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The Toxic Technology of Silicon Valley

Satisfactory Essays
Silicon Valley, land of riches and of millionaires, archetype of the California Dream. This is the promise and the dream of technology. Mandel suggests that "Silicon Valley has joined the pantheon of mythic places-the first addition in more than fifty years" (285). A female engineer at Hewlett Packard states that "When [she] moved here, there were orchards all around, and now there are integrated-circuit manufacturing plants all around... that's been the thrill, because I've been a part of it, and it's the most exciting time in the history of the world, I think. And the center of it is here in Silicon Valley" (Stacey 292).

A computer is rapidly becoming as common as a telephone or a television. It is seen as a sign of progress, development, and advance. According to Douglas Andrey, director of information systems of the Semiconductor Industry Association, "the chip industry is the pivotal driver of the world economy" (Byster/Smith). It is more than that... it is a cultural phenomenon. It is cool to have a computer. Every kid wants one-two-or more. Everyone these days seems to be walking around with a Palm Pilot, a pager, a cell phone, and a laptop. Friends send instant messages to each other on their cell phones. High tech and popular culture are almost one and the same. In "The High Cost of High Tech", Siegel and Markoff write that "A few years ago, Steve Wozniak, the designer of the Apple II computer, struck a fusion between technology and youth culture by sponsoring the elaborate 'US' festival in Southern California to celebrate both rock music and personal computers" (186).

Yet there is a side to the computer that most people don't see. When you go to buy a computer at Fry's or Comp-USA, you rarely, if ever, think about what will happen to the computer when you are done with it. When you buy the Pentium III with 512 MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, and 52x CDROM it is hard to imagine it ever becoming obsolete. Yet in two years, it is a piece of junk. And most of this goes into landfills. One computer user writes that she has "discovered that they are excellent at collecting dust and holding up bags of rice, but other than that... [she is]... at a loss to know where to unload this stuff" (USA Today, Jun 99). Despite 11% of the personal computers being recycled, "by the year 2004, experts estimate that we will have over 315 million obsolete computers in the US.
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