Silicon Valley grew from a seed that was originally planted in 1951 here in Palo Alto, and visitors can still enjoy a walking tour of some of the companies that made the area what it is today.
Back in 1951 Stanford University was struggling both financially and academically, with talented graduates continually leaving the area in search of well paid jobs on the east coast. It was a huge landowner, so to pay the bills, agreed to make 209 acres of college land available for commercial use for a shopping centre perhaps, or extra student housing.
It took the efforts of Frederick Terman, then Dean of Engineering, to shape what it would become. Terman, who wanted to keep his best and brightest graduates in the area, took a place on the Advisory Committee on Land and Building Development and steered the committee towards attracting research and development firms to the park. His most persuasive tool was that for there were excellent government grants available for this kind of business, particularly around weaponry as The Cold War was just beginning (Lockheed Martin is still resident on the site).
Thanks to Terman, the Stanford Industrial Park’s first client was a firm called Varian (on the board of which he sat) followed quickly by Eastman Kodak. In 1956, Hewlett Packard made the park its global headquarters and four years later, the site was expanded to 450 acres.
Since then, it’s been the home of companies that have spawned more companies, housing a hi-tech chain reaction that shaped the 21st century, with the particular help of William Shockley, the co-inventor of the transistor. Terman approached Shockley in 1955 to convince him to move his firm to the campus, and although Shockley’s original venture doesn’t exist today, by 1980 over 50 companies in the area were linked, in one way or the other, to the Shockley Transistor Laboratory.
Today, the renamed Stanford Research Park park covers over 700 acres, and although it’s a tiny area compared to the “Valley” that grew from it, Stanford’s top academics and graduates still flood there for jobs with the likes of Hewlett Packard, Xerox and Facebook.
A walking tour of the campus can take a couple of hours – Stanford University kindly makes a tour guide available here.
However, note that Facebook (and who wouldn’t want to catch a glimpse of Zuckerberg) and Skype aren’t on the map, but you can find them on the full directory and map, which is available here.
Stanford Research Park, Stanford, Palo Alt, CA 94305, USA