Artifacts: An Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley

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Overview

"Silicon Valley, a small place with few identifiable geologic or geographic features, has achieved a mythical reputation in a very short time. The modern material culture of the Valley may be driven by technology, but it also encompasses architecture, transportation, food, clothing, entertainment, intercultural exchanges, and rituals." Combining a reporter's instinct for a good interview with traditional archaeological training, Christine Finn brings the perspectives of the past and the future to the story of Silicon Valley's present material culture. She traveled the area in 2000, a period when people's fortunes could change overnight. She describes a computer's rapid trajectory from useful tool to machine to be junked to collector's item. She explores the sense that whatever one has is instantly superseded by the next new thing - and the effect this has on economic and social values. She tells stories of a place where fruit-pickers now recycle silicon chips and where more money can be made babysitting for post-IPO couples than working in a factory. The ways that people are working and adapting, are becoming wealthy or barely getting by, reveal themselves in the cultural landscape of the fifteen cities that make up the area known as Silicon Valley.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A year spent in Silicon Valley and environs, trying to understand what sorts of clues it will leave for archaeologists of the future. No one would argue that anything in California is permanent, but British archaeologist and journalist Finn is shocked by the almost incomprehensible pace of change. Only 30 years ago, Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley's real name) was known for its cherry, apricot, and pear orchards. Now all the fruit trees are gone, replaced by computer companies, malls, and apartment buildings. Finn finds a few old-timers who remember the orchards (fondly), but very few. Silicon Valley is like Manhattan: young people from all over the country come there to throw themselves at a dream of fabulous success, though few will make it. The collapse of the dot.coms has clarified this process, bankrupting many young millionaires and sending them home to Modesto. Those who do succeed build fabulous, enormous houses in which one or two people live. Future archaeologists will puzzle over these mansions' many rooms, whose only function is decor. The mostly Hispanic servants who clean and landscape can find no affordable place to live; they pack, several families deep, into converted garages and studios. However, if you happened to own real estate in the 1960s and sold it in the '90s, you can count on being wealthy. In one three-month period, property values rose by 40 percent. One family bought a house in Los Altos in 1997 for $7,000,000; it's now worth $15,000,000. Even mobile homes sell for enough to retire in Arizona. Finn seems to have intended the book to be a full-scale academic study, but she delivers instead a pastiche of notes and photographs, sort of an archaeologist'sdiary. Not much here about technology, but an eye-popping survey of the northern California landscape and (perhaps) its future. (70 illustrations, mostly b&w photos)
From the Publisher
"An eye-popping survey of the northern California landscape and (perhaps) its future." Kirkus Reviews

"This book is a small delight! I can highly recommend Artifacts as a light, yet fascinating, read." Michael R. Williams Isis

"... fresh insights. That is what Christine Finn delivers." Jan English-LuekWired

"Silicon Valley as you never knew it. A fascinating dissection of the community that went from orchards to Apples in one generation and changed the world."—James Burke, author ofCircles: Fifty Round-Trips Through History, Technology, Science, and Culture

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262062244
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2001
  • Pages: 294
  • Product dimensions: 5.64 (w) x 8.46 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Christine A. Finn is a journalist and a Research Associate in the Institute of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, UK.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2002

    Silicon Valley and Archaeology Misrepresented....?

    This book has little or nothing to do with Archaeology and certainly deleted the majority of Silicon Valley high tech computer companies. The most important Silicon Valley cities, computer icons and businesses are not mentioned. Small towns are included, yet are unrelated to Artifacts and what it is suppose to be! This author seems to be interested in a holiday and having a jolly fun time, and perhaps, writing some pertinent information. This book does not reflect Silicon Valley and certainly has zero archaeology in it. And, by the way, are those broken computer chips on the cover? Hard to tell even from the cover what this book is about, and the title is inappropriate. If you can follow the writing style of inconsistency, and no flow at all, perhaps you will not need an aspirin. But the amount of jumping around in this book, you are on an endless merry-go-round with no chance of getting off. Totally disappointing after an author's paid year here in the Silicon Valley. Next time, have a tour guide from a real Silicon Valley Icon to gather your book information!

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