maybe more than any other profession, perhaps because the original economic prospectors were mining engineers, and the lawyers and bankers came as an afterthought.
In any case, by the mids technically minded people were aware that the region offered them a chance to do better for themselves than they might back East.
Intel invented the microprocessor; the microprocessor made possible the boom in personal computing; the personal computer boom led inexorably to the Internet boom; where the Internet boom might lead nobody knew, though if Clark had his way, and history continued its trend, it would be bigger than the Internet. This mind-boggling chain of events had been triggered by the technical man's desire to find a place where he could take what he felt was rightfully his.
It wasn't until we hovered at three thousand feet over the Valley that I could actually see Clark's career. Part One had been about engineers building machines, cheaper, faster, and better. They built them so fast and so cheap that, commercially speaking, they made themselves uninteresting. Each new machine they built, sooner or later, became a commodity.
Other peopleusually foreign peopleeventually figured out how to build it more cheaply. The companies that made the machines, such as Hewlett-Packard, remained viable. But they were as dull and plodding and predictable as any other big American company.
Part Two of the Valley story was not at all plodding and predictable. At some point in the early s the engineers had figured out that they didn't need to build new computers to get rich. They just had to cook up new things for the computers to do. The thrill was in the concepts; the concepts were the recipes. The notion of what constituted "useful" work had broadened.
All across Silicon Valley you found office buildings crammed with young technogeeks cooking up recipes that they hoped would turn the economy on its ear.
The role model for this activity was Jim Clark. This was due not so much to Clark's success as to his talent for self-reinvention. Most other fifty-four-year-olds in Silicon Valley had long ago been torn down and replaced. Not Clark. Other people grew old, he stayed new.
His psyche was a magic show, and this was its favorite trick: Clark's ubiquity was reflected in the landscape beneath us; every significant landmark below bordered on his life. Stanford University: Xerox PARC, birthplace of the personal computer: Clark had built his Geometry Engine there, and the Geometry Engine had changed computing.
The great sprawling campuses of the old work station companies, Silicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems: Clark had created the former; some friends of his had created the latter.
The dozens of tiny ski chalets on Sand Hill Road, for which venture capitalists now paid ninety dollars a square foot: The companies born on the Internet: Yahoo, Excite, Home, site, and so on: The Page 40 Internet service companies now layering themselves over the old Internet software companies: It was an extraordinary performance, and it wasn't over yet. Clark's lack of nostalgia for the history beneath us was nearly complete.
Actually, as we circled overhead, what he said was "They need to tear it all down and start over. It's a ridiculous waste of space. Sand Hill Road had the most expensive commercial real estate in the United States. And they were still putting two-story buildings on it!
The thought pleased himhe became less irritated by the crashed plane. The impermanence of the place allowed him, and it, to remain suspended in a state of pure possibility. He was fully occupied only by what had not yet happened.
The part of his brain that kept him interested in being alive groped for what came next, after Healtheon. We circled the Valley for another hour. The cop remained excited about the possibility that people inside the crashed plane were alive and upside down on top of the oak tree. Clark's interest in the plane in the oak tree had faded to nothing. Having led us into the excitement, he left us to enjoy it for ourselves. It was as if his job ended when he'd stumbled upon the plane; everything else was a mopping-up operation best left to others.
Soon enough a convoy of eight cars, an ambulance, and a fire truck came up a highway in the distance, and we flew out to meet them. They spotted us in the air, and followed our lead down a dirt road. Twenty minutes later another helicopter appeared on the horizon. The voice of its pilot crackled over our intercom. They reached the door of the crashed plane. They opened it. The cockpit was empty. An airplane upside down at the top of a tall oak tree. Eight, maybe nine, miles from the nearest road or house.
And there was no one inside of it. Or, for that matter, anywhere to be seen. Page 41 3 The Past in a Box It wasn't until the next day that we learned what had happened. A few hours before we took off in Clark's helicopter, two guys had set out in their small white four-seater airplane, looking for goats to chase. Apparently people do this. They chase after goats in airplanes. They find themselves a big herd, come in low behind it, and frighten it into running off a cliff.
Or something. Anyway, that morning the pleasure went out of goat chasing almost immediately, when the two men crashed into an oak tree, upside down. By some miracle of injustice neither one of them was killed, or even injured.
