If going to Hollywood to see where the stars live isn't your thing, because you're a geek, here's a fun alternative! For our photo adventure this month Carl and I set out to document our version of a historical, SIlicon Valley, geeky tour where you can take pictures of yourself in front of some of the most iconic technology companies and least known landmarks in the Bay Area!
Your tour begins in Cupertino and ends in Menlo Park.
At Apple Inc. the campus is very secure so it's not like you can just wander around and peek in on engineers to see what they're up to. But there are several things you can do to soak in the the vibe of appleness emitted from Infinite Loop. One is to take your picture in front of 1 Infinite Loop. If you look closely you can see the green number 1 at the end of the driveway onto the main campus.
1 Infinite Loop, Apple Inc., Cupertino, CA
Every tourist takes their picture here. It's kind of nice the way there's the blank space you can stand in. I tried to look like an enthusiastic tourist. Instead I think I just looked kind of goofy. And you can't tell but I was wearing an Apple t-shirt just for this photo op but instead of seeing the logo you can see my stomach. Total fail.
The Company Store, located to the right of 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino CA
Before of after you take your picture you can walk just a few yards away to visit The Company Store. It is the only place in the world where you can purchase (authentic) Apple T-shirts, caps, and logo accessories like pens, water bottles and other gift items. You can purchase software and device accessories, but can only sample and view computers on display. There is no genius bar and you can't purchase any devices at the Company Store. You need to go to a retail store if you need help, a new computer, an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch. (The closest one is at Westfield Valley Fair Mall just a few miles away in Santa Clara.)
If you want to see Apple engineers in the wild go eat breakfast or lunch at the Bagel Street Cafe (10591 N De Anza Blvd.) across from main campus. Note: They have the best cranberry bagels EVER! You can see who works at Apple because they almost always have their security badges attached to them somewhere. Granted, not all are engineers but you're bound to see at least one or two if you hang around long enough. At night you may be able to catch a nocturnal sighting at the Donut Wheel, a 24 hour donut shop just down the street from 1 Infinite Loop.
Steve Jobs Garage, 2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos, CA
Our next stop I'd never been to before but had seen photos and videos of it many times. This is the house where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the first Apple HQ in 1976. They started out working in Steve's bedroom but later moved into the garage where the first 50 Apple 1s were built. Imagine that!
If you're a die hard Mac fan this is mecca and definitely a place to stop if you're looking for a quick Apple photo op. It's just a regular house on a residential street that real people live in so if did feel a little weird to pull up and take photos of it. There's nothing else to see or do here.
Our timing for an unobstructed view of the house and garage was impeccable because seconds, not minutes, after I took this photo the home owner, or someone visiting the home owner, drove up and parked in the driveway. Which made me wonder what is it like living in a house where tourists come to gawk at your garage probably every day of the year?
We hopped onto HWY 280, took the HWY 85 North interchange and exited on Shoreline Blvd. to visit our next stop...
Computer History Museum, 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA
I did an entire post about the Computer History Museum just a few months ago. It would seem the entire history of Silicon Valley (and more) is contained in this building (the former location of Silicon Graphics). You could literally spend an entire day here. I've been to the museum twice and wouldn't mind going back again. While not entirely my cup of tea it's interesting nonetheless and a bit surreal at times seeing things that I've only ever heard about or seen on tv before. CLICK HERE to learn more about the docent led tours the museum offers several days a week. The page says "School Groups" but I was told that the information pertains to all group visits.
Highlights for me included a working model of a Babbage Difference Engine No. 2 and seeing an Apple Lisa2. There's too much to describe really. You'll see actual devices, dioramas, listen to recordings, watch videos and more as you wander through the museum at your own pace taking it all in.
Just down Shoreline Blvd you'll make a lefthand turn and you're pretty much at Google. Google is not one building. Like many other high tech companies there are many sprawled out across blocks or miles into a large campus of buildings. At Google their main campus is called the Googleplex.
1900-1950-2000 Charleston RD, Mountain View CA
You can tell when you're getting close because all of a sudden you'll see lots of people riding bicycles painted in Google's colors. The company provides them to employees to ride from building to building.
Google does all kinds of cool things for their employees. Food is free at Google and there are (I think) over twenty restaurants to choose from. You can also bring your dog to work on a pet friendly shuttle from SF and they have those cool indoor slides which, sadly, are no longer available to guests as the floor where the slide originates is now designated as a no-visitors area. Good thing I was able to ride it when I did. It was AWESOME and FAST!
