Carl Cannon’s Morning Note

Trump’s Economy; GOP’s First 100 Days; Podcast Episode 14; Silicon Valley’s Dawn

By Carl M. Cannon on Apr 27, 2017 09:28 am
Good morning, it’s Thursday, April 27, 2017. On this date 110 years ago, the stirrings of what we know as Silicon Valley began. One of the early pioneers was a man whose name you’ve almost certainly never heard. He was identified in the sports pages of the Stanford Daily as C.F. Elwell — he was a quarter-miler on the Stanford University track team — and his friends called him “Frank,” which was his middle name. Stanford, once known as “The Farm” for its sprawling and pastoral campus, is commonly associated with the technologies, companies, and culture that spawned the Information Age. For the most part, this credit is well deserved. By the time trade journalist Don C. Hoefler publicly used the term “Silicon Valley” in 1970, several generations of Stanford grads had helped alter the landscape and mindset of Santa Clara Valley. Once a rich agricultural area dubbed by the local Chamber of Commerce as the “Valley of the Heart’s Delight,” it had become the epicenter of a technology revolution. No one person or company or university can claim credit for this transformation, but timelines include several seminal events: The 1968 creation of chip-maker Intel Corp. by former Fairchild Co. engineers Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore; the 1961 formation of the venture capital firm Davis & Rock; the 1957 defection of eight engineers from Shockley Semiconductor to their new firm, a division of Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp.; William Shockley’s own mid-1950s breakthroughs in producing silicon transistors; the optimistic 1953 construction of Stanford Industrial Park in an empty field; the 1942 visit of Stanford professor Fred Terman to Cambridge, Mass., to recruit scientists for a wartime electronics research; the encouragement Professor Terman gave Stanford grads William Hewlett and David Packard, who opened shop in a rented Palo Alto garage in 1938. Uncovering the past in this way is like an archeological dig, with each discovery leading to another. But history didn’t start in 1938, either. Silicon Valley’s seeds were planted even earlier, all the way back to the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. Here, Frank Elwell reenters our story, as I’ll explain in a moment. First, I’d point you to RealClearPolitics’ front page, which presents our poll averages, videos, breaking news stories, and aggregated opinion pieces spanning the political spectrum. We also offer a complement of original material from our own reporters and contributors, including the following: * * * The Trump Economy at 100 Days: Under Construction. Alexis Simendinger has this assessment. Big Swings, Few Hits in GOP Lawmakers’ First 100 Days. The majority party has faltered on its priority agenda items, James Arkin reports. ‘The First 100 Days’: Episode 14. In the final installment of our podcast, Emily Goodin talks to White House messaging official Cliff Sims, and Joel Weickgenant talks with Robert Zaretsky about the political situation in Europe. GOP Sells Tax Break for the Rich as ‘Small Business Relief.’ In RealClearPolicy, Chuck Marr argues the proposal to cut taxes on “pass-through” income will benefit the wealthy, not small businesses. U.S.-China Climate Relations Beyond Trump. In RealClearWorld, Jackson Ewing argues that American cities and states are ready to work with China on climate change, with or without the current president. Why the Trump Doctrine Dictates That Assad Must Go. Jason M. Brodsky explains in RealClearDefense. How Congress Can Get Health Care Reform Right. In RealClearHealth, Dave Hoppe and David Wilson provide insight into what the most important aspect of health reform should be. The Path to Health Care Reform Starts With Health Savings Accounts. Also in RCH, Sally Satel asserts that for reform to succeed, it must be spotlight the benefits of HSAs. Why Shale Crushes Solar. In RealClearEnergy, Mark Mills launches a three-part series on “energy revolutions hidden in plain sight” with this article and podcast. Trump Takes Aim at Canadian Lumber, Injures Americans. In RealClearMarkets, Allan Golombek explains how tariffs invariably harm the country introducing them the most. ‘Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit.’ Also in RCM, editor John Tamny reviews this new book by Chip Mellor and Dick Carpenter. * * * It’s not easy, more than a century later, determining exactly what Cyril Frank Elwell was doing this week in 1907. Sports stories in the Stanford Daily, although detailed, are incomplete, but it seems that the young man, then a senior, had earned a point for Stanford in a late-April track meet against Cal by running one leg of the mile relay. Born in Australia to an American father and a German mother, he’d come across a Stanford University course catalogue at age 14, and managed to sail across the Pacific alone at 18 to enroll. Lacking a high school diploma, he nevertheless was admitted after acing entrance exams in Spanish, French, German, physics, and mathematics. Although he would graduate in 1907, Elwell would return for another degree in the 1907-1908 school year. As a student, he’d become enthralled with an emerging new technology — radio — and after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake knocked out local telegraph wires, Elwell strung an antenna from the top of Stanford’s damaged library to see what he could do. A school official named Timothy Hopkins reportedly ordered him to take it down and kicked him off campus for a while. But this was not a prank — it was an early experiment in the feasibility of long-distance radio transmission. After earning an engineering degree at Stanford, Elwell was encouraged by Stanford professor Harris J. “Paddy” Ryan to pursue his vision. He went to Denmark to check out a new invention (Valdemar Poulsen’s arc generator) that would facilitate continuous wave transmission, returned to Stanford in 1909, and within a few years helped found the U.S. version of the Poulsen Wireless Corp., which later became the San Francisco-based Federal Telegraph Company. In the run-up to World War II, this citizen of the world was living in London. He returned to Stanford in 1939 on holiday — or so he claimed. This was not the full story. As Europe girded for war, Elwell was interested in using technology to protect the British people from aerial invasion. Here is the account in the Stanford Daily edition of May 15, 1939: “Cyril Frank Elwell, Stanford graduate in 1908 and recognized internationally as one of radio’s immortals, recently returned to Palo Alto, the scene of his first triumphs in wireless telephony. According to the trim, whitehaired engineer, who today ranks as one of Great Britain’s key men in the all-important defense preparations against air-attacks, he is in the United States ‘merely for a vacation.’ “Elwell’s early experiments made soon after his graduation underlie the first beginnings of radio and are irrevocably linked with the Stanford campus and Palo Alto. Recently he has constructed for the British government, a chain of 11 radio stations which form a line of defense along the North Sea. These stations form a part of a gigantic scheme to detect approaching airplanes which are heading for England. Because the North Sea can be crossed in six minutes by invading aircraft, this line of radio communication has been perfected so that it automatically calculates the speed, the height, and strength of an oncoming fleet of ships, lays barrage, sights guns, and fires them.” Carl M. Cannon
Washington Bureau chief, RealClearPolitics
@CarlCannon (Twitter)

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