Colloquially referred to as Silicon Valley, the southern region of the San Francisco bay area is the renowned home of America's tech industry. Companies such as Apple, Google and Hewlett-Packard have their headquarters in the Palo Alto, California area and many technological innovations come from companies and individuals based in Silicon Valley.
The name Silicon Valley comes from the industry of semiconductor manufacturing. Semiconductors are materials that can be used to make computer microchips. The most common kind of semiconductor material is silicon because it is easy to use and less costly than some other kind of semi conductor materials. Due to the large number of microchips being processed from silicon, the area soon came to be called Silicon Valley.
The location of Silicon Valley has a lot to do with Stanford University, a large school in Stanford, California. In the 1940s, Stanford University began encouraging its faculty and graduates to start their own companies. One of the major early companies to come out of Stanford University alumni is Hewlett-Packard, which is now a multinational software and technology company. In the 1980s, Hewlett-Packard had become the largest producer of computer products and revolutionized printing with its ubiquitous home inkjet printers.
Hewlett-Packard's success drew tech entrepreneurs and investors, and Silicon Valley saw enormous economic growth right up until the Internet boom in the 1990s. The area was long considered the center of the online startup industry in the 1990s. When the Internet bubble burst in the early 2000s, the Silicon Valley economy did see a decline, but it continued to host some of the top research and development centers in the country.
Many other industries thrive in the area and most serve as support service providers to the numerous tech companies. Law firms, investment companies, and media all serve and profit from the tech industry.
Silicon Valley today is one of the richest areas in the United States. Despite its smaller size, it ranks as the third largest tech center in the United States, after only New York and the Washington metropolitan area.
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