Chapter 4. The Communist High Tech

This is a story about the high tech business, semiconductors, chips, and just plain dirt. Transistors are made mostly of silicon. Silicon is such a bunch of worthless material that until the fifties it was called dirt and only interested Mr. Hoover. He realized that our earth is 28 percent silicon and 40 percent oxygen, so he promptly invented the vacuum cleaner. For a few decades, the vacuum cleaner was the backbone of the high tech business in America. But other devices of capitalistic decadence such as food mixers and electric toothbrushes were gaining ground. Whenever a new report of the American high technology reached Moscow it was compared with the heavy technology of the U.S.S.R. The Mixmasters, Hoovers and toothbrushes against the tons of steel or coal produced by the U.S.S.R. It was heavy tech versus high tech and there was no doubt in Nikita Khruschev's mind when he came to visit America. He believed what he said-we will bury you.

Then, in the sixties, two major new uses for silicon were found. One was prominently featured in the topless bars of Silicon Alley in San Francisco, called Broadway. The other one settled a few miles south in the apricot orchards and became a transistor-rich Silicon Valley.

The differences between alley and valley was not quickly recognized by the communist consuls in San Francisco. The alley was much closer anyway and the drinks were better. But no chips were found and many communist diplomats had to be sent home with only potato chips in their luggage. After analyzing chips for ten years the Party proclaimed that potatoes are not high tech and that something else is going on in Silicon Valley.

To find high tech, the U.S.S.R. consulate in San Francisco assigned, in the late sixties, multiple vice-consuls to roam the orchards of Silicon Valley and buy drinks. What they discovered was a high tech, based on the
Principle of Uncertainty. This took the Party by surprise. The Party has a practice of finding all the answers in Marx and Lenin. But, uncertainty was never mentioned in Das Kapital or by Lenin. Why?

Many years before the transistor was invented, Karl Marx declared and Lenin confirmed that dialectic materialism does not allow uncertainty to exist. Soon after they both died, another Karl, a German physicist named Werner Karl Heisenberg, discovered the Principle of Uncertainty. But, in the Soviet Union, certainty and the Five Year Plan rule. For uncertainty you get vacations without pay in Siberia. The Party or Politbureau cannot do otherwise. (For how this came about, read the following chapter, Mendeleyev, Lenin, Kapitsa, and Heisenberg.)

Thirty years later in the United States, the Principle of Uncertainty leads to the discovery of the transistor. Being completely outside of the Soviet Five Year Plan makes a transistor radio immediately politically undesirable and on par with Coca Cola and Wall Street. Moscow stuck to Marx and Lenin: to be politically desirable it must be certain and real, such as, for example, a potato. Thus, the politically correct Marxist approach to the radio is to stick a pair of earphones in a potato and listen. The device indeed works and it predates the Walkman by forty years. But potato chips are found useless. So far, so good for the Party.

Now enter the Japanese. They find ideas anywhere they can. Japanese combine the Soviet Walkman with the American Transistor and become immensely rich. Thus Japan attains most goals of Communism at least fifty years sooner than if they followed the Soviet example, started a socialist revolution and killed their emperor.

Meanwhile, the Marxist heavy technology keeps trying to bury all capitalists, including venture capitalists, all in the spirit of coexistence and non-interference in internal affairs. But for every pound of steel the Soviet Union makes, it has to buy a pound of wheat from the United States. Finally, in the early eighties the Party tacitly acknowledged a defeat of Marxist-Leninist heavy technology doctrine by buying one American Express card for the Party Chairman and one for his wife.

Chapter 5. Mendeleyev, Lenin, Kapitsa, and Heisenberg

Nothing is so damaging to a country as Political Correctness. Here is a true story of the communist high technology and what influence Marx and Lenin had on it. It should be read by those professors at the University of California who let it slip from the number one place in 1962 to number 23 in 1996.

Soviets began with a solid head start, handed over to them by the czarist Russia.
Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleyev was a Russian chemist who in the late nineteenth century discovered semiconductors before anyone had any use for them. Dmitri Ivanovich liked to play Scrabble with the chemical elements on his kitchen table. Once he arranged his elements by their atomic properties and found some gaps in the table. The gaps precisely predicted new elements decades before they were discovered. Many of them were semiconductors, related to silicon. Today the world, from Silicon Valley to Singapore, turns around these three semiconductors: silicon, gallium, and germanium.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, known as Lenin, a professional revolutionary, combined Marx, peasants, and proletariat into a revolution. He soon changed his mind about peasants. The shortages were divided among them. That left him with the proletariat and Karl Marx. Soon the shortages were also divided among the proletariat.

That left Lenin's revolution with only Karl. Lenin remembered what Karl said: "If you do not see it, it does not exist." So, Lenin said: "Great, we can apply this to sausages and potatoes." But little did he realize that with this decree he took every venture communist, with one sweep, out of the transistor business. In the Soviet Union, the semiconductors that his countryman Mendeleyev discovered fif ty years ago simply remained the dirt for growing potatoes.

Werner Karl Heisenberg discovered the Principle of Uncertainty and gave the foundation to transistor electronics. This happened behind Lenin's back and over Marx's dead body and was, therefore, unacceptable to the Party. Uncertainty was too close to God - you could not see it - and anyway, not according to Marx. Therefore, the communist Party prohibited any uncertainty from entering into the heads of their members, Soviet physicists, or into the Five Year Plan.

Peter Kapitsa was frequently Stalin's chess partner but also one ot the leading nuclear physicists in the Soviet Union. After Stalin's death, Kapitsa visited the University of California in Berkeley. He brought with him an innocent physics book, then in use by the universities in the U.S. S. R. Kapitsa gave this book to Emilio Segre, a Nobel Prize-winning Berkeley professor who himself in his youth filled in one of the last gaps of the Mendeleyev's table. In this book there is a brief mention of the Principle of Uncertainty, followed immediately, in bold letters, that according to Lenin such theories and interpetations are invalid and deviant and must not be pursued.

And pursued they were not. Thus, before the Party realized the importance of the transistor, it was too late. In retrospect the accomplishments are not minor: this spared consumers in communist countries from boom boxes, digital watches, talking cars, computer-initiated telephone solicitations, and culture in general.

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