The two men simply climbed down the oak tree and headed out to the highway to thumb a ride back to San Jose. They had some idea that they might return later with the necessary equipment and extract their airplane from the oak tree, real quiet-like.
Unfortunately, almost as soon as they'd hit the ground, we'd shown up. The last thing the two men had wanted was to be saved. Rather than endure the embarrassment of explaining themselves to their would-be rescuers, they hid in the bushes until we left.
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Once the sky was clear they sneaked away. We learned all that and more the next day. The afternoon after our Page 42 helicopter ride, we hadn't the faintest idea what had happened. And we drove back to Clark's house in Atherton in radically different states of mind. I, for one, thought we had just had an unusual experience. We'd stumbled upon a plane crash, led a rescue effort, and wound up with a postmodern mystery: Here was the aviation equivalent of the authorless text.
Clark, for his part, had little interest in any of itnot that day or any other. He never mentioned it again. When I said something about how strange it was to see an airplane sticking out of a tree, he said, "Oh, what did it look like? All of his attention had gone into learning to fly his helicopter. At first I thought it was just coincidence that the most stupendously odd accidents befell Jim Clark.
He was so wasteful of them, from a recreational point of view. Experiences from which most people could extract a life philosophy he glanced at once and discarded from his thoughts.
He was the guy with a craving for sweets who'd been handed a huge bag of Snickers bars, which he worked his way through in an hour by eating a tiny corner off each one and chucking the rest. Eventually, I saw a kind of logic in his grazing: If nothing surprising or interesting was happening to him, he moved on until the situation corrected itself. This was as true of his work as of his leisure; indeed, it was hard to say where the work stopped and the leisure began.
They formed a seamless, disturbing pattern of motion and change. Clark's inability to live without motion and change had gotten him to where he was. In his world change and motion begat money, which begat even more change and more motion, and so on. My own view was that he needed change even more than he needed the money that came from the change.
Different people have different words for this need for constant motion and change. Impatience might be a social vice but, to Clark, it was a commercial virtue. He was keen on things only as they happened; after they had happened he lost interest in them altogether.
As a result, it sometimes felt that nothing had ever happened to him at all. Oh, every now and then he was seized by a sense that his past should matter, just as people who have lost a leg occasionally wake up thinking they feel it down there kicking. In one such moment he decided that since Netscape obviously had played some role in economic history he should record how it felt to create it.
But almost as soon as he'd hired his ghost writer, he lost interest. It bored him to sit around answering questions about what had happened. His little contribution to economic historycalled Netscape Timethough not without interest, wound up sounding as if it was written by someone else.
Which, of course, it was. As a practical matter, Clark had no past, only a future. That's when he really came alive: Then he was full of ideas, and they would change from one moment to the next. Clark never used the words and phrases that we all have come to expect from the technology types who pretend to see the future. Vision, the challenge of the next century, the new millennium, the road ahead. That sort of grand talk struck him as perfect bullshit. In all the time I spent with him, I never once heard him refer to his ability to see the future.
He couldn't see itthat's why he had to grope for it. He would be seized by some overwhelming enthusiasmsay, his ambition to create a new field of study that he wanted to call biocomputing, or his newest idea for snaring more billions in the World Wide Weband he would be off and running down some long, dark tunnel leading God knew where.
With him, enthusiasm was a physical event. He stood six feet three inches tall and weighed maybe two hundred pounds, but when he became excited about something he grew three inches and put on fifty pounds.
It was as if someone had injected him with growth hormones. Usually, after a week or two, Clark would decide there was something wrong with his new idea, and drop it. Moments after he'd exploded with his latest plan to create another multibillion-dollar industry, he would have forgotten about it. But every now and then the long, dark Page 44 tunnel didn't come to a dead end. Whatever radar Clark possessed told him that it was okay to sprint into the dark. That's when he was most dangerous.
It was also when he was at his best. Anyway, it took some months before I realized that I was never going to hear about his past from him, at least not in the usual way that information changes hands.
