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.
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.
Google is 9 years old and, yesterday at least, it celebrated with one of its famous Google Doodles.
It has seemed to me for a while that the defining technology of our age is not the computer, not the PC, not even the internet. It seems to me that the defining technology of our age is search.
The history of humankind has been about progress in three basic areas: transport, labour and information. There was little difference between the Roman Empire and the Renaissance in terms of how goods were moved, how things were made and how information was stored and transmitted. Then, in succession, we got the printing press, the steam engine, the railway, the telegraph, the internal combustion engine, the assembly line, the telephone and air transport. Computers, PCs and the internet are just steps on the path to making it possible for anything that is in the public domain to be findable in a fraction of a second at any time. Information is becoming friction-free.
If we are in the Search Age then Google are the acknowledged and demonstrable Kings of Search, and I have been trying to remember for a while when I first used Google; when I popped my Google cherry.
Yahoo was there from 1995 of course, which was roughly when I started using the Internet, but it never really did it for me. However, it is hindsight that makes me scornful of the idea of manually reviewing and categorising websites. MSN was pants from the beginning, with Bill Gates trying to create a parallel internet ignoring the one that was there already. My how we laughed. By 1999, I was recommending Wired Magazine’s Hot Bot to colleagues, and throughout 2000 I was using Alta Vista’s useful little Babelfish translation utility though their search engine was rather too biased towards academic science for me. Sometime in 2000 or so my ex recommended Ask Jeeves as a search aggregator but its failure to fulfil on its promise to answer free text questions irritated me. I was google-whaking by 2002, though. My maiden name was a google-whack for ages.
So as near as I can make out, sometime in the 15 months between the summer of 2000 and the early spring of 2001 I googled for the first time.
It’s a cherry I wish I could remember popping.
How about you?