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September 30, 2016

5 fascinating facts about the birthplace of Silicon Valley

It gets tens of thousands of visitors each year, but where and what is the birthplace of Silicon Valley?

By Ellie Burns

As part of HP Labs 50th Birthday, CBR was given access to the place where Silicon Valley started – the original HP Garage. Tucked away in suburbia, the small garage was the birthplace of the tech giant HP, where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard started with oscillators and a coin toss. CBR gives you the fascinating facts behind the birthplace of Silicon Valley.


1. The Garage

HP Garage

This is the shed where Hewlett lived while at the property – Packard had a new wife so was afforded the luxury of the flat in the main house.

In 1938, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard decided to ‘make a run for it’ in business. Packard left his job at GE in New York and returned to Palo Alto while Hewlett looked for a place to set up shop. Hewitt found a perfect place in suburbia, with the 12×18 foot garage the main selling point of the property on Addison Avenue. The house had a three-room, ground floor flat for Packard and his wife Lucille, while Hewlett got the shed out back. The rent was $45 per month.


2. The product that started it all

Inside HP Garage

The workbench where Hewlett and Packard worked on what would become HP’s first product of many.

The first product worked on in the garage was a resistance-capacitance audio oscillator based on a design developed by Hewlett when he was studying at Stanford. With the shed transformed into HP’s first manufacturing facility, Hewlett and Packard had an initial working capital amounting to $538. One of the early products was named the Model 200A audio oscillator – with the A included to make it seem that they had produced more than one product.


3. 18 months

Although the garage has become Silicon Valley legend, Hewlett and Packard only stayed at the garage a mere 18 months. The company was officially founded in 1939, with HP outgrowing the garage by 1940. The company moved to a larger property nearby on Page Mill Road.

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HP Garage

Outside the unassuming home in Suburbia, a National Register of Historic Places sign tells visitors about the tech landmark.

4. HP or PH

A well known story but worth repeating – the name of the company was decided on a coin toss. Hewlett won the toss which is why his surname comes before Packard’s.


5. The Birthplace of Silicon Valley

The garage was bestowed the honour of the birthplace of Silicon Valley in 1989, with HP buying the property in 2000. Before this it was a rented property – just like it was when Hewlett and Packard were residents. HP worked with the City of Palo Alto to restore the property, with the heritage project completed in 2005. In 2007, the house and garage was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It is not open to the general public, although tens of thousands of people make the pilgrimage to the property every year.

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