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How art imitates life on HBO’s 'Silicon Valley'

Many of Silicon Valley's start-up founders are young and rich, but the vibe of the Valley as reflected in the HBO series "Silicon Valley" isn't much different from what existed decades ago, according to the show's co-creator, Mike Judge.

"I worked as an engineer in the late '80s in Silicon Valley and ... it inspired a lot of the characters and engineer types and just sort of the culture of it. You know, it's changed a lot, but … I feel like the culture of the actual place is pretty similar," Judge told CNBC in a recent interview.

Judge described the awkward tech geek and the venture capitalist alpha male as some of the Valley's more typical personalities at the time. The main differences between the '80s and now are that tech entrepreneurs are getting richer younger, Judge said.

Today, even within the confines of those two stereotypes, characters on "Silicon Valley" are similar to some of the big tech personalities that exist in real life, he said.

"We've had several people think that maybe a character was based on them," said Judge, whose show is enters its third season on Sunday.

One of those characters in the show, Peter Gregory (played by Chris Evan Welch), seems to closely resemble PayPal co-founder and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, according to Alec Berg, a producer and writer for the show.

"I think that was easy to see afterwards, when we were looking at video of Peter Thiel, ... but that was never the design," Berg said.

Martin Starr, from left, Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods and T. J. Miller arrive at the L.A. premiere for Season 2 of "Silicon Valley," held at the El Capitan Theatre on Thursday, April 2, 2015.
Richard Shotwell | Invision | AP
Martin Starr, from left, Thomas Middleditch, Kumail Nanjiani, Zach Woods and T. J. Miller arrive at the L.A. premiere for Season 2 of "Silicon Valley," held at the El Capitan Theatre on Thursday, April 2, 2015.

But that character dichotomy exists with Bay Area hippy culture as a backdrop, according to Berg.

"This was sort of hippy central you know in the '60s. … There is that whole 'stick it to the man' vibe that's still I think a part of what the Bay Area is culturally," said Berg, whose team conducts extensive research before any writing is done. "I mean we've talked to a ton of enormously wealthy people who seem to feel like they're doing it not for the money but for the good of humanity. But they also happen to be worth several billion dollars."