The few times I asked him directly how he had got from there to herewhich, it was becoming clearer, was the same as asking how the modern world had got from there to herehe would offer some perfunctory reply and wave me away. When I pressed he might say, "That's the past. I really don't give a shit about the past. They were stacked up in a closet in the guest bedroom of his house.
It was, like most guest rooms, one of those rooms that looked as if they had been cleaned a thousand times and never inhabited. Since he first started out in Silicon Valley back in Clark had the same secretary, a woman named D'Anne Schjerning. After Netscape went public, in August , she made so much money from her stock in various Clark-inspired enterprises that she bought herself a long gold Cadillac and retired. Up until then, bless her heart, she squirreled away Clark's notes and papers, and stuffed them into cardboard boxes.
She kept the boxes at Netscape until the company outgrew its space, at which point she shipped them to Clark's home. The boxes had never been opened. They looked as new as everything else in the room. Clark had no idea what was in them "It must just be some boring old stuff," he said , but he did not mind if I opened them.
At the top of the first box there was a yellowing clipping from the local newspaper in Plainview, Texas, where Clark grew up. The paper wanted to let the townspeople know that one of their own had gone to California and created a big company called Silicon Graphics. It played it as a straightforward local-boy-makes-good story, and made light of Clark's boyhood failure. It mentioned that he'd been expelled from the local public high school in his junior year.
He'd been an indifferent student and a cutupone of those great bad examples to youth who prove that if you really want to be a success in American life you have to start by offending your elders.
The offense that got Clark tossed out for good was telling an English teacher to "go to hell. Once he left schoolor school left himhe fled town. The next clue folded neatly inside the cardboard boxes was a photograph of Clark circa , having just received his master's degree in physics from the University of New Orleans, on his way to a Ph.
He wore thick dark-rimmed glasses, a crew cut, and an expression that approached, but did not quite achieve, innocence. In under eight years this person, considered unfit to graduate from public high school in Plainview, Texas, had earned himself a Ph. Actually, the story was more remarkable than that. His father abandoned the family when Clark was a small child.
His mother should have taken welfare, but it never occurred to her. The home Clark went back to after a day of turning his school on its head was situated somewhere below the poverty line. When I asked him about the article in the Plainview paper, all he said was "I grew up in black and white.
I thought the whole world was shit and I was sitting in the middle of it. In September , when the rest of his high school class returned for its senior year, he left Plainview for basic training just outside of New Orleans. His career in the Navy started as badly as his career in high school ended. When he arrived at training camp, he was given, along with every other new recruit, a multiple-choice aptitude test.
He had never seen a multiple-choice test, and he didn't know how to take one. To most of the questions several different answers struck him as at least partially correct. Instead of picking the one that seemed most correct, he just circled them all. The Navy assumed that he knew that circling more than one answer fooled the computer that graded the tests. They charged him with cheating, took him off the ordinary slow track for enlisted men, and put him on an even slower one for juvenile delinquents.
Thus the first time Jim Clark ever heard of computers was when he was accused of trying to fool one into thinking he was smarter than he was. The other recruits who took the multiple-choice test went into a Page 46 classroom and obtained their high school equivalency diplomas. Clark alone found himself shipped out to sea. There he spent the next nine months, performing the most disgusting chores that need doing on a ship.
Those nine months at sea have filled a lot of Clark's memory. He recalls officers telling him that he was stupid, and bullies tossing plates full of food on the floor just so that he would have to clean them up.
He returned to the Navy's classroom convinced that Plainview, Texas, just might not be the world's capital of shit. He took his first math test and scored the highest grade in the class. He was unaware that he had any particular aptitude for math and didn't quite believe the result. Neither did anyone else. The Navy gave him another test. Same result. Six weeks later Clark was assigned to teach basic algebra to incoming recruits.
A few after that, one of the instructors told him that it had been a long time since he'd seen someone so naturally gifted in mathematics. He suggested that Clark enroll in night classes at Tulane University with a view to getting a college degree after he'd finished his tour of duty. Within eight years Clark had his college degree, plus a master's in physics, plus a Ph. In the Navy, Clark said, he learned that his desire for revenge could lead to success.
