Along Coyote Creek on a far-flung San Jose, California trail, a mysterious plaque sits next to a bike path. At first glance, it appears to be entirely covered in ones and zeroes. But from a different angle, the words “Santa Clara Valley” are faintly visible, etched beneath the numbers.
The reason for the plaque’s strange location is that it marks the geographical center of the Santa Clara Valley, which may be more familiar by its other moniker: Silicon Valley. The numbers, as it happens, spell out three words in binary. The six rows of numbers read as follows:
For non-coders, go ahead and plug the above code in binary translator and select ‘ASCII’ from the ‘Character encoding’ menu to covert the binary string into text. But firstly, you need to break the code into 8 character blocks like this:
01010011 01100001 1101110 01110100 01100001 0100000 01000011 01101100 1100001 01110010 01100001 0100000 01010110 01100001 1101100 01101100 01100101 1111001
The origins of the plaque remain a mystery. Often, it’s referred to as “the Tamienne Monument,” which contains a misspelling of the name of the local Tamyen people. One theory has it that the plaque was set there in the 1980s by the IBM engineers who worked and innovated nearby. Another, likelier theory is that a local artist installed the plaque (with the city’s blessing) in the early 2000s. Regardless of its origin, there’s an intriguing contrast to the remote, windswept location for this decidedly analog monument to technology.
Know Before You Go
The plaque is south of Metcalf Road. Parking is available at the nearby Coyote Creek Lakes parking lot. Walking south along the bike path, the plaque is on the right, after the pedestrian bridge and past Metcalf Road. If you get to the electric substation, you have gone too far.