Professor Margaret O'Mara at University Book Store 
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Professor Margaret O'Mara at University Book Store
Credit: KUOW Photo Jennie Cecil Moore

You butt-dialed your mom with this supercomputer

The software coding culture that made “The Big Five” (Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Amazon) possible did not arise in a vacuum.

Yes, geniuses in their parent’s garages did a lot to launch our digital universe. But what kind of help did they have from government, the military, universities and the financial world?

“The U.S. government got into the electronics business and became the Valley’s first, and perhaps its greatest, venture capitalist.”

That’s a quote from historian Margaret O’Mara’s new book “The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking of America.” In it, she tracks the nascence and rise to power of Silicon Valley and its subsidiaries (hello, Seattle), from the aftermath of World War II to the current day.

O’Mara had a unique view of the birth of the modern tech industry. She served as a policy analyst for “Techie-in-Chief” Vice President Al Gore in the mid-90s. Now a University of Washington professor, she “writes and teaches about the growth of the high-tech economy, the history of U.S. politics, and the connections between the two.”

Margaret O’Mara spoke at University Book Store on July 15. KUOW’s Jennie Cecil Moore recorded the event.

Related episode: Margaret O’Mara interviews tech journalist Kara Swisher