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源于十九世纪的硅谷科技创业精神文化

更新时间:2017-11-26 13:07:25 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The origins of Silicon Valley's office playgrounds
源于十九世纪的硅谷科技创业精神文化

The relaxed, colourful work environments of Silicon Valley have come to define the creative atmosphere of the internet age.

硅谷色彩斑斓、轻松惬意的办公环境成为了互联网时代创意氛围的代名词。

Casual dress, flexible working hours and quirky job titles at internet giants such as Google and Facebook suggest a laid-back work culture. But that belies a high intensity work environment where pressure for improvement is often self-imposed.

谷歌和Facebook等互联网巨头那随意的穿着、灵活的工作时间以及怪异的职位头衔,表明了休闲自在的工作文化。但这同时也掩饰了高强度的工作环境,身在其中的人们往往会给自己施加压力,迫使自己进步。

These companies focus on empowering employees to bring their best efforts and thinking to work, free from bureaucracy and heavy-handed management. But where did this informal culture obsessed with technological innovation originate?

这些公司的重点是向员工授权,使之付出最大的努力来思考工作,从繁文缛节和严厉的管理中解放出来。但这种崇尚科技创新的非正式文化究竟源自何处?

Many of the leaders of today’s biggest technology firms will say the answer lies in their humble beginnings. Apple, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft can all trace their genesis to suburban garages, often in the homes of one of their founders.

当今规模最大的科技公司的领导者会说,答案源自他们卑微的起点。苹果、亚马逊、惠普和微软最初都是在郊区车库里创办的,通常都位于某个创始人的家里。

Such origin stories – tales of young inventors working around the clock to grow their businesses and change the world – are baked into the culture of these tech giants.

这种年轻发明家夜以继日地工作,希望做大企业、改变世界的创业故事,已经深深融入了这些科技巨头的文化之中。

But step back in time by another century or so, to America’s great age of industrial invention, and you’ll find another tech hub with striking cultural similarities to the internet giants of today.

但如果再把时钟往回拨大约一个世纪,回到美国工业发明的伟大时代,你就会发现还有一个科技焦点拥有与当今的互联网巨头极其相似的文化特征。

Wave of invention

发明浪潮

In the mid-19th century, a revolution in electronic communications set the foundation for a wave of invention on the East Coast of the United States, sparked by the invention of electrical telegraphy during the 1830s by Samuel Morse and others.

在十九世纪中叶,电子通信革命为美国东海岸的发明浪潮奠定了基础,而萨缪尔·莫尔斯(Samuel Morse)等人在1830年代发明的电报技术则成为了这场革命的导火索。

This new form of long-distance communication quickly became essential technology, and skilled operators, so-called “Knights of the Key” were highly prized by employers. Working alone or in pairs, they developed an independent mindset and a deep understanding of the technology. The most successful of these itinerant artisans was Thomas Alva Edison.

新型长途通讯很快变成了一项关键技术,而被称作"钥匙骑士"(Knights of the Key)的技术操作工都深受雇主赏识。他们有的单打独斗,有的两人一组,形成了独立观念,对技术也有了深刻的理解。这些流动工匠中最成功的当属托马斯·阿尔瓦·爱迪生(Thomas Alva Edison)。

At the age of 12, Edison began to print and sell newspapers to train passengers, working out of the baggage cars. He learned code from railway telegraphers and set up his own telegraph system at home. At 19 he joined the Western Union as a telegrapher but worked separately in his spare time on telegraph-related projects.

爱迪生12岁就开始印刷报纸,然后卖给火车乘客,他当时在行李车厢里工作。他通过铁路电报学会了代码,还在家里制作了自己的电报系统。19岁那年,他加入西联公司(Western Union)担任电报员,但还会利用业余时间从事与电报相关的项目。

This led to his first inventions, an electronic vote-recording machine that failed to find a market, and a stock ticker that sold for $40,000, around $700,000 today. The sum was enough to establish his first workshop in an old factory in Newark, New Jersey, and a nucleus of assistants to build a research business.

