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

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TOPICS: Tech Industry
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  • 6101 Central Avenue NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico

    Now a veterans' rehabilitation home, in 1975 it was the Sundowner Motel, and the temporary home, according to at least one account, of young Bill Gates and Paul Allen. This was the place where they polished off their first microcomputer BASIC, for the 8080A-based Altair 8800, before setting up Microsoft in shared office space nearby. Although MITS, the company that built the Altair, was supposed to get the rights to the BASIC after a certain amount of royalties had been paid, there was some disagreement as to whether this happened. Gates and Allen won the subsequent arbitration and kept the rights to the BASIC, which was Microsoft's main money-spinner until MS-DOS.

    Real-life visiting potential: 2/10, unless it's been a bad war.

  • ARM, Cherry Hinton, Cambridge

    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.

  • Intel, Santa Clara

    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.

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!
    email@...
  • 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!
    ngoodey@...