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Xerox PARC — the Palo Alto Research Center — is another place that causes despair among those who fund pure research. The quantity and quality of its inventions during its heyday are unmatched: Ethernet, the laser printer, colour computer graphics, graphical user interfaces, Wysiwyg word processing, use of the mouse, object-oriented programming — and are behind most of what we do on our desktops these days. Yet, famously, Xerox found it impossible to make any money at it, or at least anywhere near as much as everyone else did.
Real life visiting potential: 3/10. Occasional talks open to the public, but most of the site is firmly off-limits.
Finland has at least two good claims to techno-historical fame, but the University of Helskini's computing department wins out over Nokia. There are other mobile phone makers, but there's never been anything quite like Linux. Started in 1991 by recently-liberated QL owner Linus Torvalds on his brand new 80386 PC, the GPL's operating system has changed the world in the 16 years since and acquired a huge army of fans and contributors. However, it retains something of the flavour of the land that gave it birth — a flinty determination to see things through coupled with a unique sense of community.
Real-life visiting potential: 5/10. We're sure they'll be delighted to see you, but there'll be absolutely nothing to do.
In 1980, IBM reacted very badly when Atari came to them with a plan for an IBM-branded Atari PC. In a fit of pique, Big Blue decided to do one itself, and assembled a team — called the Dirty Dozen — in one of its more obscure outposts, the Florida site at Boca Raton. The results are well known. Less well known is the fate of the Boca Raton site, which was subsequently sold to a facilities management company and turned into the T-REX Corporate Center. The building in the picture, however, is IBM Bulding 051, which was turned into a school and named the Don Estridge High-Tech Middle School, in honour of the head of the PC design team after his death in an aircrash in 1985.
Real-life visiting potential: 3/10. Just another piece of corporate America.