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article imageOp-Ed: The amazing promise of Silicon Valley through a lens

By Aron Solomon     Nov 7, 2014 in Technology
Sometimes a photograph captures the essence of a time and place better than thousands of words possibly could. It is more visceral, powerful, and relevant than a story comprised simply of letters and words.
Wired just highlighted this amazing series of intimate photos from what many see as the golden age of Silicon Valley. Photographer Doug Menuez captured the foundation if not the entire spirit of what has become the mythology of Silicon Valley.
In his book, Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley 1985-2000, Menuez draws upon his 15 years in Silicon Valley and the access he had to the people who built not only legendary companies such as Apple and Microsoft, but formed and solidified a culture of innovation.
My own history in and experience with Silicon Valley began just as Menuez's was ending. As a part of Stanford's inaugural and short-lived Institute for Leadership Through Technology in the late 90s, my own immersion was thematically aligned with Menuez's photographs. Most cultures gone bad, as I've argued not once but many times Silicon Valley has, were build on an aspirational foundation. What I love about Menuez's photographs is that they show the component parts of a society build upon innovation and positive change. Even the picture of Steve Jobs kicking a beach ball is recognition that people seeing him at least pretend to relax would be humanizing, kind, even somewhat accessible.
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The power of this image still resonated today and highlights that the golden age of Silicon Valley was one whose foundation was "tough task thinking" to solve, well, really tough tasks. This wasn't an era of Snapchat, Secret, and Clinkle, but rather building an Internet, changing the way we access information, and radically reimagining how human beings would interact with technology and be influenced by it.
On my second day at Stanford, I met people of this stature in what I remember to be a caffeine-fueled learningfest for me. Part of me was imagining the lessons I'd bring back to share with my then co-workers while a more powerful part of me was putting those lessons into the places I needed to so that I could accelerate my own emergence as an entrepreneur. Remembering this in light of these photographs drives home the immense power of images, their ability to re-ignite our own present sense impressions of life-altering immersive experiences.
This slide, from 1992, in which Bill Gates discusses cheap content for the masses (that's us!) is such a perfect representation of global innovation that was coming from Silicon Valley in the early 1990s. So many of the themes with which technology and tech culture struggle to this day can be seen in Menuez's work.
This book of photographs is truly timeless in that it speaks equally well to what many of us see as the lost promise of Silicon Valley by reminding us of its huge potential and truly endless historical wonder.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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