But that day I was taking Carl to see the Google Gate Bridge. For real! If you don't believe me search for it on Google Maps. LOL. This is the history of the Google Gate Bridge as I know it, shared by my friend, renowned book author, and the Editor of the Google Code Blog, Scott Knaster.
The Google Gate Bridge, Moutain View, CA
As the story goes, some of the Google employees didn't like having to walk all the way to the sidewalk along Charleston Road to get from the main Googleplex campus to the buildings on the other side of Permanente Creek (the three buildings that were the former location of ALZA, a pharmaceutical corporation). So, someone set up a zip line between the two sections of the campus. This was fun and dandy until the city found out about it then the zip line came down and people had to hoof it (my words, not Scott's) on the sidewalk once again... But only until the construction of the Google Gate Bridge was completed.
I have crossed the bridge several times on my way to the Google Company Store which unfortunately, is not open to the public. You have to know a Google Employee wiling to escort you into the store to shop there as a guest. But, on the bright side, you don't have to go to the store to purchase official Google gear.
The Google Android Sculpture Garden, 1635 Charleston Road, Mountain View, CA
Until our Silicon Valley Geek Tour day I had only driven past the Android Statue Garden, also located along Charleston Road in front of building 44. There you can pose beside big sculptures of the Android OS codename icons: Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich. There's also a huge Android sculpture and the arch that forms the main entrance to the building is another rendition of the android complete with tiny green antennae along the roofline.
Some very cool lens flare looked like a low flying ufo with the Android.
They are so cute! And big. The sculptures beg to be photographed and luckily Google encourages visitors to take pictures of and with them, they only ask that you don't climb on them.
The sculptures are the creations of Giovanni Calabrese at Themedous. Each time Android launches a new OS you can be sure a new sculpture will be moving in to hang out with its foodie buddies.
Note: I'm now wearing my Google T-shirt :)
I posed for two pictures. A traditional tourist shot standing in front of the cupcake and a sillier one of me trying to eat the cupcake. LOL.
Next we hopped back on the freeway to get to Palo Alto.
At this point a lunch break may be in order. I would like to recommend, in keeping with the technology theme of the tour, you head over to Calafia in Palo Alto located in the Town and Country Village along the side that faces Embarcadero Road. Owner and Chef Charlie Ayers opened the restaurant and Market-a-Go-Go in 2008. Chef Charlie may be best known as the former Executive Chef at Google, a position he held for six years when he won a cook-off judged by the company's then 40 employees. I've had breakfast, lunch and dinner there and highly recommend the Burrata and Potato Pizza and Mac and Cheese from the Market-a-Go-Go.
After lunch it's just a short drive to your next stop...
HP Garage, 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, CA
HP is famous and the garage is extremely famous as being the "Birthplace of Silicon Valley." It's actually listed on the register of historic places by the US Department of the Interior. Everywhere you read about the garage online will say tours are not available but you are welcome to take photos of the exterior of the property.
The security is very high with HP security officers coming by to check on the property multiple times each day, as well as surveillance cameras located all around the grounds. If you try to sneak into the backyard you won't get far.
You'll find the HP Garage near the intersection of Addison and Waverly just a few blocks away from University Avenue. Like most people, we took pictures of the house and garage from the sidewalk and driveway.
But I also had to take a few photos of the magnolia tree blooming in the front yard before we left. I thought it was gorgeous! There's a sign on the front porch that asks you not to ring the doorbell because it is a residence. People must try to ring the doorbell a lot to try to get a peek inside. It was the afternoon and I figured if someone lived in the house they would be at work so I very gingerly climbed the stairs halfway up the front porch to try to get a better angle of some of the flowers. I took a few quick shots then returned to the sidewalk.
That's when the door opened and a man, who must have spotted me on the stairs asked "So you're taking pictures?" *Gulp* Carl replied and explained to him how we were out on a Silicon Valley Tour of geeky landmarks and would be blogging about the excursion... I asked if he lived there and he said no, he works for HP. Then the man asked "Do you want to see inside the house?" DID WE? Absolutely!
One of the first things he pointed out as we walked into the living room was a 200A audio-oscillator sitting in the center of the fireplace mantle. The sign beside it reads:
"The Model 200A audio-oscillator was the product that launched Hewlett-Packard's phenomenal success. Assembled in the Addison Avenue garage, the resistance-stabilized audio oscillator represented the first practical, low-cast method of generating high-quality audio frequencies needed in communications, geophysics, medicine and defense work. It was HP's first marketable product.
