The Center of the Computer Revolution
Some remarkable stories from this conversation with Dan’l Lewin, a leader of the computer revolution. This episode ranges from Steve Jobs to professional wrestling to art, and the story and promise of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.
This episode is also featured in Jonny Evans’ wonderful article in Computer World.
StoriesHere Podcast Conversation with Dan’l Lewin, President and CEO of the Computer History Museum
Parker: This is Wayne Parker of StoriesHere, and today’s episode is a remarkable conversation with the President and CEO of the Computer History Museum, in the heart of Silicon Valley. That’s Dan’l Lewin, and Dan’l is spelled d a n ‘ l. We’ll start with my question about the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer, who was such a legend and an enigma to many people. And Dan’l knew him about as well as anyone, both professionally and personally. So I asked if Dan’l could sit down on the porch with him for a talk, what would that be like, what questions did he think they might ask each other?
You knew the late Steve Jobs professionally and personally about as well as anyone. If you could sit down with him on the porch for a talk, what would that be about, what questions do you think you might ask each other?
I think Steve would probably be focused very very intently on putting the control back in the person’s hands. And right now some of the business models that have emerged have really relegated the individual to the product and I think he would have some sense of responsibility. It’s trying to put that promise back in the system. That’s what I would think and I would want to talk to him about that.
That’s Dan’l Lewin, computer pioneer and now President and CEO of the Computer History Museum. Hello, this is Wayne Parker of the StoriesHere Podcast. And we’re speaking with him remotely at his office at the museum, in Mountain View, California in the heart of Silicon Valley. And Dan’l, that’s spilled D A N ‘ L ,was a leader at Apple, co-founder with Steve Jobs of NeXT, and later head of the Microsoft presence in Silicon Valley, along with a number of other roles.
And there are three related trivia questions in this episode. I put Dan’l on the spot and he got all of them right, so you can hear the answers from him a little later.
Here are the questions:
– What was the name of the first personal computer?
– When was it first sold, and
– Where was Microsoft founded (hint: it wasn’t in the Seattle area)
Let’s get to this wonderful conversation.
Dan’l, thanks for being with us today.
Lewin: Glad to be here.
So your background, for people that don’t know, you were at Sony and Apple and you were at NeXT and Microsoft. Could you tell us about how you got to Apple and then how you got to NeXT from there?
Sure glad to again Wayne. Thanks for having me. Well as you mentioned I worked initially, it’s Sony I was coming out of. College in 1976 in the very early part of 1977 went to work for Sony at a small office in Cupertino, California, which everything South of San Francisco down to Monterey Bay Area and it was the beginning of would consider the microprocessor Revolution which evolved very rapidly into the personal computer the irony of.
Taking that job which came about through serendipity and her college roommate. Was that a week after I started the two Steve’s jobs and Wozniak left the garage and rented the office space next to my little 600 square foot office where there were were five people and within about a year of joining that office.
I was running the office and looking after what is the core of Silicon Valley and then again from South San Francisco down to Monterey. Long story short there is most people know Steve Jobs was very keen on design. And in those days in particular Sony was the definitive us Japanese company in terms of consumer electronics as a result of design and they charged a premium based upon that design and Steve would.
Knock on the door, even though it wasn’t a retail operation. It was a business recording systems division now-defunct within Sony which inevitably or eventually brought out the three and a half inch floppy disk several years later. Which is what motivated Steve to whom my, you know, gotten to know over a over a three or so four-year period seeing him nearly every day because they had 600 square feet.
It just a few people right next door to us. So the end was the three and a half inch floppy when it hit the market Steve called and come over. I need to see this now. It took years thereafter for Apple to actually integrated into the Macintosh which by then I was a key member of the. So people that started that division inside of Apple.
I’d gone to work their years prior on the Lisa project which was the technology basis of all the Macintosh work. So I mean, that’s where the long story short
I remember that time and it seemed like the whole world was watching the incredible innovation at Apple. And then the drama as Steve Jobs was forced out and you guys went off and co-founded NeXT. Is that right?
Yeah. That’s right. I had been running a. Preview program for the Lisa system Division and had the Good Fortune of being asked to put on a suit. I was in my early 20s and put on a suit and stood up in front of about 100 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies because we required that it be the CEO and any others that attended these previews of the Lisa technology had to be officers of the company.
