In the popular consciousness, Silicon Valley has kind of just taken on a life of its own. We don’t really think of it as an actual place as much as a concept and way of doing business.
These days, it’s thrown around as a term in the same way we use Hollywood, Wall Street or Washington when we are referring to filmmaking, investing and government. We’ve almost forgotten the actual origin of Silicon Valley and how it got this name in the first place.
It’s all about silicon. Given that everything is an app or a startup these days, it’s easy to overlook this contribution. But this simple substance that scientists and engineers figured out how to use in chips and processors was among the biggest reasons that the tech field has been able to explode into its modern form.
Sure, now our view of Silicon Valley is all about human ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s about disruption and daring to do the things that other people said swore was impossible. But let’s not overlook the little substance that could.
Let’s all remember to give silicon its due.
Simple but Revolutionary
At first glance, silicon might just seem like another element. It’s natural, seemingly boring and very common across the universe. It sits on the periodic table just like many other chemical elements that nobody thinks much about — or would expect to change the course of human history. But silicon has some special properties — mainly its ability to act as an electric semiconductor in some conditions — that made it the chosen substance for our technological revolution.
Silicon does a lot of things. It is not a metal but it’s not not a metal. Its special properties mean that you can find it as a key component in everything from ceramics to building materials. But, of course, silicon’s ability to become the key ingredient in transistors is what made it so famous. Because it can amplify and switch electric currents, you are now able to read these digital words; probably on a smartphone, laptop or tablet. We might not have any of this without silicon.
People think about seals and gaskets even less than microchips. But these too, particularly in the form of o-rings, are absolutely vital to our daily lives. They are involved in everything from automobiles and medical equipment to warehouse machinery and even rocket ships. They are made with different grades of silicon, including food, medical and industrial standards.
Better than Magic?
Silicon’s reach goes far beyond the tech world. Because of its unique physical properties — to bend and reshape, to withstand temperatures hot and cold — we wouldn’t be able to achieve much of what we do every day without these tiny seals. It’s almost magic in a way. But really, it’s all made possible by this unique, amazing and very real substance.
More than Just a Valley
The term Silicon Valley is now ubiquitous. But what about little old silicon itself? It really doesn’t get the credit it deserves these days. Silicon is not just part of the name of a famous valley; it’s absolutely critical to so many industries, products and processes that touch our lives every day.