Photos: The technical history tour

Photos: The technical history tour

Summary: Join us on a whistlestop trip around the places where technological history was made

TOPICS: Tech Industry

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  • We use the painless travel agency of Google Maps to explore the history of technology — from the University of Helsinki to Albuquerque — and some of the things that have happened to the places that helped create the modern world.

    Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes — digital computing

    A place etched on the heart of every true blue British technologist, Bletchley Park symbolises what can be done through sheer power of thought when the pressure's on. Historians will argue forever how many lives were saved by the wholesale breaking of the German war codes and whether Colossus was the first digital programmable electronic computer, but what's beyond doubt is the tragedy of what happened afterwards. The core of what would, in other hands, become the world's most important new industry was deliberately destroyed and those involved sworn to silence — all to protect secrets that would be compromised anyway.

    Real-life visiting potential: 10/10. The site museum is excellent.


  • CERN, Geneva, Switzerland — The web

    The European centre for high energy physics is one of the world's finest temples to classical Big Science. That it's also the birthplace of the web is one of those accidents of time and place that will always haunt those who try and fund research. But being a pure research institute, there was no commercial reason for Tim Berners-Lee or CERN to keep the idea to themselves, and as with TCP/IP this gave the open standard an unassailable advantage. The rest is history.

    Real-life visiting potential: 7/10. Not the easiest place to visit outside a group, and you should move quickly if you want to sort something out. Next November they turn on the experiment, so lots of stuff will be closed to the public that isn't now.

Topic: Tech Industry

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Greaybeards rejoice!

    We're a select breed!

    Born at the end of the second world war into a world of valves ("vacuum tubes" for the linguistically lattitudinally challenged) we've been privileged to live through the birth and the first sixty years of the "semiconductor era" which has not only been the engine behind the "technological revolution" but has also changed the face of humanity irrevocably.

    We've seen the point-contact diode and all the spin-off diodes (Zener, Shockley, Tunnel, Gunn, LED, Photo, Varicap, SCR, Hall effect, etc.) the junction transistor and it's spin-offs (unijunction, Darlington, field effect, MOSFET, etc.) develop into today's analogue and digital integrated circuits of mind-numbing complexity.

    For those of us who made technology of our life, in whatever speciality, it's been a roller-coaster of a ride, we've had to hang on by our fingertips and had to run like crazy just to stand still... but it's been thrilling, breathtaking, breakneck and as exciting and as full of possibilities as a new-born baby... and it's only "just" starting!
  • technical tour addenda

    sorry, but you can't mention xerox parc and microsoft without putting in 1, Infinite Loop. After all - it's because of that company that we are now using computers to read this site!