Apple was beginning its process of working through. New distribution strategy, which I was helping build that included a direct sales force and the division will honor to sell to the Fortune 500. Now I had experienced several year learning curve sitting in the Lisa division R&D lab playing with small talk and the window systems mice and all the things that most people have never seen before.
And I was studying where the essence of those Technologies had been birthed. And on my own time was showing off Lisa technology to people from Carnegie Mellon and Brown University and Stanford and a few others because I had this supposition that given that they were the inventors of these things.
They might be a market that would buy rather than having to be sold to and guess what I was. I was right and Steve witnessed that because as the founder of the company as he took over the Mac division call on me and said you need to come here and help us because we want to focus on higher ed out of this smaller.
Implementation of the Lisa technology which was soon to be the Macintosh. So as we launch the Mac, I set up a Consortium of 24 institutions major research institutions all the ivy League’s historically black college women’s School, etc, etc, etc. So a collection to sort of cover the market and.
When Steve was forced out of the company, which is a whole other set of stories over that summer. I was running frankly The Lion’s Share of apples business about two-thirds of the business was in the education market and well, I’d set up the higher ed Market from scratch company actually had no business in higher ed before I did that.
I took on the K-12 business as well which is a which is a lot of fun. But then when Steve called and said, you know, I want to build a system from the bottom up to approach this Market. And you need to come with me I went and spent a day with him and then quit my job the next week and we started next so yes, that’s that’s how things came about.
This is Wayne Parker of the StoriesHere podcast, continuing my conversation with Dan’l Lewin, president and CEO of the Computer History Museum. We’re talking about your time at NeXT. So I just have to ask you about the story of a swim race between you and Steve Jobs. Really, how much money did you win?
Yes, Steve and Wozniak met in high school. I think but on a swim team and one morning, we were we went for a swim we were. And so he challenged me to a race not being shy about something that I was particularly good at. I said sure but I would only do that for a percentage of your net worth against the percentage of my net worth which is significantly less than his and and we swam a hundred-yard radius.
I gave him a 25-yard handicapped and caught him within 50 yards and then we smiled and we shook hands in the end.
Ok, well I’m glad we could set the record straight about this swim race. There is another story that I heard from your time at NeXT. I think it’s Heidi Roizen who said she came in and made a pitch at NeXT when you were there.
And she had proposed a 15% revenue share and Steve tore up the contract and and said well come back when you when you can offer 50%. And then she walked out to the parking lot and the way she describes it as she was really distressed about it.
She said you followed her out to the parking lot and had this really helpful conversation. And I think it shows something about your people skills and may be helpful to listeners to hear this. She has said that you really helped her figure out how that it could be a win-win for everybody. Could you tell us about what happened there?
Well when we started NeXT one of the things that. For me to say this because I was part of the collection but Steve was a pretty good collector of talent and we hired some incredibly bright Engineers who were actually PhDs in Zoology and they had built a word processor for Apple under contract for the Macintosh which by the time they were.
Finished with it Apple had moved on and didn’t want to enter the market with a very high-quality word processing technology. And so when we go into court hire the engineers they had this product that had no life because it didn’t have distribution Partners. So we reached out. Through a relationship in one of our founding engineers at next to Heidi and she came in running a company called tea maker a small company and you know because Steve was Steve and he had a negotiate and blah blah blah, you know, I did I did follow her out because.
There was a way for Steve and quote-unquote next to receive 50% by because I knew a lot about distribution and infrastructure because that’s where I had come to Apple from my Sony relationship etcetera. And and I was actually pioneering apples work towards going direct to the end user as Dell had eventually did which is.
I’ve done all that which is one of the reasons why Steve got fired because he wanted to blow up the distribution Network at Apple and stuff like that. So there’s a lot of fun stories around that but in the end, I just showed Heidi away to gross up all of the cost structure of the packaging and the boxes in the distribution and the royalties that would go to the Distributors and then to break that down into how much money she would make.
As the publisher and how much money next would get and it turns out that that was effectively a 50-50 split when you stripped all the other costs out and rather than for, you know handling. Those costs through her pl we made it. So it was clear to to Steve but he was going to get half of you can get 50% I get fifty percent even though she was carrying all this other Revenue that was actually, you know cost to her.
