Take a Walk Through Silicon Valley History

It's the story of how computers came to be and goes back 2,000 years.

By Lori Preuitt
|  Tuesday, Jan 11, 2011  |  Updated 10:45 AM PDT
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Take a Walk Through Silicon Valley History

Computer History Museum

The first complete Babbage Engine was completed in London in 2002, 153 years after it was designed. Difference Engine No. 2, built faithfully to the original drawings, consists of 8,000 parts, weighs five tons, and measures 11 feet long.

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The Silicon Valley is known as the birthplace of the computer.  Today that legacy continues with the likes of social media sites such as Facebook and Google.  But long before the people who started those companies were even born there were engineers working in garages and laboratories across the South Bay creating the mechanics of the computers we now hold in the palm of our hands.

There is a place here in the Bay Area that celebrates that effort. It's the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, which holds the largest collection of computing artifacts. This week, the museum opens a new exhibit six years in the making called Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing.

It meant to transform the way you think about computers, the software that runs them, and the people who set the ongoing computing revolution into motion.

For example, you will learn that while Casio may have put out the world's first commercially marketed calculator, it wasn't the first number crunching machine. In the mid 19th century an English mathematician developed the concept for a machine that could do mathematical calculations.

What he came up with was a 15-ton machine made up of 25,000 moving parts. Over the years, tech geeks and math lovers have tried to recreate the machine but the first one wasn't built until 2002 in London.

The second one was built in 2008 and it is on display at the museum.

Below is a show and tell of the idea that is largely credited with spawning the first blueprint for a computer.  It's called the Babbage Engine and as you can see below it needed a hand crank to get going.

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