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Friday, February 17, 2012

February Adventure: Silicon Valley's History and Tech Tourist Stops

This month my touring partner, Stacie, suggested we stay close to home and visit some of the places where Silicon Valley originated as one of the high technology centers of the world. Also on our list of stops were several of today's hottest companies whose headquarters' fronts have become as popular of tourist attractions as the Golden Gate Bridge. To see Stacie's recap of our tour click here
The number of visitors here for a photo at Apple headquarters is infinite.

Conveniently located adjacent to the front door of Apple is their Company Store boasting the hottest consumer technology devices which just so happens to be open to the public as well as employees. It's like a gift shop where you can pick up a memento of your visit after the photo in front of this iconic company. I am at Apple often and have yet to be there without seeing a steady stream of tourists.

Directly across the street from Apple's headquarters is a favorite geek hang out called The Bagel Café. This little restaurant serves basic sandwiches and drinks but still thrives in spite of the incredible in-house cafeteria and food service provided for Apple employees. Stacie tried a cranberry bagel that was just outstanding.

A favorite place of Geeks to grab a bite.

It was only appropriate that our next stop was the garage at a Los Altos home where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak collaborated to build the first Apple computer. It was a nicely renovated neighborhood but also unassuming with no indication that this one house was so rich in history.

2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos, California where Apple began.

The actual garage where the Steve's performed their magic.

On to Mountain View where we photographed the outside of the Computer History Museum. This building is also rich in technology history as it was once home to the legendary Silicon Graphics Corporation. The exhibits here are vast and you need more than one day to take it all in.

The CHM is at 1401 North Shoreline Blvd. at Highway 101 in Mountain View.

Currently showing is an exhibit called "Evolution."

Computer History Museum is a very popular spot for holding private events.

Right around the corner from the Computer History Museum is the world headquarters for another Mountain View company making history, Google. One thing that really struck me was how visitor friendly Google has become. They really get it. They understand the value of making their brand and headquarters a welcome place for visitors.

We found plenty of visitor parking at this very busy campus complex.

The very first thing Stacie wanted to show me was the famous "Google Gate Bridge." Although it does not exactly have the architectural grandeur of its more famous namesake, the employees love it for reducing their walk between buildings. Crossing over this creek used to be more exhilarating on a zip line but practicality dictated that a foot bridge made much more sense.

Google Gate Bridge connects several key buildings on campus.

One of the most entertaining spots at Google to shoot is their famous Icon Garden. Everytime they launch a new operating system they add another one of these whimsical statues to the collection.

In the heart of the campus the icon garden shows Google's sense of humor.

Visitors welcome is definitely the mantra here in Mountain View where photos are playfully encouraged.

As you can see it did not take me very long to get into the spirit.

Dessert anyone?

Nothing like a sundae in the middle of the week!

Beware of the Android Attack!

Google's main entrance is impressive yet welcoming like the rest of the campus.

Our next stop was my most anticipated because I am such a long time fan of Hewlett Packard. My father's company worked very closely with HP in the sixties and seventies. The story of Bill Hewlett and David Packard's humble beginnings in a Palo Alto garage are not only legendary but "The Garage" itself has become a historic landmark.

The birthplace of Hewlett Packard

I was just content to see this place and be able to photograph the famous garage. It is detached from the house like so many homes that were built in the early 1900's. This humble little structure has a huge aura about it when you stand there and think about the level of innovation that took place inside.

As we continued to photograph the outside we had no indication of the surprise that was upon us. As you can see the house at 367 Addison Avenue is quite nicely restored and the flowers were blooming from our unseasonal early spring weather.

367 Addison Avenue near Waverly in Palo Alto

Suddenly we were greeted by an HP employee who just happened to be inside the house and watching us photograph. We were invited inside for a quick tour. I was stunned because sometimes when we photograph we get the opposite reaction and people are suspect of our intentions. If my images seem shaky or rushed it is because I was just so excited to be inside. I had no idea that in 2003 HP had launched a project to restore and renovate this property to replicate it as it was in 1938. What a great project to bring back this important time in technology history!

The Packard's living room.

Original and functional appliances fill the kitchen.

1938 table setting complete with vintage toaster.

Completing the trip back to 1938 is a real functioning rotary phone on the wall.

The employee was kind enough to actually encourage me to try the phone and call my cell phone. It was a real kick to dial my number. I had forgotten just how much patience it takes to move that dial around. :-) Stacie snapped this funny photo of me calling myself.

From 1938 rotary to 2012 iPhone 4S..."Can you hear me now"?

The real thrill came from seeing The Garage and The Shed where Bill Hewlett lived behind the main house. These humble beginnings are a reminder of how the HP house was built long before the days of corporate jets and Peninsula mansions. Bill's bunkhouse was just that and not much bigger than the garage where they worked.

The bed where Bill slept was really just a cot.

Bill's bunkhouse had a simple sink.

Bill's desk complete with the engineer's most used tool of the time, a slide rule.

Bill Hewlett's actual flannel shirt hangs in tribute.

The Garage workbench where it all began.

The renovation project displays many great artifacts from the original collection.

This photo of the founders in The Garage brings the aura of the era completely home.

On a parting note from our incredible HP tour I shot this plaque in the garden. This important renovation project was inspired by the late Greg Winter who worked for HP. In the garden rests this dedication plaque to his efforts in bringing The Garage restoration to fruition.

Stacie and I were blown away and could have wrapped up our tour at that point because we got way more than we expected in Palo Alto. However, one more stop beckoned at the new headquarters of Facebook. They recently moved into the former Menlo Park campus built by Sun Microsystems in the 90's. This final stop was a fitting conclusion to our tour of Silicon Valley landmarks because Facebook is the hottest new company in the industry and on the verge of going public. Our parting shot is where everyone stops for a photo in front of their iconic thumb up "Like" logo sign.

Two thumbs up for a great day touring Silicon Valley's most famous places!


  1. That was such a fun and truly amazing day. Being invited into the HP Garage felt like the gates of OZ opening before us. LOL

  2. Thanks for coming up with such a great concept for an excursion. I look forward to the sequel as there are many other places we need to see that have formed the backbone of Silicon Valley.