David Needle: Tech Marches On

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Longtime tech journalist David Needle has seen a lot come and go in Silicon Valley but one thing stays the same – technology marches on.

When I moved to Silicon Valley from Boston in the early ‘80s right away I knew it was different. Casual Fridays? Beer blasts? … In the office? What’s going on here?

As a tech reporter, I’ve covered countless product launches and interviewed many of the big and small names that put Silicon Valley on the map.

San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium was home to one of the first computer shows, the West Computer Faire. Its pony‐tailed impresario, Jim Warren, patrolled the show floor on roller skates. At one of the Faires, an upstart software company called Borland threw a toga party Animal House style. Fun! Borland eventually flamed out, but its brilliant founder Philippe Kahn invented the camera phone over a decade later. Not a bad second act. Now he’s developed a smart bed. Yeah, that’s a thing ‐ and oh so Silicon Valley.

It’s always been so important here to make a splash with any new product. The Moscone Center blasts rock and roll for an hour before the start of an event and laser light shows get more intense every year. Intel figured out how to use drones to light up the night sky with neon messages and designs. So cool!

In‐person events have been on extended pause during COVID, and it’s unclear if they’ll ever return to their former glory. Having hundreds of thousands of people return for a Dreamforce conference now seems more like a nightmare. Hopefully, some scaled-down version of in‐person events will return soon because the virtual events we’re stuck with are virtually not as good.

Pandemic aside, technology marches on. We all have personal devices, but their power now lies in being connected to the big giant computers the personal computer revolution was supposed to obsolete. Perhaps connectivity itself is revolutionary, but I’d be more impressed if the place that made “user interface” a well‐known phrase didn’t have us all hunched over staring at our tiny screens.

We don’t need another TikTok clone or more ways to do disembodied meetings. Silicon Valley has the brains and resources to figure out what people and society at large actually need. We can create the next truly revolutionary product ‐ and have fun doing it, Silicon Valley-style.

With a Perspective, I’m David Needle.

David Needle helped pioneer online news reporting and has written for many publications and websites.