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Surveying the Computing Landscape, from Punch Cards and Pong to Google

Surveying the Computing Landscape, from Punch Cards and Pong to Google July 13, 2016

Faculty in Silicon Valley

Daily posts and photos from the ACM SAIL faculty seminar on Silicon Valley as an Innovation Ecosystem.

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Day 2 – Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Posted by Timothy Reed, Associate Professor of Spanish, Ripon College

After breakfast we hopped into our minivans to embark on our first cultural visit of the trip. After experiencing the infamous Silicon Valley traffic, we took an hour-long guided tour of the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, where we learned how government sponsorship spawned the first punch-card computers, which were invented to alleviate the overwhelming manual work needed to perform a national census.


We observed how computers became physically bigger and more complex over time, until the invention of the transistor facilitated the miniaturization process that eventually enabled Apple to invent the very first personal computer. After the tour, we had 45 minutes to explore the other exhibits on our own; one of my favorite rooms (which undoubtedly appeals to many people in their forties) was the gallery dedicated to the first home video gaming systems, which included Pong and some of the original cartridges released by Atari.

We ate lunch and then walked down the street to the Google campus to meet with Lawrence alumus and current manager Eric Seidel, who shared personal insights with us gained from his various experiences working for Apple, a start-up company, and Google.

Google entrancePausing at the entrance to Google

After an engaging question and answer session with Eric, we toured the Visitor Center and Google store, and then continued walking around the campus. The colorful bicycles ridden by employees, creative decorations (a T-Rex stands in the middle of campus), beautiful weather, and the youthful employees gave the impression of a dynamic and “fun” work environment that is intentionally designed to make their employees happy.

We ended our visit by climbing up a hill on the Google park grounds and taking in wonderful views of campus, the nearby NASA research center, the San José amphitheater, Stanford University, Shoreline Park, and some lovely mountains in the distance.

Computer History MuseumTouring the Computer History Museum

Our next stop was in the Hacker Dojo meeting room, where we shared our observations about Google and impressions about the day’s events in a group discussion, and we ended our evening by eating at a local Vietnamese restaurant.

On our first full day of the seminar, we got to know each other a little bit better and started to form new friendships, which I hope will continue to develop over the next eight days. Although we are already quite tired, the fascinating agenda and beautiful California weather will inspire us to strengthen relationships, learn about innovation, and enjoy our site visits for the duration of the trip.

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