Secret History

And Ye Shall Know the Truth, and the Truth Shall Make You Free
– John 8:32 (and the lobby of CIA Headquarters, Langley Virginia)

A few other versions of the talk are here and here
Secret History Backstory Click Here

Master set of slides

Updated master version can be downloaded here


(If you’re interested in the history of the tech scene in New York, Fred Wilson gives a cogent summary here)


The Secret History of Silicon Valley – Backstory

More backstory here and here
Play/download the audio version of each post here

Sources I used for The Secret History of Silicon Valley. Thanks to the authors of this wonderful material.  Special note; read everything Alfred Price has written for WWII and Electronic Warfare.  Steuart Leslie, Charles Lecuyer and Rebecca S. Lowen for Stanford and the Cold War.

World War II Sources – Books/Websites

Cold War Sources — Books

Military/University Alliance

Post Cold War Sources — Books

Silicon Valley Sources – Books


Silicon Valley History

Venture Capital

National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) Sources – Web


ELINT Sources – Web

Air Force

Engineering/ELINT  in the CIA/NSA

ELINT Aircraft Losses

Analyst Demos

Oral Histories

Photo and Movie Sources – Web

WWII Radar History/Photos/Radar Order of Battle

A-12 Oxcart

Movie Clips

22 Responses

  1. Hi highly recommend Don’s book which describes all of the great work done at SRI (Stanford Research Institute) over the years.

    When Don spoke at our 1st ever customer event in 2005 (, he informed us and our clients at Qualcomm that in fact the technology behind their business (satellite tracking) was created at SRI. This was 1 of many great innovation stories he told that day.


    • Scott —
      Here’s something to ask anyone with an iPhone: “Why was the digital assistant for Apple’s products named ‘Siri’?” The answer, of course, is that “SRI” is too hard to pronounce. Yes, Apple acquired the Siri technology from SRI …

  2. And here is the link to the book mentioned in my previous post

    Sorry of the oversight.


    • Scott,
      I’ve read Don Nielson’s book and while the stories are great the book is a a rewrite of history.

      SRI was and is a leading service provider to the military and our intelligence agencies. When classified research was banned from the Stanford in 1969 SRI got a new wave of classified Cold War contracts. The products and research were a great service to our country. However, leaving that part of the SRI story out is at best disingenuous but in reality a bold faced lie.

      The board that approved this whitewash lacked integrity. I hope some day they have a board with a backbone who decides to tell the real story of SRI. It has yet to be written.

      Shame on them.


  3. I would like to suggest two books:

    1. The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America, by Paul Edwards

    2. The Silicon Valley Edge: A Habitat for Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Chong-Moon Lee (Editor)

    Marcelo Savio

  4. […] tenéis la presentación, por si queréis ver con más detalle algunos datos. Y en su blog Steve Blank comenta más detalles y muchas otras historias del valle. Tags: charla, historia, militar, silicon […]

  5. […] Steve Blank a Valley serial entrepreneur and veteran has done some brilliant research on this and gave this talk titled “The Secret History of Silicon Valley” […]

  6. I’m long Easter Eggs! Very nice…

  7. Raining aluminum foil over Europe. I wish there was photos.

  8. Steve, i hope this finds you well, i have a document that maybe of interest to you. I will happily forward, thats if you like absolute mind blowing finds 😉

    Its by Nassim Taleb. Interested?

  9. Hi Steve,

    I just wanted to say thank you for the information and insight that you provide. I am a military veteran aspiring to be an entrepreneur. Would love to have a chat with you sometime for some advice.


  10. Steve,

    Your presentation was fascinating. Thanks for making it available.

    I discovered it after watching a random Wharton entrepreneurship lecture in which you participated.

    As a veteran, this topic really resonated with me; I was aircrew on the MV-22 Osprey, and I’m looking forward to exploring those sources.

    Best regards,


  11. “Government is constantly creating things that corporations then sell, from the microchip to the internet. The government developed microchips for ICBMs because they required a lightweight computing system. Now microchips drive the economy.” — George Friedman interview with John Mauldin

  12. Steve —
    I suggest you include Chuck House’s fine book on H-P in your lists above — helps us understand the technology and business climate that became Silicon Valley, long before the name was coined. It’s thick, but a great ‘read’. Title: “The HP Phenomenon: Innovation and Business Transformation”, Charles H. House and Raymond L. Price. It covers Chuck’s years there, from the ’50’s through Mark Hurd’s years (around 2008). It’s from Stanford Business Books (SU Press).

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