“Museums are boring!” If you hold such an opinion, it’s quite likely you haven’t been in those really interesting ones yet. Today (or yesterday, depending on PoV) I happened to be in such a place, and I can assert its awesomeness with unparalleled confidence.
It’s the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. If you ever find yourself in northern California, I definitely recommend paying a visit there.
Inside, you can find all sorts of extremely cool exhibits from the somewhat short but wildly interesting history of computer science. Anything from early vacuum tubes, through Commodores and up to iPhones, with all the surprising stuff in between.
I couldn’t spend a whole day there, sadly, but I took a few pictures. Apologies for the low quality of some; although I took them with a device that won’t land in this museum for quite a while, it’s still just a phone.
I can think of multiple ways to spend half a day – twelve hours – enjoyably and/or productively. Sitting in a slightly uncomfortable position inside a scarcely lit tin can soaring a few miles above the ground is unlikely to make it into top 10. But if that’s what is needed to get to the other side of the planet, so be it. Slightly torpid back muscles are hardly a set back, after all :)
That other side is San Francisco Bay Area, of course, where I’ve went to visit the Google mothership. Finding yourself so far away from home is uniquely surreal experience, I must say, but this place makes it a whole lot more unusual.
For a European like me, it’s nothing short of bizarre.
Imagine a fairly typical, middle-class suburban area, where buildings reach at most three or four floors. Some apartment complexes, detached houses, shops, restaurants, cinemas, maybe a mall and a park… Now imagine this goes on and on, for dozens of miles, all with the same low housing density and without an easy way to tell where one town ends and the other begins.
It sounds like a poorly thought-out result of uncontrolled urban sprawl in some mildly developed, emerging country. Except that there are four-line highways going across the whole area, regularly passed through by one of the fanciest, most luxurious and modern cars. A good number of them is powered by electric engines, by the way, and it’s not exactly problematic to find a parking spot where you could charge such a vehicle.
Not to mention that some of them actually drive by themselves…
But you don’t have to be on the lookout for Google’s Priuses in order to see the logos of IT companies. They are literally everywhere. A hip startup might still be in the garage, but they will have billboard next to the freeway. (I’ve seen one from box.net, for example).
Meanwhile, more established companies will have their buildings and campuses pretty much next to each other, often with big swaths of land left around for further expansion. And the most successful ones will make their hometowns’ names known worldwide, with Cupertino (Apple), Mountain View (Google) and Palo Alto (Facebook) standing out as prominent examples.
In all this high-tech and Web-crazed environment, I cannot help but wonder where’s one thing that you would surely expect to see here. Something that the IT crowd babbles about for quite some time now and doesn’t seem to stop anytime soon. That crucial stuff that makes the Internet go round.
Clouds. So far, I haven’t seen any.