Book Review – Troublemakers

Troublemakers - Front PageBack on the history track again, I picked up an electronic copy of Leslie Berlin’s ‘Troublemakers – Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age’ about the early days of Silicon Valley.

I’ve read quite a number of books about the rise of Silicon valley in the past, some on famous people like Steve Jobs but most on much lesser known people that didn’t all necessarily get rich and famous but who nevertheless shaped the industry and the way we live today. ‘Troublemakers’ is a book that again deals with this kind of people and Lesslie has decided to tell the story of a number of them that were not covered in this detail in other books I’ve read on Silicon Valley so far.

The book focuses on people such as Mike Markkula, one of the founders of Apple, Nolan Bushnell and Al Alcorn, two of the founders of Atari and Fawn Alvarez and Sandra Kurtzig, two pretty much unknown women today with an interesting Silicon Valley history. Another important part of valley history not so often discussed in books on technology and people are the stories of how venture capital firms such as Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins got started and Leslie also has to tell a few stories about Larry Ellison (Oracle), Regis McKenna (marketing genius) and Don Valentine (venture capitalist) as well. On the early companies side of things, I heard of ROLM for the first time in her book, a company that was instrumental in breaking into the AT&T monopoly of telephone equipment at the time.

Another major stream of the book describes the role of MIT and Niels Reimers in early technology licensing and how this has shaped the technology company landscape in the past decades. And finally the book does not only talk about the computer and IT industry but also how biotech companies were started in the valley.

An overall very interesting and entertaining read for history buffs, fully recommended!