Category Archives: Silicon Valley History

Hewlett Packard buys its own Garage, October 2000

This column appeared in the San Jose Mercury News on October 19, 2000. I’m posting it as part of my coverage of a Los Altos man’s elaborate plan to turn Steve Jobs’ boyhood home into a museum complex.

So, the kids at Hewlett-Packard finally made the ranks of Silicon Valley homeowners.

I’m happy for them, really.

They got themselves a deal. A garage in Palo Alto for $1.7 million. And it came with a house. A house in Palo Alto for under $2 million. Not bad.

I’m happy, but worried, too. Worried because I’m not sure the kids have thought this out.

William Hewlett and David Packard at work in the HP Garage on Addison in Palo Alto, 1939

William Hewlett and David Packard at work in the HP Garage on Addison in Palo Alto, 1939

“We don’t have any finalized plans for it, ” said Greg Winter, HP’s manager for the project.

Me? I’ve got my own idea, but more on that later.

First, I’m wondering if HP isn’t acting a bit like one of those overnight dot-com millionaires? (You remember overnight dot-com millionaires, don’t you?) I could see it happening. After all, the company made $3.5 billion in profits last year.

“Only $1.7 million? Cool. We’ll figure out what to do with it later.”

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Maria Elena’s in Alviso gets a side order of regulation

This is a column I wrote about Maria Elena’s having regulatory trouble and becoming a hot spot in Alviso in September of 2011.

Maria Elena’s is another Silicon Valley business at a crossroads.

No, not a Yahoo, should-we-sell-the-company, crossroads. Or a Hewlett-Packard, should-we-hire-a-new-CEO, crossroads (which seems like a weekly crossroads for HP).

See, Maria Elena’s is a bustling Mexican restaurant in sleepy Alviso — a restaurant that holds a special place in the high-tech ecosystem. It is one of those joints, like the old Wagon Wheel or the old Peppermill or the old Old Pro, where valley worker bees congregate to plot out everything from the next killer app to their weekend plans.

“It’s a serious tech watering hole for lunch, ” says Rudy Mueller, a regular who works for Juniper Networks, and whose beverage of choice is the bottomless Coke. “It’s like an icon.”

And now it faces the low-tech version of the “adapt or die” challenge so common to its customers.

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Replay it: Alviso Getting Some Respect

Here’s a column I wrote about Alviso’s transformation on April 18, 2003:

Call it the TiVo effect.

Little Alviso, San Jose’s most picked-on neighborhood, is Silicon Valley’s new hot address.

OK, warm address. OK, at least companies will admit to having it as an address.

Three of the valley’s top 150 companies in terms of sales (Genesis Microchip, Foundry Networks and TiVo) now claim Alviso as corporate headquarters.

Yes, three. But for the buzz, I credit TiVo.

You know TiVo. It’s a machine. It’s a company. It’s a verb.

“SouthPark marathon? Dude, I like so TiVo’d that.”

TiVo — the digital recorder for people with 500 channels and no time to watch them — is approaching pop icon status. In fact, you might know TiVo better than you know Alviso.

Alviso has always been a contradiction. Sitting just north of Highway 237, Alviso holds the beauty of the bay and the odor of San Jose’s sewage plant. It has the refuge of the Don Edwards wildlife preserve and the refuse of San Jose’s dump.

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BJ Heinley and his shrink wrapped Yahoo machine

I wrote the following colum in June 1998, a time before Yahoo needed to buy its cool.

 

FINDING YAHOO WORKER’S WHEELS DIDN’T REQUIRE A SEARCH ENGINE

by Mike Cassidy

Mercury News Columnist

BJ Heinley knew when he heard about the contest that he wanted his truck wrapped bumper to bumper in purple plastic and Yahoo logos.

Yahoo is where he worked. It was like family. His community. A group that brought him in when he had few other places to go.

“It’s kind of like being passionate about the Dallas Cowboys, ” he says, “or the Bulls.”

Kind of. But it’s a company. A workplace. Which in Silicon Valley can be like the Dallas Cowboys or the Bulls. Logos sprout on clothes, caps, even derrieres. (It’s a tattoo thing.)

So, he entered the company-wide contest, writing an e-mail explaining why his truck should be a Yahoomobile. His argument?

“Surface area, ” says Heinley, who commutes from Belmont to Santa Clara. “I have the biggest car I know of in the parking lot, and I drive up 101 every day.”

He had a point and a 1975 International Harvester Travelall — a behemoth that could go tire to tire with a Chevy Suburban. A vehicle that seats how many?

“If you seat people in the back, ” says Carrie Heinley, BJ’s wife, “there is almost no limit.”

BJ won. The Travelall was shrink-wrapped like a county bus — Yahoo! on its sides, on its hood. People loved it. They honked. They waved. They left resumes on the windshield.