At the end of 1938, the partners brought their first production model into the house, placed it on the mantel, and snapped their own photograph to be used on a mailing to potential customers. The partners weren't expecting much from their first advertising campaign, but in January, 1939 several orders arrived, including some accompanied by checks."
Not only did we get to see the audio-oscillator, we also got to use the original phone in the kitchen which he said had recently been rewired to work again. Carl got to call his own cell phone from the phone while I just listened to the dial tone.
We were pretty beside ourselves. We didn't expect a tour of the house so imagine when he asked if we wanted to see inside the garage! I think I might have pinched myself at that point to make sure I wasn't dreaming. LOL
As we stepped into the backyard I laughed and said to Carl, hey look, there's a man cave back here! So our impromptu guide told us the shed/guest/bunkhouse was used by Bill Hewlett to sleep in 1938 as Dave Packard had married Lucile Packard so they lived in the main house and he slept out back. When Bill married Flora Lamson in 1939 he moved out and the bunkhouse was converted into the company office shared by Flora and Lucile.
While it looks quaint from the outside the interior was spartan holding only Bill's small work desk, his simple metal frame cot, and a porcelain basin attached to one wall.
Our guide pointed out a single flannel shirt hanging on the wall. It belonged to Bill Hewlett. He said the rest of his clothes were kept in the house. The experience was becoming surreal at that point.
And then we headed into the garage. This is the view most visitors have of the garage from the end of the driveway.
This was our view. It was quite dark inside but filled with items that HP restored back in 2004 to bring the property back to it's original condition in 1939 when Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett established HP. With the exception of a few modern kitchen appliances, the rest of the house that we saw was like walking through a museum.
The notebook on the workbench was a personal diary. The page was dated April 5, 1939. In three separate entries it included something about getting gas, what appeared to be a bit of rant about a woman and a dog and an observation about an electric blanket.
In total we viewed all three locations in just a few minutes.
Lucky for us we happened to be there at just the right time and were incredibly fortunate to have had a very special experience.
Our guide even gave us special commemorative pins of the HP Garage! As we headed back to the car we were pretty incredulous at what had just happened.
Back on the road we drove north on University Avenue towards HWY 101 and Menlo Park...
Facebook, 1601 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA
Because that's where you'll find the new home of Facebook, located on the former Sun Microsystems campus, Facebook's new headquarters sits at the foot of the Menlo Park side of the Dumbarton bridge. We had to go. I'd seen on the news there is a giant "Like" sign so I wanted to take a picture with it.
Getting to the sign felt a little treacherous. There is no ideal place to park. If you park in Facebook's lot you have to cross Hacker Way the main drive into the parking lot with traffic running two directions and the sign sits along what is basically a sharp curve. Park down on Willow Road and you have to walk a bit along what is basically a small highway with no sidewalks. So in all honesty I can't recommend you do this because I felt nervous doing it myself.
But we were determined and plowed ahead. If you try, be careful and be sure to look both ways before crossing Hacker Way.
And this concludes my idea of what a geeky, technology, landmark tour of Silicon Valley should include. There are many more places we didn't visit that day so Scott Knaster said this should be part one of a multi-part endeavor. I agree and asked if he would like to come on board as a future consultant. He accepted and even offered to proof read this post for me to make sure I have my facts straight because I am but a fledging geek (I didn't even get my first computer until 2002) and he's the real deal :)
CLICK HERE to read Carl's recap of our excursion over on his blog.
To take the Geek Tour here's what you need to know:
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014
Bagel Street Cafe (Breakfast or Lunch)
10591 N De Anza Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
Donut Wheel (Open 24 hours)
10250 N De Anza Blvd.
Cupertino, CA 95014
Steve Jobs' Garage
2066 Crist Drive
Los Altos, CA 94024
Computer History Museum
1401 North Shoreline Boulevard
Mountain View, CA 94043
Google Gate Bridge
Located between the main Googleplex and Buildings 1900, 1950 and 2000
Mountain View, CA 94043
Google Android Garden
Front Lawn of Building 44
1625 Charleston Road
Mountain View, CA 94043
Calafia (Recommended Lunch Stop)
855 El Camino Real # 130
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Town and Country Village
367 Addison Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301
1601 Willow Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025