So it was a silly thing, but it made Steve happy and got Heidi a deal.
So I see lots of stories where you are able to accomplish that kind of thing and it obviously came into play, as we’ll talk about in a moment, when you represented Microsoft in Silicon Valley. Are there things in your background that helps you be that way? Are there tips that you would pass on to listeners to say, look if you want to be successful, here are some things to think about?
There’s this big people side of it and here’s a way to think about it.
Yeah personal experiences for me with hindsight in the moment. Clearly. I wasn’t aware of it, but I’m older now and I therefore wiser because I have more accumulated experience. But when I look back on it, probably two things that.
Maybe three things that really helped me and and I can only offer the story from a personal perspective other people can perhaps interpret it for their own use the most recent experiences were when I was in college and I had a professor my advisor who was focused on Politics As. Defined in the following way as relationships between or among people.
So I have a degree in politics and the department at Princeton where I attended and receive my degree, they don’t call it a science. They actually call it politics and as a result the advisor that I ended up working with and you have to do thesis work to graduates. So it was a fairly detailed and dance.
Sort of seminars and precepts as they call them was one where I was focused on this notion of personal and political transformation. So personal change relative to relationships between or among people and with hindsight if I go back even further one of the experiences that I had that I don’t know that anyone else on the planet can could replicate today.
The unique family situation that I had were my father was was a Marine in World War II and left the Marine Corps when he was 19 years old and he had received three Purple Hearts by that and to on Iwo Jima and so I kind of grew up in a bit of a bootcamp with someone who was really focused on what was going on all around him all the time.
Because he was alive and everyone else in his Squad except for one or the guy was dead when he got home and. He ended up being a professional wrestler for a living in the days when it was made for TV. It still is but it was the beginning of broadcast television that era and and I went to work with him pretty regularly when I was 4 5 6 7 and Beyond and so
I was hanging around in these dressing rooms with these performance artists each of whom had a unique.
Character and there were giants and there were everybody had a gimmick which either was based on ethnicity or size or scale from midgets and people with dwarfism to Andre the Giant that most people might know by name. These are people that I knew as a kid and grew up with and so I got used to dealing with because I was there with my father and I was hanging around in the room and they were all nice to me and they were very.
They were gentlemen and interesting people who were performance artists and some of them were very bright and interesting and they took a liking to me. So I just grew up in a very different place. So I as I went into school and I ended up at Princeton and study with this really interesting professor and he had philosophies of that ilk and I started to apply them to systems and business.
I never lost touch with the fact that business is made up of people. And you gather our structures associated with it and there are you know, distribution channels and their economics and all the rest associated with it. But for me, it was always about the person in the moment and and what you needed to do to make that work frankly.
That’s the story and. I don’t know how anyone else would replay it. But that’s what worked for me.
Thank you for sharing those personal stories. Who knew in this episode we’d connect the computer revolution and professional wrestling! And it is a very vivid story which means it’s likely to stay with us.
So now could you tell us a little bit about the transition that you made from NeXT to representing Microsoft and 2,000 employees there in the Valley. I heard somebody ask you about managing 2,000 employees and I think you referred to yourself as being more like the mayor of that group.
I did a series of startups some were successful on some failed miserably. All good accumulated experience all sort of Silicon Valley Centric. So I developed a network of relationships in the valley and went to work after taking some time off from my last company and I was looking for for something new new that I’ve never done before and I’m friends with with Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates from the Microsoft days.
Excuse me in the Apple days when. The Apple to boot it up with Microsoft basic as the boot ROM and stuff. I’d done a fair amount with them and I can say I’m appear from an age bracket perspective with those guys. But but I ended up working for Steve on three things the campus itself to it’s an amalgamation of Acquisitions and a brand new building.
And complex here in the heart of Silicon Valley just now surrounded by Google’s corporate headquarters. I was working with the Venture Capital Community and the startup Community to determine and figure out how the company should re-engage and build trust and business. That would be interesting for them to partner with which was the inevitable Services business which Microsoft has now and I also focused on what we call technical diplomacy which was making peace with the industry as a result of the waning facets of an antitrust case which which had come to closure but there were still.
