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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.
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.