Chapter 20, Silicon Valley Culture Shock Flat
In addition to the American sexual revolution, Santa Clara Valley flung off its agricultural past and became Silicon Valley, the epicenter of electronic culture shock.
We were fortunate to
buy our house when we did as prices leaped up monthly soon after as swarms from
around the world coming to develop transistors and then integrated circuits
from silicon wafers which were revolutionizing the world, making it, “A Small,
Small World After All”.
Escalating home prices shifted our economic position upward to semi elite as homeowners. Many of similar or higher income were regulated to renting. Economic status became associated with when or if you bought your home more than how much you made.
Those moving into the area came from
everywhere bringing new ideas and lifestyles, often with few traditional family
restraints. In the 1970's silicon wafer designs were superseding one another
rapidly making what was new and exciting obsolete the following year or even
month. It was here today gone tomorrow. Silicon fab plants ran 24/7 shutting
down only for Christmas for repairs and upgrading to make an even faster chip
Companies came and went and often
shortly after opening went bankrupt or merged with another. The plants sprung
up as concrete tilt up mushrooms in former prune, pear, cherry and apricot
orchards with the trees bulldozed in piles and set alight as historic trash to
make the latest chip.
Chip makers were desperate to hire,
even someone like me, only a high school graduate with no experience. There were
over twenty pages of Help Wanted Ads in the San Jose Mercury News with more
than half seeking workers in the wafer fab electronics industry. In October 1974,
with the kids in nursery school and kindergarten, I applied to an ad at Nortec
Electronics in Sunnyvale, adjacent to and south of Mountain View. It advertised
in bold print, “No Experience Necessary”.
While haven driven past electronic
plants, I had no idea what they did other than they made "chips"
which went into digital watches, radios, computers and games such as Atari. The
interview was short. They looked at my application and asked me to start the
next day's swing shift as a wafer fab aligner, a position held only by women.
Nervous on showing up to work for my
first real job, a woman supervisor told me to relax and showed how to move the
silicon wafer layers to align on a silicon disk under a microscope. While hard
on the eyes it was easy and the clean work environment a huge step up from
serving dishes in a bowling alley restaurant or picking fruit. I loved my new
Nortec like others, ran 24/7, three
shifts a day with my swing shift, 6 PM to 2AM. I saw the kids to and from
school. Hubby left for work at 7:30 AM
got home at 5:30 PM, we kissed; I left for work and got home at 2:30 AM. During
the work week we were together 5 hours from 2:30 AM to 7:30 AM but awake time together
only an hour when I fixed breakfast and he and the kids gulped it down before he
rushed off. Wages were good even for female line personnel to attract workers
from afar and to offset escalated home prices.