Negotiations to be done and outstanding lawsuits. So while I was the mayor if you will for Microsoft and Silicon Valley including looking after the campus, you know, the campus is made up of Rd organizations that reported off somewhere else into the organ into the company, but the the sense of how the people the employees in those groups engaged with Silicon Valley.
It was going to require Microsoft having community outreach and framing that made it comfortable and palatable for people to want to wear their Microsoft badge. If you will as opposed to their previous employers bad weather was web TV or Hotmail or what have you, you know, the PowerPoint team for Microsoft was an acquisition going.
I don’t to the very beginning of Microsoft there bunch of Apple people that built that product and you know, they were always here and very comfortable because our point, you know ran on the Mac and on Windows Etc. But so again, it was sort of a how does Microsoft engaged in Silicon Valley more than just doing R&D?
And so I set up a framing and an approach to involve people and community outreach and things like that. So again sort of a level of re-engagement on people and. I’ve been politics if you will Making Peace working with a start-up and Venture community. That was a long-running process of building.
Personal relationships or leveraging the ones that I had and then growing an approach for those people to actually reach out and find out how to do business with Microsoft in a transparent way, which I set up a system to do that and that on the making peace with with the industry.
The company had studied principles by which it would adhere and go above and beyond the consent decree in the compliance requirements that were imposed by the Department of Justice Brad Smith who would become the general counsel and with my last boss. He’s the president of Brad and I worked on. The way to he did the legal structures and I did the politics in the technology for how we would normalize relationships with every company that was effectively an enemy.
But at the same time it was required that we do business with them because the products commingle so the security vendors or you know, son where they had the server market and the clients were windows or Oracle or Oracle databases ran on. Windows servers or IBM or the rest? So there were 20 or 30 major corporations where what I did is just turned around the technical back and forth and made it an Economic and Business relationship discussion which over the course of time.
The punchline to the story there is the job stack which Sun Microsystems owned which was this the last source of conflict in the antitrust back and forth in the industry, which is now owned by Oracle that technology runs in Microsoft Azure, which is their cloud service architecture in every Microsoft data center around the world.
So Microsoft is making money. Oracle databases in the Java stack running on its cloud services platform in every country around the world so they get the district. So so I just sort of use the old Playbook and and then had to meet with the people, you know who I knew and trusted and then and then in some cases that’s this took five six seven years.
Evolution but I charted a strategy to make that happen and so be it Microsoft is now perceived to be probably the best company for entrepreneurs and Venture people to do business with a very very good acquirer and economic partner with everybody that they were in conflict with from Adobe or semantic to Oracle.
A few others, but they’re still competition. But but the business relationship is collegial and the conversations are transparent.
Well, and I think people who know from that era the way Microsoft was viewed and the concerns about them that it’s a major transformation. I’ll read what the San Jose Mercury News said about you in 2011… “without much fanfare Dan’l Lewin of Microsoft has become one of silicon Valley’s most influential figures.”
There were a lot of influential figures in Silicon Valley in 2011. So it seems to me that it’s pretty big accomplishment.
Well, it’s a big organization. I had a lot of support in a willing leadership team and that gave me the opportunity to as I said to Steve Ballmer when he hired me if you give me vantage point in a lever.
If I know how a place operates, you know, you can move the Earth, right? Microsoft was keenly interested in becoming a collaborative partner and that doesn’t happen without willingness at the CEO level. So I give Steve the credit for giving me the opportunity and then in the end Satya Nadella who’s running and making all the fundamental technical and business decisions for Microsoft was my last division boss and he was all over this as well and Brad Smith who’s the president in any company of any size.
There’s you know, the leverage is this highly optimized in a small number of people’s hands and they just gave me the opportunity to do the things that I enjoyed and areas where my skills applied and and it was all good for me.
This is Wayne Parker with the StoriesHere podcast…we get to talk today to Dan’l Lewin who’s the president and CEO of Computer History Museum right in Silicon Valley. So you’ve had this amazing front row seat and personal relationships with all of these key players throughout your career.
Does it feel like coming full circle, back around now that you’re President and CEO of the Computer History Museum and you get to tell all these stories.
Oh, thanks. I’m really excited about the opportunity at the Museum. You know, you know, I’m not an engineer. I was fortunate and learned binary and second grade.
