Valley girl

Oracle, Redwood Shores

Oracle, Redwood Shores

That’s not just an Oracle campus.  That’s THE Oracle campus.  I’m not a fan-girl of the database company, but I still squeaked with excitement every morning when we stopped at the lights on our way from our hotel in Redwood to the office.

Redwood Shores.

Menlo Park.

Palo Alto.

Santa Clara.


These are the birth-paces of our modern age, as important as Athens, Rome or Sumeria and, to my geeky mind, as breath-takingly exciting. Yes, if you visit California, then it makes much more sense to hang out in San Francisco than to do a tour of the business parks.  But… but… these are the earthly homes of cyberspace. Giants walk here.

Apple moved out of the garage and into Cupertino.  Electronic Arts and Oracle are at Redwood Shores.  Santa Clara has Intel inside, not to mention the Googleplex and Stanford University.

Stanford would matter if it’s only contribution had been Google and Yahoo. But it helped to give us the very Internet itself: one of the four original internet nodes was at Stanford, back in the day when the internet was ARPANET and years before the Stanford University Network was incorporated as SUN Microsystems.

And then there’s Palo Alto.

It’s hard to over-estimate just how many innovations that shape our daily lives started in Palo Alto as scribbles on an engineer’s blackboard. It’s no surprise that Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center – Xerox PARC – brought us laser printing. It’s more of a surprise to discover that WISIWYG text editors and windows-based interfaces were first thought of here.  When Xerox made the decision to focus on hardware, Apple and Microsoft took their ideas about software and ran away with them.  And the tech-savvy might be interested to know that object-orientated programming and ethernet also came out of PARC.

So there I was, San Francisco smiling at my inner tourist and Silicon Valley whispering to my inner geek.  I’m civilised.  I didn’t even try to persuade my colleague that we should do a tour of the local business parks.  We went into San Francisco to watch the Giants play baseball, and we ate seafood and drank Californian wine on Fishermans’ Wharf.

Sucks to be me.

13 responses to “Valley girl

  1. This new husband is spoiling you with these trips. Must be nice not to have to work.

  2. Pity we don’t have hootoo smileys in the blogosphere because I would definitely use the one now!

  3. Having been there a few times it’s not a particularly impressive place to see. Just miles and miles of office blocks, but as you say, it’s what it symbolises that makes the difference. Only 50 years ago, most of this area was still just desert, now it’s one of the most important economic zones in the world, not to mention America. It’s quite a melting pot – every nation in the world must be there – or at least its best engineering talent. Also what hits me are the huge commutes involved, often 1.5 to 2 hours each way with some of the worst traffic problems in the USA.

    It’s a historical place, but since we are still living through this history it might not feel like that.

    • Gertrude Stein said of California that “there is no ‘there’ there” and William Gibson said the same thing of cyberspace.

      How fekkin post-modern is it that the Acropolis, Angkor Wat and Stone Henge of our age are …. office buildings with nothing to distinguish them from other office buildings?

  4. That is just so cool!
    Don’t forget HP was founded in a garage in the Palo Alto area as well.

    • Good point very well made, Phil. Though HP is a tadlet before my time. Which means the others are of my time. Which means… I’m a cyber-chick of a certain age called Ben. Hey ho.

      • That’s more the the electronics geek in me that’s interested in that than the computer side.
        The test equipment they produced is still to be found in many labs around the world. The non computer part of HP was spun out as Agilent back in 1999

  5. Strikes me as one of those areas where you need knowledge and imagination to be awed, because the reality of the immediate experience is mundane.

    Some places you go, you can be awed simply by the sight of the place. Hardknott Pass in the Lake District has the steepest road in England, and view nothing short of breathtaking. You need know nothing and imagine nothing to feel something stir deep inside you – what’s in front of your eyes is enough. But if you DO know there’s a Roman fort there, and you have the imagination to put yourself in the sandals of those who manned it – auxiliaries from the Iberian peninsula and north Africa, most likely, cursing their posting in this most northerly outpost – it gives you a little more.

    A perfect example of a completely unawesome place in England is Bletchley Park. Walk round there without knowledge or imagination, and it’s a bunch of sheds in a suburb. Engage your imagination, and it’s difficult to overstate its importance. Apart from anything else, a lot of what goes on in Silicon Valley owes its origins to what was designed and built there. The only other place I can think of in the world that is similarly visually unassuming and yet awesome to the imagination would be Los Alamos.

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