mercoledì 21 marzo 2012

Route 128 o che fine hanno fatto i miei 'puters?

Quando io sono entrato nel magico mondo dei computers --allora si chiamavano calcolatori (o cervelli, secondo i giornalisti) elettronici-- tutto quello con cui entravo in contatto veniva dai dintorni di Boston.
Ecco quella che Boldrin e Levine chiamano correttamente Route 128. (Uh! del dinamico duo ne ho parlato qua).

Alcuni nomi Prime, Apollo e Digital.

Lì sono nati Unix, il papà di Linux, il Fortran, il Lisp e il C.
Oggi tutto (quasi) viene dalla California (per quanto riguarda gli Stati Uniti), Giappone, Corea, Cina e (prossimamente) India.

Cos'è successo? Interessantissimissimo quello che scrivono Levine e Boldrin.
Siccome l'edizione italiana è protetta da copyright copio e incollo da quella originale, liberamente disponibile qui.

You have probably heard of Silicon Valley. Perhaps you
have not heard of Route 128. Yet, Route 128 has been a high
technology district since the 1940s, long before farmers were
displaced from Santa Clara Valley, as Silicon Valley was then
known, to make space for computer firms. In 1965 both Silicon
Valley and Route 128 were centers of technology employment of
equal importance, and with similar potentials and aspirations for
further growth.
Route 128 began the race well ahead. In 1965, total
technology employment in the Route 128 area was roughly
triple that of Silicon Valley. By 1975, Silicon Valley
employment had increased fivefold, but it had not quite
doubled in Route 128, putting Silicon Valley about fifteen
percent ahead in total technology employment. Between
1975 and 1990, the gap substantially widened. Over this
period, Silicon Valley created three times the number of
new technology-related jobs as Route 128. By 1990, Silicon
Valley exported twice the amount of electronic products as
Route 128, a comparison that excludes fields like software
and multimedia, in which Silicon Valley's growth has been
strongest. In 1995, Silicon Valley reported the highest
gains in export sales of any metropolitan area in the United
States, an increase of thirty-five percent over 1994; the
Boston area, which includes Route 128, was not in the top
What explains this radical difference in growth of the two
areas? Certainly both had access to important universities,
instrumental in the computer revolution – Harvard and MIT in the
case of Route 128 and Stanford in the case of Silicon Valley. A
careful analysis by Ronald J. Gilson shows that the only significant
difference between the two areas lay in a small but significant
difference between Massachusetts and California labor laws.
According to Gilson
A postemployment covenant not to compete prevents
knowledge spillover of an employer's proprietary
knowledge not, as does trade secret law, by prohibiting its
disclosure or use, but by blocking the mechanism by which
the spillover occurs: employees leaving to take up
employment with a competitor or to form a competing
start-up. Such a covenant provides that, after the
termination of employment for any reason, the employee
will not compete with the employer in the employer's
existing or contemplated businesses for a designated period
of time--typically one to two years--in a specified
geographical region that corresponds to the market in
which the employer participates. [2]
In Massachusetts
Massachusetts law is generally representative of the
approach taken toward postemployment covenants not to
compete by the great majority of states. United States law
in this area largely derives from English law that
developed the basic pattern of blanket enforcement of
covenants not to compete given by the seller in connection
with the sale of a business, and the application of a rule of
reason to covenants associated with employment.
Covenants not to compete would be enforced against a
departing employee if the covenant's duration and
geographic coverage were no greater than necessary to
protect an employer's legitimate business interest, and not
otherwise contrary to the public interest. This formulation
is commonplace in Massachusetts covenant cases, and
dates to the late nineteenth century. [3]
By way of contrast, in California
California law governing covenants not to compete is both
unusual and radically different from that of Massachusetts.
California Business and Professions Code section 16600
provides that “every contract by which anyone is
restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or
business of any kind is to that extent void.” The courts have
interpreted section 16600 “as broadly as its language
reads.” ...Indeed, California courts' application of choice
of law rules underscores the seriousness with which they
view section 16600. Even if the employment agreement
which contains a postemployment covenant not to compete
explicitly designates the law of another state, under which
the covenant would be enforceable, as controlling, and
even if that state has contacts with the contract, California
courts nonetheless will apply section 16600 on behalf of
California residents to invalidate the covenant. [4]
Contrary to many business pundits, the reader of this book
will perhaps not be surprised at the beneficial consequences of the
Silicon Valley competitive environment. While Sexanian, in her
otherwise informative book, remarks
The paradox of Silicon Valley was that competition
demanded continuous innovation, which in turn required
cooperation among firms. [5]
We know that there are good economic reasons why it must be so:
competition is the mechanism that breeds innovation, and
sustained competitive innovation, paradoxical as that may sound to
those that do not understand it, often is best implemented via
cooperation among competing firms.
While Route 128 companies spent resources to keep
knowledge secret – inhibiting and preventing the growth of the
high tech industry – in California this was not possible. And so,
Silicon Valley – freed of the millstone of monopolization – grew
by leaps and bounds as employees left to start new firms, rejoined
old firms and generally spread socially useful knowledge far and

