“Don’t be encumbered by history: go off and do something wonderful.” So said Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the computer chip and co-founder of Intel. Tumblehome Learning has taken that motto as our own, and we celebrated Noyce’s spirit of optimism at a screening of the American Experience film Silicon Valley at WGBH on Friday night, February 15, 2013.
Silicon Valley, available for free download as a streaming video, centers its story on a daring moment of optimism. In 1957, eight young scientists and engineers who worked at Shockley Semiconductor decided to leave their increasingly difficult boss and strike out on their own.
Such a thing wasn’t done in mid-century America: Arnold Beckman, Shockley’s funder, told the eight scientists they would never outlive the shame of their traitorous act. And the first 30 or so companies they asked to back them for a new venture turned them down. But then Sherman Fairchild, an inventor himself as well as IBM’s largest stockholder, took a chance on the team.
The rest, as they say, is history. In 1959 Robert Noyce filed a patent application for the integrated circuit. Fairchild Semiconductor grew with fantastic speed. Soon it was spawning defectors of its own, populating the Santa Clara Valley with electronics start-up companies that people referred to collectively as “the Fairchildren.” In 1968, Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore moved on again, this time founding Intel.
The WGBH studios in Boston are a great setting for a party. Slides played on a huge screen. Docents led groups of guests on tours of the studios. Kids and parents crowded around the Tumblehome Learning table, where we showed off our books, kits, and our newest toy, still under development: Dr. Tan’s Supergrams. Then we moved into the theater, where where film director Randall MacLowry and Tumblehome co-founder (and daughter of Robert Noyce) Penny Noyce made brief remarks.
At the end of the half hour video clip, a collective sigh arose. The audience didn’t really want the show to stop. But we gathered in the foyer again for wine and cheese and Tumblehome Learning’s chocolate fossils.
As the guests filed off for dinner or to go home and download the rest of the show, the Tumblehome Learning team delighted in the evening’s energy and found ourselves rededicated to our mission: inspiring more young people to enter the world of creativity, adventure and entrepreneurship offered by science and engineering.