He was propelled in the classroom by his anger about the humiliation he'd suffered at sea. Thus success, for him, became a form of revenge. I returned to the cardboard boxes. They suggested a turbulent early career. There were hints that between and Clark had married at least twice, sired at least two children, moved back and forth across the country at least three times, and held at least four different jobs, mainly at universities. He did postgraduate work at the University of Utah with the forefather of computer graphics, Ivan Sutherland.
In he was fired for insubordination from a post at the New York Institute of Technology, at which point a wife, not his first, left him. Just a few years back, before the Internet boom, Clark's house in Atherton had been surrounded by empty fields. Now he was surrounded by new houses, many of them bigger than his own. One morning he looked up from his kitchen table and saw the neighbors looking Page 47 back. He requested, and was denied, a permit to build a fence tall enough to screen them from his view.
The city of Atherton, California, had strict rules about fences, and the fence Clark wanted to build was declared too high. So Clark built a hill, and put the fence on top of the hill.
It did not occur to him that there was anything unusual about this. As he stood beneath his self-made hill, he tried to explain this extraordinary leap in his career from thirty-eight-year-old unsuccessful college professor with a warning label on his forehead to a founder of a multibillion-dollar corporation. Then I said fuck counseling; it wasn't helping anything.
There was all of this self-actualization stuff around, est and that kind of thing. I thought I don't need some guru to tell me how to find my way out. For a year and a half I was in this kind of downbeat funk. Dark, dark, dark. What was the point of getting here? All those years you thought you were achieving something.
And you achieved nothing. I was thirty-eight years old. I'd just been fired. My second wife had just left me. I had somehow fucked up. I developed this maniacal passion for wanting to achieve something. He reinvented his relationship to the world around him in a way that is considered normal only in California.
No one who had been in his life to that point would be in it ten years later. His wife, his friends, his colleagues, even his casual acquaintancesthey'd all be new. The result of his self-imposed psychology surprised even Clark. He insists that the transformation occurred overnight and that he cannot really explain it. But all of a sudden the best graduate students at Stanford wanted to work with him on his special projecta computer Page 48 chip he'd been tinkering with for nearly three years.
Computer science became a formal academic discipline only in the late s when an obscure subdivision of the U. The best computer science students at Stanford were some of the best computer science students anywhere.
Under Clark they gathered together into a new, potent force. I don't know how many people around me noticed.
But my God I noticed. The first manifestation was when all of these people started coming up and wanting to be part of my project. It was Silicon Valley was chiefly a place where chips were made, though this new company called Apple Computer was having some success mass-marketing computers. Clark set to work turning his new interest in being alive into new technology.
With his graduate students he created a chip that could do things no other computer chip could do. Years later Lynn Conway [a PARC researcher] could still remember the moment she first laid eyes on the chip that would launch a new science.
It was a week or two after Christmas She was seated before her second-floor window at PARC, which looked down on a lovely expanse of valley in its coat of lush winter green, sloping down toward Page Mill Road just out of the view to the south.
But her eyes were fixed on a wafer of silicon that had just come back from a commercial fabrication shop. There were dozens of chip designs on the wafer, mostly student efforts from a Stanford course being taught with PARC's technical supervision.
They all strived toward an intricate machined elegance, comprising as they did tens of thousands of microscopic transistors packed into rectangular spaces the size of a cuticle, all arranged on a wafer that could fit comfortably in the palm of one's hand. A few Page 49 years earlier the same computing power could not have fit on an acre of real estate. One design stood out, and not only because it bore along its edge the assertive hand-etched legend: After the appearance of Clark's chip, the art and science of computer graphics would never be the same.
The computer-aided design of cars and aircraft, the "virtual reality" toys and games of the modern midway, the lumbering dinosaurs of the movie Jurassic Parkthey all sprang from the tiny chip Lynn Conway held by its edges that winter day.
Once again Clark's mind wandered out of the conversation. He had no interest in his Geometry Engine. He'd never heard of the book or its author, Michael A. Hiltzik, though he did, vaguely, recall Lynn Conway.
Dealers in Lightning," he snorted, and then moved back to finding something in his house that needed to be changed. His ego was far too big for gardenvariety immodesty, taking pride in his past accomplishment. He was actually irritated that he was somehow obliged to exhibit pride in something he had done; and he reacted by looking for something he might do. He'd pulled out the previous owner's idea of iron work and put up his own.
