Palo Alto – Fact Check

What’s the connection between the Gold Rush and Stanford?

Stanford’s Memorial Church, known as MemChu, was built in 1903 as one of the earliest interdenominational churches in the West, funded by Jane Stanford as a memorial to her husband Leland. Badly affected in the 1906 earthquake, it was taken apart stone by stone and completely rebuilt, with the mosaics being restored from the original drawings in Italy.

Photo by David Kirkby / Creative Commons

Palo Alto – Fact Check

What’s the connection between the Gold Rush and Stanford?

The small towns sandwiched between the San Francisco Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains often feel more like sleepy middle America than the powerhouse for the world’s digital economy but Palo Alto is ground zero for the electronics explosion.

Mark Harris
Mark Harris Travel Writer

It was here in the 1950s that Stanford University researchers and tiny start-ups brainstormed the transistors, semi-conductors and silicon wafers that would kick-start computing and give the region a new name: Silicon Valley.

The Stanford campus itself is an oasis of palm trees and elegant Mission-style buildings amid the Valley’s strip malls and traffic-choked highways. In 1969, a computer terminal at Stanford sent the very first message over the ARPANET, the military-funded precursor to today’s Internet. Researchers managed to type in just two letters “lo…” before the machine crashed.

While Stanford was the breeding ground for such world-changing ideas, it is worth remembering again the debt owed to California’s Gold Rush pioneers. The appalling working conditions of the miners led directly to an 1872 California law allowing workers complete freedom to change their employers.

It’s the freedom to walk away with a profitable idea and go directly into competition with the company you were just working for that drives so much innovation here. Another short walk along leafy streets brings me to 367 Addison Avenue, as good a place as any to call the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

In the small garage of this detached house, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard designed and built their first oscilloscope in 1939, so forming one of the most successful IT companies.

The Palo Alto garage, considered the birthplace of Silicon Valley, where Stanford graduates Dave...

The Palo Alto garage, considered the birthplace of Silicon Valley, where Stanford graduates Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett founded Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1939 is now a private museum. Their first product was an audio oscillator, with Walt Disney Studios buying eight to test the sound systems in theaters for "Fantasia”, its first major stereophonic sound film. Photo by Peter Kaminski / Creative Commons

Peter Kaminski

Peter Kaminski

Canon Powershot

Agency
Creative Commons
Aperture
ƒ/4
Exposure
1/200
ISO
168
Focal
25 mm

The Palo Alto garage, considered the birthplace of Silicon Valley, where Stanford graduates Dave Packard and Bill Hewlett founded Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 1939 is now a private museum. Their first product was an audio oscillator, with Walt Disney Studios buying eight to test the sound systems in theaters for "Fantasia”, its first major stereophonic sound film.