Palo Alto: In Praise of Garages

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Palo Alto is home to the world’s most famous garage. Commonly referred to as “the birthplace of Silicon Valley,” this is where young Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard took $538 and a used drill press, and developed a new, low-cost audio oscillator. They used this garage gadget to launch Hewlett-Packard, now the world’s largest information technology corporation.

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One town to the south, you’ll find another noteworthy garage, the place where Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs started their “Homebrew Computer Club.” This enterprise later became Apple, the world’s coolest computer company.

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And a mile or two north of Palo Alto, you’ll find the garage where Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed their brilliant Google search engine.

Which brings me to an excellent reason to live in the vicinity of Palo Alto and Stanford University–Good Garage Karma. Is it something in the water? Is it some sort of energetic emission from the Earth’s crust, like the Vortexes of Sedona? Or is it simply a magnetic attraction of like-minded, creative people willing to quit their day jobs to tinker in a garage?

In 1989, my husband and I recognized the Power of the Garage, when we bought a house with two bedrooms and 11 eleven garages. The original owner, Lester Morris, was an enterprising plumber who knew how to work magic with flexible copper tubing. During Prohibition, he used the garages to build a copper moonshine still and open a “Speak Easy” saloon in the basement. In the 30′s, he manipulated the tubing to invent an ammonia-based refrigerator, which he sold to Frigidaire, after which he set himself up as the sole distributor on the Peninsula.

My family has also fallen under the spell of the garages. My husband engineered the first TiVo remote control unit in his garage. I run my Blog Empire from another garage. Here you can see my son, immersed in Garage Zen, working on his Robotic Flame Car, which you can watch on YouTube, another garage start-up.

So next time you go to an open house, don’t forget to check out the garages, because no one ever started a multinational corporation from an extra bathroom.