Tech innovation tour: Top 10 tech places to visit for career inspiration
Nobody ever claimed that pursuing a tech career would be easy. Yet the idea of building and supporting systems on the crest of innovation remains an irresistible magnet.
Even the most enthusiastic and motivated technology professional occasionally needs to visit the recharge station for a boost of zeal and gusto. While it can be fun and exciting to sit on a beach, hike a mountain trail, or tour a new country, those activities may do little to instill a renewed sense of mission. To rebuild your inspiration—the feeling that launched you into a tech career in the first place—consider paying a pilgrimage to one or more of the places where technology changed the world.
To help you begin your journey and reclaim your career karma, here's a rundown of 10 unforgettable tech landmarks.
1. The birthplace of the battery
Without batteries, there would be no mobile devices. In 1799, Alessandro Volta developed the first electrical battery. Named after Volta, the voltaic cell consisted of two plates of different metals immersed in a chemical solution, providing a continuous and reproducible source of electrical current.
Volta conducted his groundbreaking battery research in Como, Italy. You can pay homage to the man and his invention at the Tempio Voltiano memorial and museum in Como. You'll get a charge out of it.
2. The first demonstration of practical telegraphy
The era of electrical communication began in January 1838 when Samuel F.B. Morse and Alfred Vail demonstrated how pulses transmitted across two miles of wire could force an electromagnet to ink dots and dashes representing letters and words onto a strip of paper.
The national historic landmark factory building where Vail and Morse conducted their demonstration is located in historic Speedwell Park in Morristown, N.J.
3. The first transatlantic cable's western landing site
With the completion of the first transatlantic telegraph cable on July 27, 1866, communication time between Europe and North America shrunk from days to seconds. The quest, led by American entrepreneur Cyrus Field, required 12 years and five attempts to complete. Thousands of miles of specially designed cable were spooled out from Kingdom Isambard Brunel's massive Great Eastern ocean liner. Lord Kelvin and Charles Wheatstone both made major technical contributions to the effort.
The original Heart's Content Cable Station in Heart's Content, Newfoundland, remained in operation until 1965. It is now a provincial historic site and open to the public.
4. The establishment of a prime meridian
Although held in Washington, D.C., the 1884 International Meridian Conference voted to set the world's prime meridian—longitude zero degrees—at a position that passes through the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England, where it remains to this day. The establishment of a globally accepted prime meridian had a profound impact on both time-keeping and navigation, bringing new levels of precision and conformity to both fields. Today, standardized time and mapping allows an endless array of technologies and services to function like, well, clockwork.
Visit the Royal Observatory to straddle the prime meridian and experience the sensation of standing in the world's Western and Eastern Hemispheres simultaneously. The observatory’s museum also includes a fascinating collection of timepiece-based navigation technologies (the GPSes of bygone eras). The Royal Observatory is open daily at 10 a.m. local time, which isn't Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) when British Summer Time (BST) is in effect.
5. The first experiments in practical wireless communication
Between 1894 and 1895, in the attic of his parents' Bologna estate, Villa Griffone, young Guglielmo Marconi connected a grounded antenna to an experimental transmitter. With this apparatus, the young inventor was able to transmit radiotelegraphic signals beyond a physical obstacle, the Celestini hill, at a distance of about one and a quarter miles. The experiment launched the era of wireless communication.
Today, Villa Griffone is the home of the Marconi Museum, which offers guided tours focusing on Marconi, his inventions, and his estate.
6. The first voice and music wireless broadcast
On the evening of Dec. 24, 1906, shipboard and other maritime radio operators along the U.S. East Coast were startled to hear a voice and music coming through their headsets instead of the usual Morse code dits and dahs. What they were actually hearing was the world’s very first radio broadcast, courtesy of Canadian-born wireless pioneer Reginald Fessenden. Sitting in his Brant Rock, Massachusetts, laboratory, Fessenden tapped out a general call to all stations (CQ) on his telegraph key. He then positioned a microphone near an Edison phonograph and broadcast a recording of Handel’s "Largo." He next picked up his violin and played "O Holy Night." He sang the last verse.
The transmission site is located at Blackman’s Point, Brant Rock, approximately 30 miles southeast of Boston. The remains of the concrete foundation built to support Fessenden’s wireless tower are located in a private trailer park at the south end of Brant Rock, off Central Street. For access to the property, contact Dana Blackman at (781) 834-4755.
7. Alan Turing's birthplace
Alan Turing probably did more to advance computer science than any other person in history. During World War II, he led the team that broke the German Enigma code. Turing also laid the foundation for modern computing and theorized about artificial intelligence.
Turing was born June 23, 1912, at 2 Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale, London. Today, the former private hospital is The Colonnade Hotel, making Turing's birthplace the only historic tech site at which one can actually spend the night.
8. The birthplace of Silicon Valley
In 1938, following the advice of Dr. Frederick Terman, a Stanford University professor who encouraged his students to start their own electronics companies in the local area rather than joining established firms in the East, Bill Hewlett and David Packard began their audio oscillator business. The duo based their operation inside a humble wooden garage located at 367 Addison Avenue, Palo Alto, California. In the following decades, innumerable Silicon Valley garage-based startups, including Apple and Google, have followed Hewlett and Packard's path to global success.
Unfortunately, California Historic Landmark No. 976 isn't currently open to the public, but there's no law to stop you from looking at it from the outside and pondering your own tech future.
9. The arrival of solid-state technology
In late 1947, working in Building 1, Room 1E455, at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, researchers Walter H. Brattain and John A. Bardeen—under the direction of William B. Shockley—discovered the transistor effect and changed the world. The team's development and demonstration of a point-contact germanium transistor led to a string of future developments in solid-state devices that revolutionized the electronics industry and changed human life forever.
The original lab isn't open to the public, but you can view and pay homage to the original transistor at the Bell Labs Technology Showcase in the lobby of the headquarters' main entrance at 600 Mountain Avenue, Murray Hill, New Jersey.
10. The Internet's birthplace
At 10:30 p.m., Oct. 29, 1969, the first ARPANET message was sent by UCLA student programmer Leonard Kleinrock to the Stanford Research Institute. The message was “lo" instead of the intended word, "login" (the system crashed before the third character was sent). Still, based on packet switching and dynamic resource allocation, the sharing of information digitally from the first node of ARPANET launched the ongoing Internet revolution.
Since the Internet is virtual, there isn't much to see at its birthplace. With prior permission, however, an IEEE Milestone plaque may be viewed at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, Boelter Hall, Room 3420, at the University of California in Los Angeles. You may wish to snap a picture of the plaque with your smartphone to share with friends (via the Internet, of course).
Technology writer John Edwards (@TechJohnEdwards) is the current license holder of W6JE, an amateur radio station recorded in the Commerce Department's 1913 list of U.S. radio stations.
This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.