Does the name Mike Markkula ring a bell?
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak usually get the credit for co-founding Apple, but it was Markkula who deserves his own chapter — or more, Leslie Berlin argues in her new book, Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age (Simon & Schuster, 512 pp., ★★★ out of four).
Jobs and Wozniak had the ideas and prototypes; but it was Markkula, the first chairman of Apple, who helped arrange the funding for the company and apply the adult supervision needed to get Apple products into stores.
Berlin’s book looks at pioneers like Markkula and others from the earliest days of Silicon Valley, as she shows how they laid the groundwork back in the 1970s and 1980s for the tech boom of today.
The author, who serves as project historian for the Silicon Valley Archives at Stanford University, tells of interviewing Jobs in 2003 and asking him why he enjoyed spending time with older veterans of the Valley, like Intel’s Robert Noyce and Andy Grove. He told her, “You can’t really understand what is going on now unless you understand what came before.”
And that’s the point of Berlin’s book, to take a step back and revisit the earliest days of computing, back when machines engulfed entire rooms at corporations and had less memory than a smartwatch.
The early days — and how primitive they were — are an important milestone to document and make for an entertaining read.
The author also visits the birth of the Internet and microprocessor, and companies such as Atari, Xerox, Genentech and Activision.
The stories that resonated the most for this reader were Apple and Atari.
Of Apple, most people remember that the company invented the personal computer, but saw its innovations quickly usurped when Microsoft and IBM teamed to offer a different type of personal computing. Berlin takes us back to the formative years, and shows, in a way I haven’t read before, just what a calming and disciplined approach Markkula brought to making Apple what it was — i.e., securing funding and getting products into customers’ hands.
Atari created the world’s first popular video game, Pong (remember that one, kids?), started in 1972 in video arcades, and then brought games to the home…