When I first heard about the new film telling the story of the birth of Silicon Valley, I had my doubts.

I mean, hadn't this story been told? There are books, "The Big Score: The Billion Dollar Story of Silicon Valley," "The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley." And other films, "The Real Revolutionaries," "The Fairchild Chronicles" and on and on.

Do we really need a retelling

But then I actually watched American Experience's "Silicon Valley" (it's good) and talked to some smart people -- including filmmaker Randall MacLowry -- about why it's a tale worth telling again.

"I agree that the story is out there," MacLowry, a principal at Boston-based The Film Posse, told me by phone. "But I think in terms of having a national audience, through an avenue like public television, public television really hasn't told this story before."

And, no, "Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires" doesn't count. We're talking about the valley's beginnings, back in the day of Fairchild Semiconductor, the Traitorous Eight and Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce, who moved on from Fairchild to start Intel (INTC).


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MacLowry says Fairchild Semiconductor is not the first company most people out there in TV land think of when they think of Silicon Valley.

"I would argue that very few people actually know about Fairchild Semiconductor and may not know the name Robert Noyce," he says. "They think of Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL) and Facebook. Those are the things they know about."

The truth is we're nothing in Silicon Valley if not entirely fascinated with ourselves. And so while the way this whole innovation center got started might be very familiar to us (OK, some of us), there is a big country out there that probably has no idea how the valley got its start.

Besides, where does it say that once told, a history cannot be repeated? The biggest stories in history are told again and again, sometimes with new information; sometimes from different perspectives.

"I think the more that history is combed through, the more that you come to understand," says Leslie Berlin, a Silicon Valley historian who wrote "The Man Behind the Microchip" and who is interviewed in the newest film.

The important thing, she says, is that the valley's story is being recognized as a key piece of the history of our country. Why not find different ways to tell the valley's story that have the potential to reach new audiences?

"How many movies about Abraham Lincoln have we seen?" Berlin asks. "And yet, clearly there is something new that the most recent Lincoln movie has brought to the table."

Case closed.

Contact Mike Cassidy at mcassidy@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5536. Follow him at Twitter.com/mikecassidy.

"SILICON VALLEY ON AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
Date: Feb. 5
Time: 8 p.m.
Station: KQED-TV
To see the American Experience trailers go to the following urls:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BahCmU5ugsU
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuGQML9BZHY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rEq1i4k0UE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcDIoKd7Z1s