Silicon Valley holds a special place in American history because it is at the heart of the biggest information technology innovations of the past century. Touring this part of the Bay Area is a tantalizing opportunity for ‘techies’ to explore museums and hubs set up by iconic tech companies such as Apple and Google. Still, Silicon Valley offers enough thrills to enchant families and casual travelers as well. Here is a list of must-see tech museums and sites in Silicon Valley!
The Intel Museum
The Intel Museum has been overshadowed by the Computer History Museum in recent years, but it is nonetheless a special part of Silicon Valley history. Intel was a pioneer in the microprocessor industry, and the museum showcases some of the largest and most iconic semiconductors produced over the years. The most captivating masterpiece is a replica of the Intel 4004 chip used for a trip to the moon. Other exhibits include a model of the company’s ‘Clean Room’, a presentation explaining Moore’s Law, and other items created by the company’s founders. Tourists can follow a guided tour or explore on their own.
Before Silicon Valley came to be there was Stanford University, which can rightfully claim to be the mother of most innovations in the area. Stanford has always served as a global leader in technological research and also acts as an incubator for successful start-ups and entrepreneurs in the valley. Indeed, many superstar tech CEOs and founders such as Marissa Mayer, Larry Page, Reid Hoffman and Sergey Brin are alumni of this university.
Stanford has a formal tour set up that pairs visitors with tour guides for visits to its various campuses. Most of its structures and facilities are open to the public except the William Gates Building. Some of the most popular stops include the Hoover Tower, the Oval, and the Cantor Center. The university has so many historical sites that many visitors allocate an entire day to tour the various campuses and buildings.
The Google Merchandise Store
The Google Merchandise store is the largest retail outlet in the world for Google products – including electron gadgets, branded apparel, and accessories. What’s more, the store is adjacent to the iconic Company Headquarters, which hosts a colorful collection of Android Statues. Visitors can engage with the statues, each of which represents a version of the Android operating system and are named after a dessert. It is a great opportunity to take memorable selfies that you can use to show off your visit!
The HP Garage
Aptly named for its founders, the HP Garage prides itself on being the cradle of the Silicon Valley. It is the site where tech entrepreneurs David Packard and Bill Hewlett founded the Hewlett Packard Company by tossing a coin to determine the arrangement of their names in the logo. HP has since converted the office block into a museum, which is visible from a distance but not accessible to the public. The garage is also a landmark building in California.
The Computer History Museum
A tech tour of Silicon Valley is not complete without a visit to the Computer History Museum. Founded in 1996, it is a place where the public can learn about the history of computing from its conception to the present day. The museum boasts the largest collection of computing artifacts in the world. Here, visitors can view rare objects ranging from the Enigma Machine to the Apple I Computer.
Other notable exhibits include the Google computer, which was the first machine the company used to host its servers. It is a beguiling artifact made of actual Legos! Visitors who are not tech-savvy need not worry as there are guides to help them along the tour. These guides are well versed in the history of all the artifacts and may even offer demonstrations of how the machines work on certain days of the week.
The Apple Company Store
Apple is famous for its eccentric stores that feature only company merchandise. The Company Store offers a glimpse of Apple’s first store, established in 1993. The building was initially designed to serve company employees but has since undergone renovations to convert to a generic Apple store. The company store is open to the public and offers visitors an opportunity to purchase Apple-branded apparel and the latest company innovations. It is located at the official Apple headquarters so tourists can take pictures of the office block and branded signs.
The Apple Headquarters
The new Apple Headquarters, modeled after the design of a spaceship, is an architectural marvel that some would mistake for a sports stadium. It has an exquisite appearance with every structure intricately designed to look like a doughnut. Inside the complex are portraits of Steve Jobs and other company leaders, as well as the iconic logo.
Draper University was founded by Tim Draper as an incubation center for tech companies. Tim is a venture capitalist in his own right and helped found successful tech companies such as Skype and Hotmail. Visitors get a chance to see the Startup Bootcamp and understand the process of converting promising technological ideas into viable enterprises.
The Facebook Like Sign
Situated in Menlo Park is the conspicuous Facebook Like Sign, which is also the logo of the leading global social networking company. The site receives over one billion visitors each day, and it is humbling to see how a simple sign of approval can attract so many people. Visitors can take selfies of the statue and post them on their Facebook profiles as they continue along the tour.
A tech tour of Silicon Valley is one of the most satisfying experiences you can enjoy in California. Some of the sites are only accessible on certain days of the week while others are closed to the public. To make the most of your time, always check the accessibility of the place you plan to visit so that you can plan accordingly and make reservations if need be.