Each myth needs a good story and so the myth of Silicon Valley, the famous home of countless companies in the IT and HIgh Tech industries, begins with a garage at Addison Avenue in Palo Alto, where the two friends David Packard and William Hewlett founded a company in 1938 with a cash base of 538 Dollars.
Where exactly Silicon Valley begins (silicon by the way is a chemical element used to construct semiconductors) and where it ends is more or less a question of individual definition, especially so since many companies have now found their home in the extended area.
The most common definition has Silicon Valley encompassing the entire Santa Clara Valley including San Jose, which is south of San Francisco Bay and previously was primarily known for fruit processing. Until today it has a rural, agricultural character in some places and contains a viticultural area with a good reputation. The adjoining cities of Palo Alto, Newark and Fremont - although not being located in Santa Clara Valley, also belong to Silicon Valley - a term that was invented by a magazine in 1971.
Stanford University was the driving force behind the development of Silicon Valley. The decan of the reputed university’s engineering faculty, Frederick Terman, had the idea for the setup of a manufacturing and research park on university land surrounding the campus. Terman is today considered to be the father of Silicon Valley. Already shortly after founding the technology park the first companies moved in, primarily those founded by Stanford graduates. Terman himself convinced his former students Hewlett and Packard to move from their garage to the park in 1954. They were followed in short order by manufacturers of semiconductors, then computer manufacturers and software companies. One of the characteristics Silicon Valley’s development is, that the companies located here actually help the others by developing products which are useful to complement the neighbor’s products. More and more investments monies were flowing into the region, where Stanford University’s researchers reached milestones, for example by inventing the computer mouse in 1963. The graduates of nearby San Jose State University also played an important role and soon took over influentiual positions in many of the companies. In addition, a number of other universities maintain branches in Silicon Valley.
Today, almost all enterprises in the computer, software and internet industries are represented in Silicon Valley. Among the companies to be found here are Apple, Google, Ebay, Intel, Sun, Yahoo, Oracle, Adobe, Facebook, Palm, Electronic Arts and AMD. Big European names like Siemens, Nokia, SAP or Opera cannot do without a presence in the Valley either.
San Jose is the largest and most important city of the region. Apart from this metropolis, numerous other towns belong to Silicon Valley. Palo Alto with its 61,000 inhabitants is home to the Stanford Research Parks, which is regarded as the gamete of Silicon Valley and still hosts a number of famous companies, among them being Hewlett-Packard and Facebook. The city is noted for its liberal atmosphere and high quality of living and has a free tourist attraction with the Arizona Cactus Garden on the campus of Stanford University.
With a population of about 30,000, the city of Saratoga mostly serves as living quarters with a small-town appeal. On average, the city has a rather affluent population, a fact that is mirrored in a number of exclusive shopping opportunities. In addition, Saratoga is home to a number of vineries.
Neighboring Sunnyvale is the home of AMD, Yahoo and others. The city with a population of 132,000 Einwohnern can be divided into a southern half with residential areas and a northern half, where companies have their quarters. Adjoining Sunnyvale to the south is Cupertino with its 51,000 inhabitants, which is home to the headquarters of Apple. According to demographic research, Cupertino is the largest of all American towns whose inhabitants have an average income of more than $ 100.000 per year. The city is rather young and has in large parts been constructed following a master plan. There is a Farmer’s Market here on Fridays, where fruits and vegetables from the area are offered. On the other side of Sunnyvale is the city of Mountain View where Google has its headquarters. Their company campus named Googleplex has by now become a tourist attraction by itself. Thanks to the famous company. the whole city features free WiFi for its 70,000 inhabitants and all visitors. Among the sights are the Computer History Museum at North Shoreline Boulevard and Downtown around Castro Street with a broad choice of restaurants and stores.
West of Mountain View is Los Altos, one of the richest US cities by average income of the 28,000 inhabitants. Formerly a town with a focus on agriculture, it has today become a mostly residential city with some well-known inhabitants. It is home to a History Museums exhibting the development of Los Altos and the cities around it. In the neighborhood, Los Altos Hills is an independent, separate city with about 8000 people.
South of Saratoga is the town of Los Gatos, which also mostly had an agricultural character until recently. Today, about 29,000 people live here and despite it being close to San Jose, it has retained a small-town atmosphere. The small shops in the pedestrian-friendly Dowtown mostly sell antiques. The city of Campbell with a population of 40,000 follows immediately in the Northeast. Campbell has a few shopping centers, but mostly has a residential character. Worth seeing is the Tudor style Aisnley House, which was moved to its current location at Grant Avenue in 1990 and today hosts a museum on the city’s history.