When the manuscript of The Man behind the Microchip was finished, I sent it to two men who had agreed to read it with an eye to possibly writing a blurb for the back of the book. These two were Warren Buffett and Gordon Moore, both of whom I had previously interviewed about their work with the subject of my biography, Robert Noyce. Noyce was the co-founder, with Moore, of chip maker Intel in 1968. Eleven years earlier, Noyce, Moore, and six colleagues had launched the first successful semiconductor company in Silicon Valley, Fairchild Semiconductor. Noyce was also the inventor of the first practical integrated circuit, the device at the heart of nearly every piece of electronics in use today.
I went to mail the manuscript on one of those soggy afternoons that people who do not live in California think we never get in California. It had not been a great day. The skies had opened after I got to work, and I commute by bicycle, which meant that I had to ride to the mailing station in the rain. To make matters worse, I had stopped at the grocery store on my way into the office that morning without considering that there would be no room for the groceries once I had the manuscript in my backpack. This meant that when I entered the mailing station I was: 1) drenched; 2) wearing a ratty black overcoat I keep in my office in case of rain emergencies; and, 3) carrying a backpack almost bursting with papers and to which were tied several plastic bags of groceries. Don't ask why I didn't ride home, grab the car, and come back for the groceries and the manuscript. By that point I had been working on the book almost nonstop for several weeks and could not think clearly about anything else.
When I made my dripping way to the mail counter and handed the man behind it the heavy envelopes I had carefully addressed to Messrs. Buffett and Moore, I was met with dramatically raised eyebrows and a decidedly patronizing smirk. Then the clerk said in a deadpan voice, "You planning to change the world?" - a question I found so strange that I had no answer for it.
(This is the first part of an essay I published for Powells.com. I hope you'll read the rest hereand come back and comment here at Red Room.)
Causes Leslie Berlin Supports
Lucile Packard Children's Hospital