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For a company that couldn't market its way out of a paper bag nor plan a strategy to save its life, Acorn has done remarkably well in the afterlife. On the back of the phenomenal success of the BBC Micro in the early 1980s, the famous NIH (Not Invented Here) spirit of the Cambridge computer community made the company turn its back on other processors and build its own, the Acorn Risc Machine. The subsequent line of Archimedes PCs flopped, but the ARM chip turned out to be just the thing for embedded computing. With around 75 percent of 32-bit embedded chips worldwide, ARM can afford posh offices in the Cambridge countryside.
Real-life visiting potential: 5/10. Check out Cambridge instead, where they invented the electron in a rather nice pub.
Like Microsoft, Intel has grown fat and sleek on the back of the IBM PC, but like Microsoft it nearly didn't happen. Although this is where the first microprocessor was designed — the famous 4004 — the company had little time for it and did not consider it a successful product. It also fell out with the chief hardware designer, Frederico Faggin, who went off to found Zilog and produce the Z80. But everyone fell out with everyone all the time back then, and now everyone has prizes.
Real-life visiting potential: 8/10. Santa Clara is ghastly, but the Intel Museum should be on the to-do list of all true silicon life forms.
Almost too well known to be included, the garage where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard built their first product — an audio oscillator used by Disney — is now a listed building, to be an inspiration for generations of entrepreneurial engineers as yet unborn. Other famous garages include the one in Menlo Park where Sergey Brin and Larry Page started Google, and the Los Altos carport where Steves Wozniak and Jobs kicked off Apple.
Real-life visiting potential: 5/10. It's not nicknamed Shallow Alto for nothing.