Did Bing Crosby and the Nazis shape Silicon Valley?

The New Yorker assigns the legendary crooner an oversized role in creating California's technological landscape.

By Kim Peterson May 15, 2013 4:36PM
Credit: © Cummings Archives/Redferns/Getty Images
Caption: Bing Crosby in 1961The New Yorker has an impossible-to-ignore headline this week: "How Bing Crosby and the Nazis helped to create Silicon Valley."

Say what? The headline conjures images of Crosby tinkering with vacuum tubes and capacitors in a Santa Clara garage owned by the Third Reich. But that's far from the case. In fact, there are some improbable leaps in the article linking the crooner with the Nazis and California's rich technological history.

Here's how The New Yorker's Paul Ford sees it:

After World War II ended, the Americans sifted through German technological innovation and found magnetic tape. The Nazis had used tape recording to broadcast propaganda, Ford writes.

Engineers from a company called Ampex began studying the tape technology in the U.S. and showed Crosby, who by then was one of the wealthiest celebrities in the country. Crosby invested $50,000 in Ampex, and his new radio show became the first to use the technology.

Within the next decade, engineers from IBM (IBM) helped build the first hard drive. "There is a direct link in the Silicon Valley understanding between Bing Crosby's crooning and the rise of the hard drive, which was designed as an improvement over magnetic tape," Ford writes.

He even illustrates his thinking with an equation: Microphones + crooning + Nazis + radio + $50,000 = Silicon Valley.

These associations are a bit tenuous. On the AudioKarma home audio discussion forums, one member said last year that the Nazis really had nothing to do with the invention of magnetic tape or the equipment used to play it. "I suppose that we must call the airplane a 'Republican invention' and the Chevy Volt a 'Democratic electric car' since the incumbent presidents were members of those parties," that member wrote.

But these equations can be fun. How about this one: Abraham Lincoln + writing on a shovel by candlelight + coal = Helped create the iPad?

More on moneyNOW



Tags: IBM
3Comments
May 16, 2013 12:59AM
avatar
This is the kind of journalism you get when there are too many journalists chasing too few stories. But we already knew that, of course, and much worse examples are in the news every week. They're much worse because they're put out as serious stories, but are just like this thing.
May 16, 2013 1:38AM
avatar
What a stupid article. And I fell for it...
Report
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
Categories
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?

DATA PROVIDERS

Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?

MARKET UPDATE

[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market capped the trading week with losses across the major averages. The S&P 500 fell 0.5% to surrender its weekly gain, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (-0.7%) and Russell 2000 (-0.9%) underperformed. The two indices posted respective losses of 0.8% and 0.6% for the week.

Equity indices were pressured from the get-go after several heavyweights disappointed the market with their earnings and/or guidance, which led to some broader profit-taking. After ... More

MSN MONEY'S