Where does the name "Silicon Valley" come from?

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Silicon Valley is a very popular name, a common TV series, and also a term that is synonymous with quite a few leading players and technology players. But a question probably running in many minds is when is it that people started referring to “Silicon Valley” as Silicon Valley in California. And, why has it been named Silicon Valley or what does “silicon” in this name signify? 

Silicon chip industry

Well, the part that is now commonly known as Silicon Valley, which is the southern region of San Francisco was earlier called by a completely different name. During the early 1900s, this place was known as the “Valley of Heart’s Delight”. If you are wondering why it was called so then it is because of the area being full of delicious ripening fruits. However, in the 1950s a completely new industry made its presence felt in this town – innovators and manufacturers of silicon chips.

Silicon chips formed a very important part of the growing semiconductor industry. Even today these chips are found present in almost everything that is computerized including computers, gaming devices, calculators, printers, and cell phones. Silicon chips were very, very important for the computing industry and this is what made the region immensely attractive to anyone who was working in the technological field.

Who gave the name?

Though the silicon chip industry was booming here, until now, Silicon Valley did not get this name, and it did not happen even for the next 20 years. It is Don Hoefler who can be given credit for giving Silicon Valley its name. Don Hoefler worked for the newspaper Electronic News, wherein he wrote a column revolving around the semiconductor industry in the valley in 1971.   

As per another writer, James Vincler, who worked with Don, Hoefler first got to hear about this term from a marketer who called the valley “Silicon Valley”. This immediately attracted Hoefler’s interest, and according to Vincler, Hoefler’s eyes light up subtly when he questioned where that Silicon Valley term came from. To this, the marketer replied that is how other guys refer to it as.   

In the following three weeks, Don Hoefler wrote a series about the Santa Clara chip industry, and each of these pieces came with a title “Silicon Valley USA.” After 10 years, San Jose Times published Hoefler’s views on it in which he said the basis for coining this name was so simple. The semiconductors were being created in a valley from silicon, which is the second most plentiful chemical element in this world. He further questioned or rather stated how was he to know that this term would soon get adopted by the industries and become so popular worldwide.

So, it is Hoefler who rightfully can be given the credit for helping Silicon Valley get the name that it has today. Hoefler’s contribution does not end here, according to Michael S. Malone, an author, the coverage that Hoefler did of the valley during the 1970s also could have played an important role in helping develop the innovative qualities in the area. Hoefler was also amongst the first few writers to speak about this industry as one distinct community, and thus has a big, big role to play in giving the place its name and also increasing its importance.

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