The history of Silicon Valley is short relatively speaking, but for those of us who have participated in it, it is fascinating. I was at the Stanford Med center in Redwood City last Friday for the first time and enjoyed a close view of the Ampex sign from the passenger drop-off. I have viewed it from 101 for 30 years, but this was my first time standing on the other side. I gave a close friend who is in her 20's a brief history of why Ampex is at the very heart of Silicon Valley history. Then, out of the blue, today's Daily Post ran a front page article about Ampex turning 60 this year. As the Post notes "Videotape revolution began here":
Though mostly obsolete, the videotape machine turns 60 this year and a relic of the industry can be seen along Highway 101 in Redwood City. The Ampex sign at 500 Broadway marked where the first videotape recorder was manufactured in 1956. Starting on Nov. 30, 1956, CBS began using it for the West Coast playback of the network's evening news three hours after airing live to East Coast viewers. By fall 1957, Ampex was swamped with a backlog of 100 orders for its red-hot VR-100.
The company was started in San Carlos by Alexander M. Poniatoff (AMPEXcellence). It was one of many San Carlos tech firms in the real heart of Silicon Valley when orchards were the predominant thing in Santa Clara County. Companies like Varian, Dalmo-Victor, Farinon and the one that brought me to the Bay Area, Lenkurt, were part of the analog genesis of the Valley.
Here is the best part of the article: "As part of a clause of the sale agreement (to Stanford), the sign must be preserved for 75 years." Heck, in 2087 it may be the only thing left that reminds one of the roots of the Valley. I wish the Post would put bylines on these articles so we can give credit where credit is due. Here is my photo of the sign from the Stanford parking lot on Friday.