I had some good teachers and experimental Teachers College and my hometown and so so my interest and aptitude was Satisfied by. My time at Apple where I got to work with the engineers who invented everything that we live with today, you know mice and window systems and all that. So when I when I was given the opportunity to come to the museum, I put the following contacts on it and you know a I didn’t want to do anything that I’ve done before because I had you know, wonderful different experiences to draw from.
From the beginning of the industry the beginning of the microprocessor if you will so doing something transplanting myself if you will in growing again, because I’m all about meeting new people and learning new things because I don’t think life is different unless you do those two things and in coming to the museum, I looked with historical context again, because I’m not an engineer.
Add the fact that these Cycles tend to take about 50 years. And so if you go from the beginning of the microprocessor and you look at any of the other Cycles from you know, Locomotion and railroads and transportation or no Material Science letting to Aerospace and all those other kinds of things you look at them.
We’re basically entering this next phase from 1970 to say 2020 and you know, the bust was clear around 2000 because of Y2K and the last time the industry got to sell everybody a whole bunch of stuff. And then when you started to break down the components into the web services and web standards worth is Phase now where.
We’re moving into this digital world where computing is ambient and Life as we know it doesn’t exist without Computing and the museum is that this incredible juncture where it has the definitive collection of artifacts to this 50 year window and the oral histories which are mostly hidden away.
And because I like telling stories and I love the idea of learning new things and meeting new people as well as bringing out old relationships and recollecting the museum presents for me personally as well as I think for the rest of the world an interesting opportunity to unleash the insights from the past the historical.
Most of the artifacts in the stories to present day issues which are moving at lightning speed given the trajectory of technology and the notion that it’s ambient. It’s like electricity. It’s everywhere. It’s like it’s more than workers the right because you know TCP IP and it’s wireless and you don’t even need you know, the connectors are the same everywhere electricity got to change the connectors when you go around the world.
So it’s more like the environment. It’s like Aaron Waters. So so I’m really enthusiastic about the museum having the opportunity to turn the corner and effectively reposition itself from the Computer History Museum to this notion of chm where C stands for computing H stands for Humanity and m stands for meaning so Computing humanity and meaning but the question is what does it mean to be a human in a world of computing?
Because life is we know it doesn’t exist without Computing. So we’re focusing on present-day topics, which allows us to have the conversation because history is really not about the past. It’s about the present having a conversation with the past because you can only you can speculate forward but if you understand where you’re coming from, That context again with your questions about people and context.
I’m a context guy and I think that people really want to understand what’s going to happen and why and how it’s happening and you know people who thinking people go to museums. So I think of this as a positioning exercise for the Computer History Museum is more or less like the Sunday New York Times of museums it will what does that mean?
It’s like well for thinking people I don’t care what your politics are. There’s something interesting in the Sunday New York Times for a thinking person could be the book review could be the puzzle, you know could be Sports could be this could be that could be the education section. What have you but Life as We Know It exists because of computing and if again you could take that all the way back to electricity because we are moving electrons.
So anyway, that’s kind of why I’m here and why I’m excited about. In that context that along the time that you’ve been there have you seen particular responses from people either somebody physically at Museum or somebody communicating with you about some information they’ve gathered that you’d said.
Wow. That’s yeah. That’s that’s what we’re after. Well the thing that’s most interesting at the moment because we’re going through the transformation in our strategy right now and attendant to it is a. Rebuild of all of our technical infrastructure, you know, the previous leaders in the museum focused on what they needed to focus on at the time building building out the core exhibits positioning.
The institution is a convening forum for book talks and key leaders of the industry and things like that. So, For me, it’s a long road this it is a non-profit. I’m not snapping my fingers and leveraging money. You know, I’m building a working within the context of the resources. We have at cetera.
So the most interesting thing that I’m gathering and learning in the process now is through the direction of the oral histories and the stories that were gathering. From influential people and as we as I learn more about the Museum Industry in the museum business because I’m new to this. So I’ve been benchmarking with all kinds of Institutions from art museums to the Natural History Museum to the MIT Museum to go on and on science museums and all the rest of I’ve been meeting with people and learning putting us in that context.