这也催生了他的第一批发明:一台没有找到市场的电子投票记录机;还有一台股票报价机,当时卖了四万美元,相当于现在的70万美元。这些钱足够他在新泽西州纽瓦克(Newark)建起自己的第一个车间,还召集了一批助手开展研究业务。

‘The Wizard of Menlo Park’

"门罗帕克奇才"

As the business grew – mostly selling systems to telegraph companies – it needed more space. So, in 1876 it moved to a purpose-built laboratory with machine-shop, library, carpentry shop and glass-blowing house on a 34-acre site in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

随着企业越做越大——多数系统都卖给了电报公司——他们需要更多场地。所以,他们在1876年搬进了一个专门建造的实验室,里面还配有车间、图书馆、木工工作室和吹制玻璃的房间。那里位于新泽西州的门罗帕克(Menlo Park),占地34英亩。

Edison tended to hire high-calibre assistants, often fresh from university, who were drawn to his infectious enthusiasm for experimentation and research.

爱迪生聘请了一批高素质的助手,通常都是刚刚大学毕业的学生,他们都被他执着于实验和研究的那份热情所感染。

They didn’t earn high wages. Edison insisted that they came, not for money, but for “the chance for their ambition to work.”

他们的工资都不高。爱迪生坚称,他们来这里不是为了钱,而是为了"有机会实现自己的雄心壮志"。

Many of these assistants went on to forge successful careers in industries such as film and radio that adopted Edison’s innovations.

这些助手中有很多人后来都在电影和广播行业开创了成功的事业,这些行业都采用了爱迪生的创新。

His researchers worked late into the night, punctuated by weekend drinking and sing-along sessions beside an organ positioned at one end of the laboratory. It was an informal, free-thinking atmosphere and Edison saw himself as one of the boys who he referred to as “muckers”. “Hell, there ain’t no rules in here, we’re trying to accomplish something,” he said.

他的研究员都会工作到深夜,到了周末则会凑在实验室一角的风琴旁喝酒、唱歌。由此形成了不拘礼节、自由思考的氛围,而爱迪生也把自己看做这些他所谓的"伙伴"中的一员。"这里没什么规矩,我们都在努力做成事情。"他说。

The campus-like atmosphere of today’s internet pioneers share many features with Edison’s work regime, which mixed long hours and an exhaustive application of trial and error.

当今互联网先锋营造的那些像大学校园一样的氛围,跟爱迪生当年的工作环境有很多相似之处,员工都会在里面长时间工作,还会展开各种各样的试错性研究。

Just as long working hours can impinge on family life today, Menlo Park’s intensive work schedules proved corrosive to the domestic lives of Edison and his employees.

现在的人如果长时间工作,就会对家庭生活造成负面影响,与之类似,门罗帕克紧张的工作安排也对爱迪生及其员工的家庭生活产生了破坏。

But the work produced results. Over 58 years, from 1868 to 1926, Edison and his team filed some 1,600 patents. More than a thousand of these were successful, ranging from the light bulb to the phonograph. More than 400 patents were filed at Menlo Park, including his most important such as that for the microphone, the improved light-bulb filament and the induction coil that improved the telephone.

但努力的确收到了回报。从1868年到1926年,爱迪生和他的团队在58年的时间内申请了大约1,600项专利。从灯泡到留声机,其中有1,000多项都取得成功。超过400项专利是在门罗帕克提交的,其中包括他最重要的一些专利,例如麦克风、改进后的灯丝和用于改进电话效果的感应线圈等。

Edison was a cult figure to his assistants. Others since, such as Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, have exercised unusual levels of influence over their work teams. But none of the employees of today’s business leaders sacrificed their lives in pursuit of their research, as Clarence Dally did, working for Edison. Dally literally gave his right arm for his employer. His limb had to be amputated due to  radiation damage resulting from X-ray experiments. Dally succumbed to cancer and the experiments were abandoned by Edison as too dangerous.

爱迪生是他助手心目中的偶像。史蒂夫·乔布斯(Steve Jobs)和马克·扎克伯格(Mark Zuckerberg)等其他人也都对自己的团队施加了极大的影响。但当今的商业领袖手下没有一个员工能像克拉伦斯·达利(Clarence Dally)一样,为了帮助爱迪生开展研究而献出自己的生命。达利为他的雇主献出了自己的右臂。因为做X光实验而遭受了辐射损伤,导致他不得不截肢。达利死于癌症,而爱迪生也以太过危险为由取消了那项实验。

Edison could be the fiercest of taskmasters. He “could wither one with his biting sarcasm or ridicule one into extinction,” said one collaborator. Yet, he was idolised by his workers. Electrical engineer Arthur Kennelly said, “The privilege which I had being with this great man for six years was the greatest inspiration of my life.”

