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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  • University of Helsinki Computing Department — Linux.

    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.

  • IBM Boca Raton, Florida

    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.

  • Texas Instruments Semiconductor Building, North Dallas

    It's a chip-fabrication plant now, but when it was opened on 23 June, 1958 — by a signal picked up from America's first orbiting satellite — it was a development lab and home to new hire Jack Kilby. And no sooner had everyone moved in, than they went on their two-week vacation. All except Jack, who was too new to have earned any. Desperate to avoid having to wire up thousands of tiny connections for transistorised modules when everyone came back, he used his time in the empty lab to come up with the idea of making all the components in a module out of a single piece of semiconductor, thus creating the idea of the integrated circuit. Forty-two years later, that got him the Nobel Prize.

    Real-life visiting potential: 1/10. The local dignitaries have erected a plaque outside the plant, but the place itself is not open for visitors. And North Dallas is a long way to go to see a plaque.

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!