I’ve got a three-tiered strategy or three three legs to a stool of the strategy and we’re just sequencing in them and building them out starting with the technical underpinnings. So we’ve got a long term Vision sort of a ten-year worldview, which is what I said, I would come with and we’re about 18 months into it.
So within the next 18 months, we’ll see a lot more change, but my learning is come from talking to people. And the artifacts are clear where we’ve got two percent of our artifacts on display. We got two other buildings filled with amazing things. And you know how we evolved the institution is the fun fun part, but meeting the people in gathering the stories figuring out how to use technology to parse the stories in a way that we can pull nuggets out.
It’s going to be really really fun because the technology exists today. It’s almost off the shelf but yet it’s a wildly fascinating opportunity to make this which is our goal a programmable institution. We are the Computer History Museum. We should be programmable. So that’s the top line with lots of details to follow.
This is Wayne Parker with the StoriesHere podcast, continuing our conversation with Dan’l Lewin, the President CEO of the Computer History Museum. You’ve mentioned art museums… is is there a role for art in the Computer History Museum?
Absolutely. We will be doing many unexpected things in the future and media and art are fundamental. They matter from a cultural perspective. I mean. And culture comes about as a result of language in people’s communication and language. This is the you know, the information and Communications industry, you know, the ICT however Information Technology industry, so so the facets in areas that.
That the technology has evolved to Beyond obviously drawing programs and things when you start to think about all kinds of media and are our fundamental. I mean one of the local companies here in the valley Adobe is, you know always been at the frontier on that and you got Autodesk with 3D and additive manufacturing and Design.
Music of course going way way way back in the very very beginning and I think about you even apple and the Beatles and the label negotiation and you know all I mean, so yeah music our culture wearables, you know fashion. I mean we’re there’s all kinds of environmental issues. Energy Health all we have we will be focused, you know constraint matters.
I say these things with a broad brush, but as an institution will evolve with focus and purpose and will do it with Partners. That’s the other thing that will be attended to what we do. There’s no question that we have these core artifact but under themselves. It’s a little bit like operating systems if you will, that’s why I say we need to be programmable the extensions that others will see when they can take nuggets of the Assets in the unique value that we have an integrated into their worldview in the broadest sense, you know, we’re learning institution and how we can collaborate with others as they create learning opportunities for their audiences.
You know, that that’s that’s the path forward. So you talked about your artifacts.
Parker: wow, I’m intrigued to see what unexpected things might unfold there….sounds like a lot to look forward to…ok, for fun let’s look back for a moment with 3 trivia questions about the history of the computer revolution.
Number 1, what was the name of the first personal computer. It was a kit, still considered by many people to be the first one to really be ‘personal’.
Dan’l, I’d like to put you on the spot and ask 3 trivia questions? The name of the first computer, actually it was a kit that by many people consider it the first personal computer. Remember the name of that computer?
Probably the Altair.
Yes, it was the Altair.
And it was introduced in what year: 1970, 1975 or 1980?
Yes, that’s correct also. And so in a related question, where was Microsoft founded?
Yes, you got three for three. So you’re definitely qualified to be CEO there.
I’ve concluded from talking to our human resources person here at the museum that I could be a Visionary to because we have a vision plan. So, how’s that? It’s perfect. So it’s the Computer History Museum.
When somebody comes there, what are they going to see and what should they do?
You’ll see the front desk obviously and behind you. They’ll be a one word wall, which is a large tall maybe 30 plus foot 40 foot tall wall with the picture of. Attending important people from the industry from Steve Wozniak to John Hennessy who’s the chairman of alphabet and former president of Stanford denying green and the whole series of other entrepreneurs and others.
There’ll be pictures of them with their one word. A placard in front of them which is there one word of advice to people in and around their worldview which typically is that of an entrepreneur a tech Pioneer or Visionary you look to the right and you’ll see one of the first autonomous self-driving automobiles that was designed and built by the Google subsidiary way Mo.
That’ll be to your right, you know a little further tear tear. Rachel see the entrance to the revolution exhibit which is the first 2,000 years of computing which starts with real Basics from the Abacus has the Enigma machine in there has the original machine to put the person first man on the moon, you know, and on and on and on the first punch card machine, which was actually the Jacques our loom for.
