The Wireless Age

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The Wireless Age:
Electronics Entrepreneurs Before Silicon Valley (1900-1960):
Selections from the Perham Collection of Early Electronics

History San Jose

Everyone knows the local garage stories of Wozniak and Jobs, Hewlett and Packard, and other tech entrepreneurs that gave today’s Silicon Valley its name. However, earlier electronics pioneers of the Bay Area produced some of the most revolutionary communication devices and laid the foundation for what is today’s high-tech corridor.

The individuals responsible for the early growth of communications technology in the San Francisco Bay Area were young engineers and inventors who had something original to contribute to electronics. Even after initial success, they could still be found in their shops and laboratories working side by side with their technicians; often they served as their own salespeople and business managers. Their satisfaction came from doing something new, something that was their own, and from doing it their own way. They brought us wireless communication, aeronautical radio, broadcast radio and television, sound recording, surveillance equipment, and even an analog computer.

Through the Perham Collection’s rare artifacts, extensive photographs, personal papers and corporate ephemera, visitors will be re-introduced to a selection of entrepreneurs who existed in a time when inventing was still an individual, and passionate, pursuit.

The exhibition at History San José includes a display of early surveillance equipment, such as miniature microphones and cameras concealed in purses and tie pins—a contrast to today’s data-mining and satellite surveillance that the artists of Covert Operations investigate.