The Birthplace of Silicon Valley

Quick question – where’s the birthplace of Silicon Valley? Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question, just a pinch of trivia. Give yourself one point if you said the United States; two points if you guessed correctly that it was in California; three points for Palo Alto; and a whopping one million points if you said 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California.

It might seem like a pretty innocuous address – the type that Ma and Pa Spencer and their two lovely daughters reside in, inviting neighbours over for barbeques on the 4th of July and letting Scotty the Dog run wild in the back yard. And if that’s the sort of image it conjures up, there’s a reason for that. 367 Addison Avenue is a nice, quiet residential house on a nice, quiet residential street. It’s been there since around 1905 – a house, and a shed. 19 years later, 367 got a new and very important addition – a wooden garage.

And that wooden garage, set back from the road and measuring just 12’ by 8’, is the birthplace of Silicon Valley – the tech hub which changed the world.

Previously on this blog we’ve looked at businesses which started life inside garages. From Apple to Amazon, we’ve seen some amazing start-ups in humble garages. But there’s plenty of companies we haven’t studied. Harley-Davidson, say, who began in a little garage emblazoned with the company name on the wooden shack door. Or toymaker Mattel, who started making picture frames in a workshop tucked away inside a garage. But never once have we turned our lock-up love on 367 Addison Avenue: the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

When we think of awesome tech start-ups, we tend only to think of stalwarts Apple and Microsoft, and newer companies like Facebook and Youtube. But what about the granddaddy of them all, Hewlett-Packard? That wooden garage in Palo Alto was where David Packard and William Hewlett first set up shop in 1938. They started with just $538 of working capital. In the beginning they created an audio oscillator, which, according to HP’s website, ‘generates one pure tone or frequency at a time. Through the years, HP oscillators were used to design, produce and maintain telephones, stereos, radios and other audio equipment.’ Walt Disney was one of the first to use HP’s equipment, to test the sound systems of cinemas showing his films.

Packard and Hewlett lived in the adjoining house and worked part-time in the garage for a couple of years, until, eventually in 1940, their business outgrew the premises – as they tend to do when you’re on the road to a multi-million dollar company.

The garage then traded hands several times throughout the years, with the garage being rented out by people who possibly had no idea just how important, technologically, the garage really was. In fact, it wasn’t until 1984 that HP decided to really embrace their heritage. Horrified of the idea that the garage may well be knocked down, or moved to some other corner of the globe, they began attempting to have the location blessed with historic landmark status. This was granted the following year by the Palo Alto Historic Resources Board, and, two years later, the tiny garage was granted California State landmark status. In 1989 a bronze plaque was set on the front lawn commemorating the ‘Birthplace of Silicon Valley.’

Even then, the garage’s story wasn’t over. In fact, Hewlett-Packard didn’t even own the garage until 2000 – after that, the tech company renovated the garage back to its original state as it was when ‘Dave’ and ‘Bill’ first joined forces. These days, the HP garage is a private museum, not open to the public, but still an important reminder of both the technological heritage and just what’s possible with a shedload of ingenuity and a garageful of…garage.

Here at Lock-Up Garages we love seeing just how important garages are, no matter how big or small. That’s why we offer over 13000 garages to hire in 900 locations across London and the South-East. For more information about our premises, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 020 8882 8575 and our pro staff will be more than happy to help.

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