04 November 2011

Silicone Valley in the Philippines?

Back track to around 1984. When I was in 6th grade, the first computer magazine I was exposed to is called "BYTE", those thick glossies almost had everything. One issue even had an old "treasure" map of Silicone Valley where Apple, Intel, 3Com(?) etc. are drawn in isometric popup-book style.



During non-school days we visit our other house in Muntinlupa in which where I live now, a half-hour drive from our house in San Andres, Manila via the South Super Highway(yes, those buses you see with "...via SSH" that's where they go, very secure) now known as the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Along this 25km journey involved passing by front gates of what made up Silicone Valley back then; Intel's factory was located before stopping at Pasay Road intersection, American Microelectronics along the West Service Road, Motorola where their 2-way radio and the first cellphone was mass produced and then the PowerPC was mass-produced from there too, Panasonic-Technics, Toshiba, Sharp is still there, Amkor Technologies who did a lot for Silicone Valley with a large facility along the East Service now has a second factory at Laguna Technopark. On the software side, I only remember one big building at Faraday Street corner South Super Highway in Palanan, Makati with a big sign outside that said they're always on the hunt for C/C++, DB2 etc. talents. Seeing those companies advertise in BYTE magazine and actually passing by them every now and then reminded me that it doesn't look bad times at all.

My first encounter with a computer was with Sinclair ZX81 it's a microcomputer, not a Personal Computer  it uses casette tape to store data and only understands BASIC. Working with ZX81 cookbook was fun but  I wish I can do something more useful back then like "sari-sari" store inventory(?), and another guy who has a similar device like this one is an old chap with a "startup" called "CompuServe" with his home/office/garage located near Wilson Street in Greenhills. Sinclair is UK-based computer company, not connected to Silicone Valley but one of the early tools that motivated kids like me that somehow we can have something like Silicone Valley.

Sinclair ZX81 with 16KB ROM Pack

Star Trek was not the geek flick of choice around 1984, it's War Games since it's closer to reality, almost life threatening and War on Communism is of paramount importance than War on Terrorism (which was just treated as a petty criminal act those days and not worth putting an army for).

Matthew Broderick in his state-of-the-art Commodore in War Games
So much for the past now. Recently, there's some questions being raised by blogging geeks, tech guys in PHL who were probably born in the 80's or late 70's asking questions why we don't have Silicone Valley in the Philippines? Well, we almost did! We had our shot and we blew it! The bus stopped and we missed it! The Captain called out but we're not ready! We were the China back then until our power generation costs nearly killed us, causing some of the factories to shut down and move elsewhere. The old "evil" regime decided to put up a nuclear power plant to make these big guys stay and keep the money in, but the nuclear dream was fought hard by those who will benefit from it in the future, I'm almost certain that these same people who fought has to push their kids out of the country to work for those companies in similar environmental danger today. The reason it's called Silicone Valley is because it's not about software, there's a place for software and it's called Redmond. We can't be Silicone Valley if we're always paralyzed by power failures both political and electrical. Is Cebu going to be Silicone Valley? Probably, but if the work down there is just about "gluing" things together, then I don't think so.

Will there be a chance to have a Silicone Valley in PHL? Yes, if we stop fighting what's good for us.


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