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San Jose

Silicon Valley is a region in the southern San Francisco Bay Area of Northern California, referring to the Santa Clara Valley, which serves as the global center for high technology, venture capital, innovation, and social media. San Jose is the Valley’s largest city, the 3rd-largest in California, and the 10th-largest in the United States. Other major SV cities include Palo Alto, Santa Clara, Mountain View, and Sunnyvale. The San Jose Metropolitan Area has the third highest GDP per capita in the world (after Zurich, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway), according to the Brookings Institution.

The word “silicon” originally referred to the large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers in the region, but the area is now the home to many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations, including the headquarters of 39 businesses in the Fortune 1000, and thousands of startup companies. Silicon Valley also accounts for one-third of all of the venture capital investment in the United States, which has helped it to become a leading hub and startup ecosystem for high-tech innovation and scientific development. It was in the Valley that the silicon-based integrated circuit, the microprocessor, and the microcomputer, among other key technologies, were developed. As of 2013, the region employed about a quarter of a million information technology workers.

As more high-tech companies were established across San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley, and then north towards the Bay Area’s two other major cities, San Francisco and Oakland, the “Silicon Valley” has come to have two definitions: a geographic one, referring to Santa Clara County, and a metonymical one, referring to all high-tech businesses in the Bay Area. The term is now generally used as a synecdoche for the American high-technology economic sector. The name also became a global synonym for leading high-tech research and enterprises, and thus inspired similar named locations, as well as research parks and technology centers with a comparable structure all around the world.

Perhaps the strongest thread that runs through the Valley’s past and present is the drive to “play” with novel technology, which, when bolstered by an advanced engineering degree and channeled by astute management, has done much to create the industrial powerhouse we see in the Valley today.
The first published use of Silicon Valley is credited to Don Hoefler, a friend of local entrepreneur Ralph Vaerst’s who suggested the phrase to him. Hoefler used the phrase as the title of a series of articles in the weekly trade newspaper Electronic News. The series, titled “Silicon Valley in the USA”, began in the paper’s January 11, 1971, issue. The term gained widespread use in the early 1980s, at the time of the introduction of the IBM PC and numerous related hardware and software products to the consumer market. The silicon part of the name refers to the high concentration of companies involved in the making of semiconductors (silicon is used to create most semiconductors commercially) and computer industries that were concentrated in the area. These firms slowly replaced the orchards and the fruits which gave the area its initial nickname—the “Valley of Heart’s Delight”.

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