I know the names. Apple. Google. Facebook. I know the faces. Steve Jobs. Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Mark Zuckerberg. I don't know the places. Cupertino. Mountain View. Menlo Park. Collectively Silicon Valley. It's a hive of thriving creative activity where geniuses around the world come together to develop the technology to make Earth a better place (or, if that fails, prepare for life on another planet). So what's the environment like where all this wonderful creative is unleashed upon the world? Booooring. No one is going to mistake the Silicon Valley for San Francisco. The area seems oddly void of restaurants, bars, coffeeshops, etc. and seems more like an overgrown version of Malibu with its small strip malls and NIMBYism style homes. For people who want access to all your personal information the towns and the corporate offices are very private and not too welcoming.
Facebook's corporate offices are so private it actually made me angry. These companies can't be oblivious to the fact that people want to see their campuses, so the fact that Facebook doesn't allow visitors any access beyond snapping a photo at the "Thumbs Up" / Like sign is a bit ridiculous. A better image would be a thumbs down. Facebook's growth has lead to the Company leasing office space in surrounding buildings so the only lasting images are of employees riding their bikes between locations.
Next up, the Googleplex. I lucked out and was able to find parking spot right on Google's main campus. Otherwise it may have been quite the hike. Like Facebook, Google has outgrown its main campus and started renting nearly every building in the surrounding area. Cars are parked all over the place and all the people walking around is such a hazard there's crossing guards at major intersections. Unlike Facebook, the Googleplex is open. While I couldn't get into any of the buildings without knowing someone, the walk through was good enough. There's a couple of sculptures. An outdoor eating area. That's about it. It's nice but it didn't wow me.
Google has a company store a mile or so away that sells most of Google products (I saw Nest and Chromesticks but know Pixel phones or tablets). Outside the company store is a monument park of the logos for each of its major software versions.
Before heading to Apple, I made stops at Steve Jobs' childhood home and the garage where Google was invented. These homes are private residences, however, at some point, I think they need to be converted to a tourist attraction and made available to the public. The historical and cultural significance of these homes are on par with the homes of other famous Americans that have gone the way of preservation society ownership. I'm not sure how the surrounding community would feel, although I assume they wouldn't want hundreds of visitors driving through their streets on a daily basis. As of now it's quiet except for the crazed tourist looking for an off the beaten path experience. I imagine the NIMBYism of Silicon Valley will keep it that way.
Apples new corporate headquarters seeks to solve the scattered sights issues that Facebook and a Google were dealing with do to their rapid expansion. After a quick stop at Apple's old headquarters, which still has a company store, I headed to the new, monstrous, space shuttle-like headquarters. The headquarter is private, however, Apple did build the fanciest Apple Store I've ever seen across the street. The Apple Store has a cafe and a rooftop deck that offers views of the space ship across the street. There's a few trees blocking the view, however, the do nothing to conceal the scale and size of the new headquarters. The complex is massive.
San Jose is the major city bookend on the south side of the Silicon Valley. Despite being home to over a million people, there's not a building over ten stories tall - which means you could drive right past the city and not even know it. Which I did.