爱迪生算得上是最暴躁的工头。一个合作者说,"他会用尖刻的讽刺让人抬不起头,还会把人嘲讽得无地自容。"然而,他却是员工心目中的偶像。电气工程师阿瑟·肯内利(Arthur Kennelly)说:"能跟这个伟人在一起度过六年,是我一生中受到的最大鼓舞。"

One of Edison’s greatest attributes was his ability to communicate the potential of his inventions to investors through publicity stunts in the media. On New Year’s Eve in 1879 he ran 40 of his new light bulbs off a dynamo that attracted thousands of visitors. The exhibition drew in backers to fund an electricity distribution station. At the time, power distribution was as important to electric lighting as the world wide web was to the internet.

爱迪生最大的能力之一,就是通过在媒体上公开做秀向投资者宣传他的发明有多大潜力。1879年的新年前夜,他用一台发电机点亮了40个新灯泡,吸引了成千上万的游客。那场展示还吸引了一批支持者,为一所配电站提供资金。在当时,配电对电力照明的重要性,好比万维网之于互联网。

In 1887, 11 years after setting up Menlo Park, Edison moved to a much larger campus in West Orange, New Jersey. He continued to experiment at home late in life, but spent less time at the laboratory in old age. He died in 1931.

1887年,在门罗帕克办事处设立11年后,爱迪生又搬到了新泽西州西奥兰治(West Orange)的一个更大的园区。到了晚年,他仍会在家里做实验,但在实验室的时间有所减少。爱迪生于1931年去世。

Cultural blueprint

文化蓝图

The culture established by Edison’s laboratory directly influenced the next generation of American innovators – companies such as Dupont, Westinghouse, General Electric, General Motors and Bell Laboratories, the former research arm of AT&T (now Nokia Bell Labs) all had flourishing research operations in the early twentieth century and learned both from the methodological approach of Edison and his rejection of military-style chains of command and reporting formalities.

爱迪生的实验室确立的这种文化对下一代美国创新者产生了直接影响——杜邦、西屋、通用电气、通用汽车和贝尔实验室(原先的AT&T研究部门,现在的诺基亚贝尔实验室)都在20世纪初拥有繁荣的研究业务,他们不仅学习了爱迪生的方法,也都像他一样放弃了军队般的上下级汇报链条。

What would have today’s internet companies made of Claude Shannon, a Bell employee who bounced along its corridors on a pogo stick when he wasn’t using his unicycle? While a fan of odd forms of transport, Shannon was also a genius. His 1948 paper, A Mathematical Theory of Communications, laid down much of the theory behind the revolution in information technology.

是什么让当今的互联网公司充满了像克劳德·香农(Claude Shannon)这样的人——这位贝尔实验室的员工穿过走廊时不是骑单轮车,就是踩弹簧单高跷?虽然很喜欢怪异的交通方式,但香农也是个天才。他在1948年发表的论文《通信的数学理论》(A Mathematical Theory of Communications)为信息技术革命奠定了很多理论基础。

His fellow scientists at Bell Laboratories produced 16 Nobel Prizes over half a century – in part because they were given free reign to pursue their own research, which led to early developments in computer hardware that would underpin the foundations of Silicon Valley itself.

他供职的贝尔实验室在半个多世纪里共获得了16个诺贝尔奖——部分原因在于他们得以自由开展研究,这也催生了电脑硬件的早期发展,并为硅谷奠定了基础。

Little wonder, then, that companies such as 3M and Google provide scope for employees to work on their own projects. This so-called ’20 per cent time’ has led to innovations such as Gmail at Google and The Post It note at 3M.

后来的3M和谷歌等公司允许员工从事自己的项目也就不足为奇。这种所谓的"20%时间制"催生了谷歌Gmail和3M便笺贴等创新。

The culture of curiosity behind today’s internet and software pioneers runs as an unbroken thread from Silicon Valley, through the research engines of many of the world’s great corporations right back to the Menlo Park Laboratory and the ideas that sparked the modern lightbulb.

当今互联网和软件先锋秉承的这种充满好奇的文化,已经成为一条不可割裂的线索,透过很多全球顶尖企业的研发部门,把硅谷与当年的门罗帕克实验室以及现代灯泡的灵感来源串联起来。

That metaphor for invention, rooted in work, has enlightened the world.

这个发明来源于工作,但如今已然照亮了整个世界。

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