A History of Silicon Valley

This biography is an appendix to my book "A History of Silicon Valley"

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(Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi)

Marc Porat

Marc Porat (Israel, 1950?) studied at Columbia College until 1972 and graduated in communication and economics from Stanford University with a thesis on the "information economy" (1976) that became an influential study. After working for the government and for the Aspen Institute, where he learned about "greentech", Porat moved to the private sector in 1983 when he founded Private Satellite Network. In 1988 Apple hired him to lead a project code-named Paradigm that aimed at building an innovative hand-held mobile device. In may 1990 Porat and two legendary Apple software engineers, Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld, decided to start a company to develop the idea, General Magic. Their vision was now more ambitious: they wanted to put the power of a real computer into the hands of a casual mobile user. At the time this was technologically impossible, so they thought of creating a "cloud" of services running on interconnected devices: by roaming the cloud, even a simple, weak device could muster the computing power of a real computer. They came up with the Telescript programming language to write applications for hand-held device (a "personal intelligent communicator") that would physically and opportunistically spread onto remote computers but eventually deliver back a result to the user of the hand-held device. Telecom and IT (Information Technology) giants such as Sony, Motorola, Matsushita, Philips and AT&T invested in the idea. Commercially, it was a spectacular flop, but a new paradigm had indeed been introduced: "cloud computing". After founding the web-based ERP and supply-chain start-up Perfect Commerce (1998), Porat then turned to building materials for the "green" economy focused on reducing energy consumption and carbon emission: Serious Materials (2002) in Sunnyvale for eco-friendly materials, CalStar Cement (2007), a spin-off of the University of Missouri based in the east bay (Newark) that manufactures eco-friendly bricks, Heliotricity (solar panels), Zeta Communities (2007) in San Francisco for pre-assembled homes that operate at net-zero energy. He also built for himself a "netzero" house that produces more energy than it consumes.
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