For Designing Fabric and rugs and things which eventually was usurped by an individual who was dealing with the Census count in the turn of the two centuries ago in the late eighteen hundreds, which eventually became IBM. So that’s the other direction you again. You’ll go left and you go around the corner and they’ll be a working IBM 1401 machine, which is a punch card machine.
So kids can and others can understand that when you had a punch card machine, they’ll say well where was the software and the answer will be it’s in the holes in the car take a look and let show you how it works and let people look at the basics and then several steps forward from that. You would see our learning lab which is an interactive space where we run run programs for children of all ages frankly, not just kids and and then around that corner will be our interactive exhibit that focuses on make software.
And so the whole notion of how software isn’t impacted Us in the world from from Photoshop to to MRI machines to crash testing and simulations, you know, too. You Know audio and recording and music and iPods to gaming and the rest so stimulation so the museum is vibrant there’s an open flexible gallery that is also in that same Zone.
When you come upstairs, we have all of our auditoriums for for public Gatherings and partner programs and events and things like that 220,000 square foot building at Ground Zero and Silicon Valley mile plus from where this microprocessor and excuse me. The first integrated circuit was was designed by Shockley.
The wafer has a huge diameter, you know multiple inches 8 inches 12 inches. I forget how big they are as opposed to just a teeny little chip that might be in your in your phone in these they have millions of processors on them. So there’s a whole level of functionality.
And it’s being designed right now that’s going to you know, continue to evolve the game. And of course it requires software people have figure out the programming models and compilers and things to make these things work, but they always do and there’s design tools associated with making that happen.
So it’s not like it’s not going to happen. It is happening. So so just keep watching this space. Okay from this is a little unfair because it’s a big question and and hard to do in a short answer. At the Museum.
In our culture we really celebrate success. It seems to me that a lot of Silicon Valley was built on failure and coming back from that failure and learning something and moving on to the next thing.
Is that your perspective also from a career in the computer industry?
Absolutely. So yeah, the essence of Silicon Valley is you know accumulated experience which comes from not making the same mistake twice but making mistakes is fundamental. It is the approach to the scientific method and the methodology.
That is evolved in Silicon Valley to today, you know with lean techniques and you know trial and error and testing is key and bets or the evolution of Entrepreneurship and and Silicon Valley are based upon all series of. Combined Market technology Financial people all kinds of risk assessments and by definition if you’re looking for exponential growth and impact those things need to be lined up and timing luck, you know technical.
Issues etcetera so there’s vast experimentation that occurs and you know, the beautiful thing is that you know, I think the trust and the system is people’s acknowledging those failures and then moving on from them and being clear about what they’ve learned and that’s that’s fundamental and you know the enthusiasm for changing.
The world motivates people to stay in the game. And that’s the other thing that may be unique about Silicon Valley that certainly is spread as a mentality as opposed to a physical location around the world is people’s, you know, willingness and desire to stay in the game as opposed to having a hit and then retiring and I think this is just based upon the fact that there are people here who are by definition inquisitive want to learn two new things and want to keep.
Moving forward in growing and and believe in the in the promise in the inevitability of Technology. You know, the question is there are always downside risks into the technology and that’s Experiencing today, but the greater promise is what everybody aspires to
It really is a remarkable point in history, isn’t it?
Yes, we’re at a we live at this incredible juncture with so many things that are emerging right now are not unlike what occurred with flight where. You know the Wright brothers you no proof that it was quote unquote possible, but it took a long time for the implications of their experiment to play out and given the pace of change and the level of tooling that we have today with Material Science.
And you know, the systems are amazing and Technologies made that possible. So it’s feeding itself and it’s moving at an incredible rate.
We really appreciate your time today. I’m talking to Dan’l Lewin and who is President and CEO of the Computer History Museum. This is Wayne Parker with the StoriesHere podcast. You can find out more about the museum at computerhistory.org.
Thanks to Marie Jackson for helping put all this together. So, it’s great that Computer History Museum is right there in Mountain View, and we hope people come to visit.
Thank you Wayne.
Dan’l and I spoke more after this conversation and we both wanted to express our thanks to all the staff, volunteers, donors and guests who make the Computer History Museum, and all museums, such important places in our culture.
This is Wayne Parker with the StoriesHere podcast. Hear other episodes and contact us via storieshere.com. Or you can reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And thank you for listening!