He'd dug up his swimming pool and moved it across his yard. Now he cast around with the blank expression that always preceded a new plan. I left him to it and returned once again to the room that had been cleaned one thousand times and cardboard boxes that had never been opened.
They went silent. Right up until was a giant black hole. But after that the paper came fast and thick. First there was a big bill to Clark from a local hospital. A note described an "interior tibia detached completely from bone.
His paper was called "The Telecomputer. Whyte published his classic study of American corporate life, The Organization Man. All these texts tried in one way or another to explain the strange uniformity of the American businessman. He commuted to work in his immaculate gray suit from his neat suburban tract house. He kept his front lawn and his hair trimmed to lengths tacitly agreed upon by his peers.
He avoided high culture, or anything else that smacked of elitism. The enormous gray corporation maintained a constant lookout for anarchists trying to pass themselves off as conformists. They devised clever multiple-choice personality tests, which they gave to anyone who applied for a job: Underline the word you think goes best with the word in capitals: An actual human being read these tests, presumably looking for the fellow stupid enough to circle "morbid" and "evil.
The Organization Man believed in the essential rightness of large groupsand the essential wrongness of the individual. He felt very strongly that people had a moral obligation to fit in.
To Whyte this represented an important and possibly permanent shift in American valuesa kind of loss of innocence. Americans were not merely working differently than they had in the past. They were voting, praying, dressing, downloading, and loving differently, too. And all of it flowed from changes in the corporate culture.
When Americans changed the way they made money, they changed a lot of other things too. The character at the center of Whyte's wonderful psychodrama was "the well-rounded man.
Whyte wrote his book in part as an argument against the well-rounded man. He believed that when society exalted the well-rounded it punished the truly talented: The pressure exerted on the oddballs to be "normal" caused extraordinary products of the human imagination to be discouraged and suppressed: Searching for their own image, management men look for the "well-rounded" scientists. They don't expect them to be quite as "well rounded" as junior-executive trainees; they generally note that scientists are "different.
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Customarily, whenever the word brilliant is used, it either precedes the word but cf. Page 52 Somewhere along the line the Organization Man passed from the American scene. Whether he was murdered or died of natural causes is hard to say; obviously, he had a lot of bad luck between the late s and the late s. One piece of bad luck was rapid technical change, which was a weapon that oddball upstarts could use against the enormous gray corporations.
Another was Jim Clark or, more generally, the engineer with a taste for anarchy, who lifted one big middle finger in the direction of the enormous gray corporation. Silicon Valley hatched a lot of certifiable weirdos interested in getting their hands on money and power. These people became some of the most admired businessmen on earth. And yet, by the standards of the Organization Man, they were barely socialized.
Clark's quixotic bid for power and money began at Silicon Graphics. The company he founded with several of his Stanford graduate students was one of a handful that extended the reach of the computer and caused important people to rethink what the machine might be capable of.
The chip Clark had designed, the Geometry Engine, was better able than any before it to process threedimensional graphics in real time, and so create a simulation of reality on the computer screen. The Geometry Engine made it possible to draw and redraw the real world inside a computer, which was the equivalent of bestowing upon the computer a sense of sight. When you turned on the computer in Clark's Stanford lab, you now saw a realistic, three-dimensional picture.
That thought, strange at the time, soon became commonplace. A lot of people who should have seen the importance of Clark's Geometry Engine thought it was a useless toy. Half the venture capitalists on Sand Hill Road who made their money, in theory at least, financing the future had failed to see its potential. So had the enormous gray corporations of the late s.The cop didn't know about the pucker. It was pure impulse. Blue Bloods' Frank Reagan.
What he did with his opinion, however, was astonishing. Then I said fuck counseling; it wasn't helping anything. But they did not do as well as people who had had no hand in creating the technology. The thrill was in the concepts; the concepts were the recipes. They all strived toward an intricate machined elegance, comprising as they did tens of thousands of microscopic transistors packed into rectangular spaces the size of a cuticle, all arranged on a wafer that could fit comfortably in the palm of one's hand.
He avoided high culture, or anything else that smacked of elitism. I first noticed this problem when I watched one of these peoplea man who had made himself a billion dollarstry to fill in a simple questionnaire.
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