22 Vintage Photos Of Silicon Valley Before It Became A Giant Tech Hub

Silicon Valley is generally considered the center of the tech universe today.

But before Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and a host of other major tech companies set up shop there, the Santa Clara Valley was the center of a different industry altogether.

Rather than office buildings and parking lots, the Valley was covered in orchards and farmland. It was one of the largest suppliers of produce in the United States, and continues to be an agricultural hub today.

History San José, a Silicon Valley-based historical organisation, shared some photos from their archives that show how much the region has changed since its beginnings.

Before it was Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Valley was a land of orchards and farmland. This photo, taken from the top of Mount Hamilton in 1914, shows the wide expanse of the valley.

Known by many as the 'Valley of Heart's Delight,' early 20th-century farms in the Santa Clara Valley supplied one-third of the world's prunes, in addition to huge quantities of tomatoes, grains, onions, carrots, cherries, and walnuts.

A group of men posed with a trenching machine made by the Knapp Plow Company. The manufacturers were an important part of the region's development into an agricultural hub, as the plows they created made it possible to farm the valley's hillsides.

By 1939, the region was home to 18 canneries, 13 dried-fruit packing houses, and 12 fresh-fruit and vegetable shipping firms, including companies owned by the Leonard family and the ancestors of what would eventually become Del Monte.

As the region's railway network improved over time, the Santa Clara Valley became the world's largest center for canned goods and fruit processing.

Wealthy families, who had moved to the West Coast with the Gold Rush and the construction of the railroad system, were some of the earliest settlers in the Santa Clara Valley.

This beautiful home, known as the Hayes Mansion, once belonged to a prominent Valley family but fell into disrepair after it was vacated in 1950. The 41,000-square-foot Mediterranean villa now serves as a hotel and conference center.

The 19th-century Victorian home that once belonged to the Winchester family is now a popular tourist destination. Brave guests can explore the gardens and the house itself, which is rumoured to be haunted by Mrs. Winchester's ghost.

But even from the beginning, the Valley was a place of tech innovation. In 1909, Cyril Ewell led a Palo Alto-based team that developed the first American-built arc transmitter.

The Garden City Bank Building, located in downtown San Jose, was the site of a number of technological breakthroughs. The very first wireless telephone station was established by Charles Herrold here in 1909. Herrold was also the first to broadcast music and news programs to a listening audience, and his wife, Sybil, was the first female DJ in the country.

Lee de Forest, considered by many to be the father of radio, worked with the Federal Telegraph Company to develop the first global radio communications system in 1912.

Source: Leedeforest.org

Slowly but surely, the Santa Clara Valley -- and San Jose in particular -- started to grow. Letcher Garage, seen on the right side of the photo, was where local residents could buy their Cadillacs and Packards.

Source: Metroactive

And by 1940, Santa Clara Valley had a population of nearly 175,000 people.

Source: Bay Area Census

Stanford University was a sort of tech incubator from the very beginning. Professors William W. Hanson and Russell and Sigard Varian developed early versions of the Doppler radar system in Room 404 of the university's Physics Building in the early 1940s.

It wasn't until after World War II that the tech world really exploded. In 1947 William Shockley led a Palo Alto-based team at Bell Labs that invented the world's first amplifying semiconductor, the transistor. The transistor would lead the way to smaller and cheaper electronics, and Shockley would win a Nobel Prize in Physics for his work.

In 1943, IBM opened its first plant in San Jose, at the corner of Sixteenth and Saint John Streets. The facility accommodated just over 100 IBM employees.

Source: IBM

IBM's Silicon Valley presence eventually grew to include multiple research centres, another card plant, and a branch office, which in total accommodated more than 3,000 employees. You can just make out the IBM logo in this aerial shot from 1970.

Source: IBM

By the 1950s, San Jose was a bustling city.

Three men are seen working on circuit panels in 1965.

And here's a look at Hewlett-Packard's Wolfe Road facility, as it was in 1983.

By the 1970s and 1980s, San Jose had developed into a thriving metropolis.

In a drastic change from the orchards of the previous decades, this aerial shot shows freeways, parking lots, and suburban developments dominating the view of Cupertino.

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