10 Places to See Silicon Valley History IRL - Atlas Obscura Lists

10 Places to See Silicon Valley History IRL

A low-tech look at the origins of high tech.

Recently, a nonprofit in San Jose, the city that describes itself as the capital of Silicon Valley, solicited designs for a massive monument in the center of town. The competition attracted hundreds of proposals for a construct to serve as “a symbol of San Jose’s and Silicon Valley’s place in the world.” The finalists include a massive kinetic statue built to look like a skyward brushstroke and a huge flourish of white plaster flowers, populated with hologram animals.

It may seem funny that people feel the need to put such a famous and historic place on the map. “The 50-mile stretch between San Francisco and San Jose,” writes The Economist, “is perhaps the most productive and innovative land mass in the world.” 

That’s a bold statement, and certainly one that’s up for debate. But it’s understandable why some people would want a cutting-edge, high-tech monument to Silicon Valley. Many of the region’s world-changing innovations happened in featureless office parks and long-since-bulldozed buildings. A surprising number of Silicon Valley’s historic sites are decidedly humble, from an 1850s saloon to a lonely plaque in binary code set beside a biking trail. While you wait for Silicon Valley’s massive monument to be built, you might check out these museums, memorials, and landmarks.

Editor’s note: As the pandemic continues, we hope this virtual trip helps you explore America’s wonders. If you do choose to venture out, please follow all guidelines, maintain social distance, and wear a mask.