The Birthplace of Silicon Valley Is a Palo Alto GarageS

This is the Palo Alto, CA garage where two young Stanford engineering grads named Bill Hewlett and David Packard started building what would one day become the world's largest PC manufacturer. In 2000, HP turned it into a museum.

We've known about this garage for awhile, but we're glad CNET brought it back to our attention. Given HP's status now as kind of an old man company, making personal computers of reasonable quality and negligible excitement along with printers and other peripherals, we tend to forget how big a deal they really are. HP is the number one PC manufacturer in the world; their market share is nearly four times that of Apple and consistently ahead of rival Dell, and they've actually been putting out some nice products lately, like the begging-for-Windows-7 TouchSmart series and the svelte DV2 laptop. They're credited with creating Silicon Valley, and the American technology industry certainly wouldn't be the same without them. So it's really interesting to see where this pivotal company got its start, especially since its story is just as grassroots as Apple's or Microsoft's. And like them, it started with a couple of brilliant guys and some innovative hard work.

Hewlett and Packard rented the garage way back in 1938 to build audio oscillators with a new, more efficient design, a business that quickly expanded into all means of electronic hardware (and later, software). HP was brilliantly managed; they partnered with Sony and other Japanese companies as well as Disney, absorbed valuable component makers, and would later appoint the first woman CEO of a company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Carly Fiorina.

In 2000, HP bought the garage and its corresponding house where the company's founders lived while they worked, and turned it into a museum of sorts. They recreated the garage exactly how it was at the time, with the same decor and audio oscillator parts strewn about. It's not open to the public, since it's just a house on a residential street in Palo Alto (and HP is nothing if not neighborly), but it's definitely someplace we'd like to take a look at. Love them or hate them, HP is top dog in the computer hardware world, and it's a treat to see how it all began. [CNET]