“We’re not that big on history,” says veteran technology journalist Michael Malone near the close of “Silicon Valley,” a documentary premiering tonight on PBS as part of the “American Experience” series. “We don’t look back very much.”
It’s an odd thing to hear. If you have even a passing interest in the history of computing, you’ve likely run across some portion of the tale told in “Silicon Valley.” How the “Traitorous Eight,” a group of brilliant scientists frustrated by the erratic behavior of their boss, Nobel prize–winning physicist William Shockley, defected to start their own company and kick off the silicon chip revolution, is the foundation stone of Valley myth-making. Every book — and there have been many — that strives to recount the story of how the computer chip changed the world, or how Silicon Valley’s venture capital-funded startup culture, with all its love of risk and innovation, broke the old way of doing business in America, returns, over and over again, to the brave young physicists and chemists who abandoned their corporate cocoon in 1957 and kicked off the future.