[1] Mildly good legal news seem also to be coming from the European courts, which have started to rule against some of the most preposterous requests to treat any form of music downloading as theft, even when intended only for personal use and with no commercial purposes. For the Spanish and Italian court rulings see, for example,
nloading_legal/ and

[2] The debate between economists and other over slavery is discussed at some length in Levy and Peart [Levy, D.M. and S.J. Peart [2001] The Secret History of the Dismal Science, available online at]. In addition to defending slavery, Dickens was a strong proponent of copyright law, and was extremely incensed that his works could be legally distributed in the U.S. without his permission. Ironically, a limited form of indentured servitude is still allowed in the music and sport industries, where long-term contracts binding the artist or the athlete to a particular studio or team are commonplace.

[3] Gallini, N. and S. Scotchmer [2001], “Intellectual Property: When is it the Best Incentive System?” in Innovation Policy and the Economy, vol 2, ed. Adam Jaffe, Joshua Lerner and Scott Stern, MIT Press: Cambridge

[4] Condon and Sinha [Condon, B. and T. Sinha [2004], “Global Diseases, Global Patents, and Differential Treatment in WTO Law: Criteria for Suspending Patent Obbligations in Developing Countries”, mimeo ITAM, Mexico D.F.; forthcoming in the Journal of International Law and Business.], among other, have studied criteria for suspension of patents in developing countries.

[5] Schankerman and Pakes [Schankerman, M. and A. Pakes [1986], “Estimates of the Value of Patent Rights in European Countries During the Post-1950 Period,” Economic Journal, vol. 96, no. 384, 1052-1077.] have studied patent returns in various European countries. Using their data, Kingston [Kingston, W. [2001], “Meeting Nelson’s Concerns about Intellectual Property.” Paper presented at a Conference in Aalborg, June 12-15, 2001. Available at] estimates the subsidies that would be required to replace the current patent system (p. 18)
Schankerman and Pakes reported that for patents in Britain, France and Germany, the returns appear to be only a small fraction of the domestic R&D expenditure of the business enterprises. The means of the discounted sum of rewards from patent age 5 were about $7,000 in Britain and France and $19,000 in Germany. The value of patents as a proportion of total national R&D expenditure was 0.057 in France, 0.068 in Britain and 0.056 in Germany (1986, pp. 1068, 1074). Schankerman subsequently estimated that a subsidy to R&D of 15%-35% would be enough to provide an equivalent incentive to patents (1988, p. 95).

Ecco! Niente più 'puters a Boston, guardate come Manu Cornet (uno parecchio ganzo, lavora da google) tratta la cosa.

C'è da dire che San Francisco (e tutta la Silicon Valley) è altrettanto bella e interessante di Boston.

Diversa ma bella uguale.

2 commenti:

  1. San Francisco è bellissima. La Silicon Valley, invece, è un mortorio ;-)

    1. Ma dai! È un posto interessante, poi, beh, volendo. Ma anche a Boston le fabbriche erano all'interno, Natick, Chelmsdorf (chissà se si scrivono così). Un po' come Nichelino, Moncalieri, Vinovo, Piobesi.