Rupert Goodwins' San Francisco IDF Diary

Thursday 28/02/2002I don't think I can gaze upon the face of another silicon chip without shuddering, ever again. Which is why I spend the morning in sessions looking at silicon chips in extreme close-up, and why I then allow myself to be transported to Santa Clara after lunch to visit an Intel chip plant.

Thursday 28/02/2002

I don't think I can gaze upon the face of another silicon chip without shuddering, ever again. Which is why I spend the morning in sessions looking at silicon chips in extreme close-up, and why I then allow myself to be transported to Santa Clara after lunch to visit an Intel chip plant. This also houses the Intel Museum, so after staring through windows at people in spacesuits pressing buttons on machinery that looks like something from a 60s science-fiction movie I go for a traipse down random-access memory lane.

This is a rare treat for a nerd as confirmed in the ways of geekdom as I. I see the world's first microprocessor -- the legendary 4004 -- both in the ceramic-encased flesh and as an engineering drawing on a wall. This is displayed with all the respect an art gallery would give a medieval illuminated manuscript: I trace out the way the circuitry flows along the multicoloured inks that delineate the workings of the chip and feel much as a novice must have felt when first encountering an ancient holy text.

The feeling soon passes when I spot a video running on a screen nearby. This covers some of Intel's corporate culture, in particular the way the company has taken to poking fun at itself on April 1st every year. There are fake newsletters, TV reports, financial statements and a house band singing country songs about working in cubicles. The finest moment, however, is Intel's co-founder and patron saint of high technology Andy Grove announcing his retirement to follow his life's true ambition: to become a rap artist. He then appears in dark glasses, an enormous hat and lashings of bling-bling and proceeds to shout an angry tirade about how making chips is better than hangin' with his homeys. Or something: the details escape me, due in no small part to his East European accent disrupting the effect.

Quite bizarre, and the perfect tonic to a week of Intel earnestness.

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