If you’re visiting the Silicon Valley, a stop at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View is a must! Located in the heart of the San Francisco Bay Area‘s tech industry (and blocks away from Google’s headquarters), you can see the progression of “computing” since the abacus. Of course, most of the exhibits are much more recent than this, but no matter how old you are it is fun to reminisce about the technology changes that have happened in your lifetime. Your kids may be horrified to realize that there weren’t widespread cell phones when you were teens!
1401 North Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View, CA 94043.
Current admission is as follows (check the website to see if advance tickets are required):
Current hours are Wed-Sunday 10am-5pm.
While the Computer History Museum covers the history of computing over the last 2000 years, most of the exhibits will be from much more modern history. Even the telegraph is quite ancient history!
If you are in the tech industry or lived through the times of many of the technological advances, you are likely to find this museum much more interesting. Do you remember when the first computers, laptops, or calculators came out?
Or maybe you are interested in the history of computer gaming. You can show your kids an old Game Boy and an Atari!
Robots are usually of interest to many people as well! It’s fun to see what people thought the future would be like.
The really interesting days of early computing is very niche and may not appeal to a broad audience. Were you alive when punch cards were a thing?
While punch cards were way before my time, the Cray-1 was getting closer to the time of my birth.
I do remember when my dad brought home our first computer! Our kids were a little horrified by the screen size. Tablet screens may be bigger!
As a former hardware engineer, I found the history of computer chips to be quite fascinating, but again, this part of the museum has a less general appeal.
Similarly, as a software engineer, Jeremy remembers when Google developed its commodity approach to rack mounted servers. It looks a little like this old “difference machine,” a.k.a. really old calculator, but I think it has a bit more computing power. Isn’t it amazing how far technology has come!
If your travels ever take you to the Silicon Valley (and this post didn’t completely bore you!), consider visiting the Computer History Museum!
Keep reading our blog to find more museum ideas!
Here are some more posts from this trip to California:
Near the Silicon Valley
If you find yourself near Mountain View/Palo Alto/San Jose, there are a lot of more interesting places to visit nearby. (It’s a fine place to visit or live, but practically speaking, people mostly visit Silicon Valley with business in mind.)
If you are into the technology scene, some folks do make treks to popular tech company headquarters – Apple does have a visitor center at its famous “space ship” campus (which also sells Apple products). At Facebook, folks take selfies at the “thumbs up” sign in front of its main campus. And at Google, people photograph the Android statues.
That said, for more conventional activities, San Francisco and Santa Cruz are both less than an hour away, and Monterey isn’t much further!
On this particular trip, we spent an afternoon in San Francisco. Popular activities could include a visit to Pier 39, a stroll through Golden Gate Park or another of San Francisco’s parks, a visit to one of San Francisco’s many museums, or a walk or bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge!
If you like beaches, Santa Cruz is always a great choice! Famous for its surf culture, it is a great place to chill. While you may want to find a different beach for swimming, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is always a good place for cooler weather fun! Since we were visiting in April, this was where our boys wanted to visit.
If you are okay with a bit longer of a day trip, or want to turn your vacation into a road trip, Monterey is also a great idea! On this trip, we visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium and walked on the Coastal Recreation Trail in Pacific Grove.
The Museum of Science in Cambridge has a computer history section also. I loved it but my wife and kids had to drag me out of there.
When you see those old memory and storage devices it really makes you appreciate how much computing power you have on your wrist or in your pocket.