The Computer History Museum features more than 1,100 historic artifacts, including some of the very first computers from the 1940s and 1950s. It opened in Mountain View, California, in 1996 and now also holds sources code for software such as Apple's MacPaint 1.3 and Adobe Photoshop 1.0.1.
San Francisco – Fact Check

Preserving Silicon Valley’s remarkable past

Photo by Michael Kappel

San Francisco – Fact Check Preserving Silicon Valley’s remarkable past

Silicon Valley’s two best tech museums can be found almost side-by-side in Mountain View, offering a contrast in content and scale.

Mark Harris
Mark Harris Travel Writer

The Computer History Museum is a superb institution providing a world-class journey from abacuses to WW2 code machines to supercomputers.It opened in Mountain View, California, in 1996 and now also holds sources code for software such as Apple’s MacPaint 1.3 and Adobe Photoshop 1.0.1.

It also has one of only two working models of the Difference Engine No. 2, a steampunk analogue computer designed by Victorian engineer Charles Babbage in 1849 but never successfully constructed until 2002. The five-ton device consists of over 8,000 parts, can calculate mathematical problems with numbers 31 digits long and even comes with a built-in printer.

The shop here in Silicon Valley deserves to be famous for its $5 IBM Think Pad – not a modern laptop computer but its 1960s-era namesake: a notepad with the exhortation “THINK” printed on it in bold letters, as handed out to engineers in the company’s heyday.

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An integrated circuit (IC), or chip, is made by baking a series of film layers upon a silicon wafer and each wafer may hold hundreds of chips. Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel, predicted that the number of transistors on a chip would double every two years, and breaking "Moore’s Law” is the holy grail of chip production. Photo by Tom Tracy / Alamy

Tom Tracy

Tom Tracy

Agency
Alamy

An integrated circuit (IC), or chip, is made by baking a series of film layers upon a silicon wafer and each wafer may hold hundreds of chips. Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel, predicted that the number of transistors on a chip would double every two years, and breaking "Moore’s Law” is the holy grail of chip production.

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When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone at San Francisco’s 2007 Macworld convention he called it, with typical understatement "a revolutionary and magical product that is literally five years ahead of any other mobile phone.” It took $150 million to develop and Apple paid $1 million for the iphone.com domain name, but sold a million devices on its first weekend.

The Pioneering spirit that never died

What can you say about San Francisco, a city that shaped and continues to shape the world as we know it? The history of San Francisco is the promise of gold that brought settlers West, until they could go no further; the pioneering spirit has never died. The Flower Power generation, which originated here in the 1960s, shaped modern beliefs; a new generation is defining our virtual world through companies like as Apple and Facebook. In the history of San Francisco is our present: in its past, our future.