The house where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built Apple's (AAPL) first computer is now a historic site, as it should be. But that house alone isn't going to cut it when the relatives come to town and want to see where history was made in Silicon Valley.
The truth is, we don't do history all that well in the valley. Our preservation strategy is to hope nobody tears the good stuff down, though sometimes they do (so long Walker's Wagon Wheel and soon William Shockley's lab).
Anyway, I have a tried and true do-it-yourself driving tour of Silicon Valley that I'm going to share with you here. We might not have Civil War battlefields where blood was shed, or musty pubs where the revolution was plotted, but we've got stuff. All you have to do is look for it.
So grab your GPS or iPhone (I'm guessing even Apple maps can find Jobs' house) and get ready to be amazed.
Tap in 2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos: You're standing in front of Silicon Valley's newest historic home. The Los Altos Historical Commission recently placed the house that Jobs grew up in on the city's historic inventory. Don't get too close. Jobs' stepmother still lives in the place and some yard signs none too subtly suggest that any pictures you take should be taken from the sidewalk. Fair enough.
Anyway, it was in the attached garage that friends and relations Jobs, Wozniak, Patty Jobs, Daniel Kottke and Elizabeth Holmes built the first Apple 1s that they sold to the Byte Shop in 1976. The house also had a starring role in the recent movie "Jobs,'' with Ashton Kutcher.
Tap in 333 Ravenswood Ave., Menlo Park: Here you'll find SRI International, a fascinating research institution known for being on one end of the first Internet transmission and for developing Siri. Ask her about it.
If you slip into the main lobby, you'll find a modest display that includes a replica of a wooden prototype of the first computer mouse, designed by Doug Engelbart. You'll also learn about SRI's red carpet moments (the organization won an Emmy and an Oscar for technical achievements).
Tap in 232 Santa Margarita Ave., Menlo Park: Well, OK, no, you can't go in, but sitting before you is the Google (GOOG) garage. In September 1998, the same month Google was incorporated, co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set up a workshop in Susan Wojcicki's garage. Hey, office space was expensive at the time, dot-com boom and all, and Wojcicki needed a hand with her Peninsula-sized mortgage.
"At the time I didn't really know what to think about this," Wojcicki said recently, as this newspaper's Brandon Bailey reported.
No, the garage didn't have an infinity swimming pool, sleep pods or a big white bus to take you to and from work, but all in all it worked out OK. Wojcicki, who is now Google's senior vice president for advertising, doesn't need help with her mortgage anymore. And Brin and Page are now two of the country's richest men.
Tap in 367 Addison Ave., Palo Alto: There are garages and then there is The Garage; and this is it. That modest little one-car job at the end of the driveway is where William Hewlett and David Packard in 1939 started what became the biggest technology seller in the world. The story is Mr. H and Mr. P flipped a coin to see whose name would go first in the company name.
David and Lucile Packard rented the first floor of the house at 367 and Hewlett lived in a shed in the backyard. The recent Stanford grads worked on the company's first product, an oscillator, in the garage. They'd paint the instruments in there and then use the oven in the home's kitchen to bake on the enamel.
The plaque naming the garage "The Birthplace of Silicon Valley" went up in 1989. The founders, who attended the big to-do, were less than impressed.
"This isn't the birthplace of Silicon Valley," Hewlett, who was 75 at the time, told this newspaper. "We didn't use silicon, and we weren't the first people in the valley."
Packard told this newspaper: "I'm not very strong on reminiscing. The past can't be much influence on the future, you've got to look ahead."
Tap in 391 San Antonio Road, Mountain View: The vacant Halal grocery store is the building that once housed Shockley labs, the spot where Nobel laureate Shockley continued his work on the transistor by experimenting with silicon semiconductors. He also assembled an A-team of scientists and engineers, including Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore, who would go on to found Intel (INTC), the world's largest chipmaker. But before Intel, Noyce and Moore were joined by six others who fled Shockley's paranoia and dysfunctional management style to form Fairchild Semiconductor, the font of much of the valley's semiconductor industry.
Tap in 844 E. Charleston Road, Palo Alto: In 1957, Fairchild semiconductor launched itself and arguably the valley itself in this drab two-story building. The men who left Shockley became known as the "Traitorous Eight," though few of them liked that label. They were engineering a new product and a new way of making the product. Everything they did, they did from scratch.
In time, the eight were able to come up with the first integrated circuit that could be mass produced in a practical manner -- which it turned out was a very big deal.
Tap in 2200 Mission College Blvd., Santa Clara: Intel is one indication of just what a big deal that chip was.
The company has more than 80,000 employees, by last count, and had $53 billion in sales last year.
This is the house that Noyce and Moore built; and if you head to the Robert Noyce Building, you'll find the Intel museum. It's a modest museum, but one that boasts some cool artifacts, including the horribly typed one-page business plan that the founders presented to potential investors.
You might even learn something about how those little chips actually make your computer run.
Tap in 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino: You probably feel you've already been traveling an infinite loop and this stop does bring you full circle. This is Apple's headquarters, for now. Apple, as you might know, is building a gigantic flying-saucer-shaped HQ a few miles away. The place will be big enough to house the population of a couple of small towns and chances are it will be locked down like Fort Knox. So if you want to get close to the company that evolved out of that simple garage on Crist Drive, this might be the place to do it.
Apple by its nature is not welcoming to outsiders, but the current campus has a company store that is open to the public. This is a different kind of Apple store. While it does carry a smattering of Apple gadgets, think logo-emblazoned T-shirts, caps, coffee mugs and key chains.
The company website points out that it is the only place in the world to buy the Apple logowear that it stocks. I'm not saying that you're geeky enough to try to impress your friends with that sort of thing.
Then again, if you've made it this far on my tour, you probably are.
Contact Mike Cassidy at email@example.com or 408-920-5536. Follow him at Twitter.com/mikecassidy.