“You get attached to a car, ” BJ, 27, says. “The way it moves, especially an older car.”

He bought the Travelall for $1,000 after moving from Texas. Coming to California was a dream. The Travelall was part of it.

“It fit into this idea, ” BJ says, “of the ultimate beach car.”

When his first job didn’t work out, he called the only local person he knew, a Yahoo manager. Yahoo hired him to do graphics. Then the company shrink-wrapped his truck.

But people grow. Times change. The honks and waves and cheers, well, they can get old.

“Eventually, it kind of stops being fun, as much fun, ” says Carrie, 27, a gardener, whose work truck is sprayed with sand to look like, well, a sand pile. “I guess it’s kind of like we outgrew it.”

It was time to sell. But who would buy a Barney on wheels? BJ pondered that very question aloud one day when he ran into Yahoo! co-founder David Filo in the company lunch line.

“You can’t let go of that car, ” BJ says Filo told him.

Heinley politely suggested — the way you might politely suggest to your gazillionare boss — that Filo put his money where his mouth is. And, in a way, Filo did. The company agreed to buy Heinley’s truck for $2,000.

Now, Heinley is hunting for his next wheels. He thinks maybe a classic convertible.

“I probably won’t make it a Yahoomobile.”

How could he? For Heinley there will never be another.

 

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Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg something of his own Superman

So, I’m sitting in a dimly lit theater in Palo Alto waiting for Superman.

Not the one who wears a red cape. The one who wears a blue hoodie. Silicon Valley boy wonder, Mark Zuckerberg, star of stage, screen, “The Simpsons, ” Facebook and the universe in general, has invited a few of his 500 million friends to a special movie screening.

ZuckNo. Not that movie. “The Social Network, ” Aaron Sorkin’s fictionalized account of the rise of Facebook and the guy who either invented it or stole it, is not what this night is about. This night is about education and “Waiting for Superman, ” a documentary that those looking to save our schools hope will do for the education disaster what “An Inconvenient Truth” has done for the global warming disaster.

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MIT’s Sherry Turkle says there’s a time to unplug

February 4, 2011

OK, the first thing: If you think your kid has fallen into some black hole of always-on mobile Internet access and you haven’t heard from her in a week or two, don’t text her to tell her to shape up.

Go talk to her. Face to face.

You might think I’m joking. Sherry Turkle wouldn’t. She’s been studying how people relate to technology for decades. Lately she’s been making the rounds with a new book. Part of it talks about how omnipresent mobile devices are affecting our relationships with loved ones. And guess what? It’s not in a good way.

Photo by Peter Urban for Basic Books

“Sometimes we’re too busy communicating to listen to each other, ” says Turkle, a professor in MIT’s science, technology and society program. “We’ve lost our way. We’re forgetting our human purposes.”

It seems we are so busy virtually friending people that we’ve never met, and never will, that we’re neglecting to pay attention to the real people right in front of us, including our spouses, kids and co-workers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this since I scored a seemingly harmless iPod touch for Christmas. It allows me to carry Facebook and e-mail and the Web around in my pocket — and to the dinner table, and breakfast table and to the couch, where my wife and I watch TV. Yes, it is a distraction. No, I can’t multitask — not to the extent that I can update my status and actually pay attention to what my daughters learned in school that day.

And so, I’ve tried to step away from the machine at those times when the people I love are right there, face to face, in front of me.

I can do better. I’m guessing we can all do better — and basically that’s all Turkle is suggesting.

“I’m not saying unplug, ” she says by phone while at a stop in San Francisco on her book tour for “Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.” “Too many headlines are saying, ‘MIT Professor says Unplug.’ I’m not the grinch. I love my gadgets.'”

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When protesters took over Fairchild’s fab on the Navajo reservation

Publication:       SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS

Headline:          WHAT WENT WRONG AT SHIPROCK

THE FAIRCHILD PLANT PROMISED A BETTER FUTURE FOR THE NAVAJOS. BUT THAT PROMISE WAS NEVER FULFILLED.

Subhead:

Web Headline:

Reporter:          By Mike Cassidy

Day:     Sunday

Print Run Date:             5/7/2000

Section:            SV

Edition:             Morning Final

Page Number: 18

Section Letter:

Memo:             MIKE CASSIDY is a Mercury News staff writer.

Corrections:

Dateline:

Slug

Text:     OUT ON U.S. 666, past the center of Shiprock, N.M., and across from Navajo Nation Day Care, sits a white monument to lost opportunity.

They call it the Fairchild plant, which it hasn’t been in 25 years. The semiconductor factory is empty now, a symbol of what might have been if only everything had worked out.

 

But everything didn’t, and Fairchild, the Silicon Valley icon, left the Navajo reservation in a hurry.

 

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