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The place where the future arrives first.

Saturdays 8 - 29 June 2002, 10.30-11.00am

In four programmes, Peter Day looks at the layers of life in Silicon Valley, California...and how the people, the businesses and the place are constantly renewing themselves as they seek out the Next Big Thing.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Silicon Valley is the area 30 or 40 miles south of San Francisco on the west side of San Francisco Bay. Fifty years ago it was an agricultural paradise of orchards and sleepy railhead towns where the fruit was shipped to market...the so-called Valley of Heart's Delight, with miles of snowy blossoms in the spring. We hear about that from Deborah Olson, whose family cherry stall is keeping the heritage alive. But thanks largely to the world-shaping thinkers at Stanford University, the silicon chip took over from prunes and apricots in the 1970s and 80s. And the miles of orchards were bulldozed to create the headquarters of world famous companies such as Apple, Intel and Hewlett-Packard, the company which started it all.

Silicon Valley USA tells the stories of the area in a year when the place went through its own agony, the bursting of the dot-com bubble. Thousands lost their jobs. "But", says Peter Day, "It's amazing how the dot com bust has not shattered the confidence of so many of the people who've been severely dented by it. They're now looking for the next technology revolution..and their own chance to rebuild their fortunes."

In words and music, these four Silicon Valley USA programmes tell the history of the place through the words of the people who live there, successful and failures, rich and poor.
  • There's Larry Ellison, founder of the computer software company Oracle, using a little of his vast wealth to build the most expensive house America has ever seen on a hillside above the Valley.
  • Gordon Moore, the avuncular founder of the chip company Intel, who invented Moore's Law, which has described the pace of the computer revolution for more than 30 years.
  • John Doerr, the billionaire VC or Venture Capitalist behind some of the Valley's biggest overnight successes…and failures.
  • We have supper with the Band of Angels, and exclusive group of multimillionaires ready to pull out their chequebooks to back a good new company if it takes their fancy over the coffee.
  • There's the woman executive with a home looking over a vast swathe of the Bay who's lost $5 million in the dot com bust; her ranch retreat in the hills is up for sale.
  • Saturday morning in Buck's Restaurant in the millionaire's hideaway of Woodside..the local restaurant where huge deals are put together over endless breakfast cups of coffee. Listen to the talk flow from the proprietor Jamis "just the pancake guy" MacNiven; eavesdrop on the Wild Women of Wonder as they meet round a big Buck's table to explore the mysteries of their own psyche..and lots of other impassioned stuff.
  • The programme goes golfing at a "Recession camp" : out of work computer buffs hoping for a new job to turn up.
  • It hears from two 20-somethings who made their fortunes from an Internet company that's now clean out of business; what do you do for an encore?
  • But there are many more layers of Silicon Valley life, too. The waitresses who sing for their supper at Max's Opera Café, but are priced out of property in the Valley.
  • The estate agents who know how to sell a million dollar starter home.
  • The ex monk who cares for the public lavatories on his layby on the beautiful Interstate 280 as though they were a stately home.
  • The "repo man" who chases down the cars of Silicon valley defaulters…he can hitch your car to his wagon in eight seconds flat.
  • The Mexican servants who are getting by without a work permit.
  • The nannies whose pay became an index of the wealth of the dot comers.
  • How even in California's balmy climate, there's room for an Aga saga.
  • The women who are tough enough to admit that they're bullies at work.
  • And, almost everywhere, an extraordinary confidence...even from the man who's been living rough for five years. He's not just out of work : he's an "advocate for the homeless" who stands for Palo Alto council in the local elections.
These are just some of the stories in Silicon Valley USA, four programmes about the future that's happening there now.

Listen again to Programme 1  Listen again to Programme 1

Listen again to Programme 2  Listen again to Programme 2

Listen again to Programme 3  Listen again to Programme 3

Listen again to Programme 4  Listen again to Programme 4

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