>Dr. Christine A. Finn


> Artifacts: An Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley


>Silicon Valley, a small place with few identifiable geologic or geographic

>features, has achieved a mythical reputation in a very short time. The modern

>material culture of the Valley may be driven by technology, but it also

>encompasses architecture, transportation, food, clothing, entertainment,

>intercultural exchanges, and rituals. In her book Artifacts: An

>Archaeologist's Year in Silicon Valley, Christine Finn describes her journey

>through the region during one of the most turbulent periods of its history.

>She traveled the area in 2000, a time when people's fortunes could and did

>change overnight; her account is all the more fascinating now that the fevered

>culture it describes is vanishing.


>Dr. Christine A. Finn, who describes herself as a British non-techie, is a

>journalist and a Research Associate in the Institute of Archaeology at the

>University of Oxford, UK. Christine will talk about her experience writing

>the book and explore the impact of the "next new thing" syndrome (the sense

>that whatever one has is instantly superseded by the next new thing) on our

>economic and social values.

Dr. Finn began by explaining that she hadn't intended to come to the valley at all in the begining. It was just the best place to meet up with an old boyfriend after 20 years apart. She still being British, and he now being Australian, it was a good half way point to meet. On the last leg of her journey to the place, she sat next to one of the engineers that designed the palm pilot, and he turned her on the the exitement of being part of a new revolution in the way things are done.

Dr. Finn also described many of the things that make the Santa Clara Valley a wonder for a working archeologist. For example, going down El Camino Real, there are signs from many different eras of the valley's economy to be seen. There are people whom have had their roots completely shorn out from under them by the remarkable pace of change. There are many artifacts that would lead archelogists to very wrong decisions about what they were for if they used standard exploratory techniques. She illustrated this by pointing out that an archeologist would assume one person per room in a house, which would be wrong if it was occupied by a dot com millionaire last year.

Much of her presentation consisted of reading excerps from her book, a chatty account of the many people and things that she encountered in studying the valley. She read about visiting the home of one of the guys that made it big at Microsoft, after meeting the guy to find out why he wanted to buy an ENIAC computer. It turned out that his home was a museum of fascinating objects, everything from an ENIGMA code machine to a T-Rex leg. The stories did capture the aura of the valley rather well.

During the Q & A session that followed her prepared comments, she passed around her one copy of the book, which is due out from MIT Press at the begining of next month. It has a lot of illustrations, and looks to be an entertaining read. There is much more to it than just a catalog of objects, although there is plenty of attention paid to those also.

Tian Harter