Day 4: Computer Science History Museum & Stanford
Day 4 started at the Computer Science History museum. It was also our first trip down to Palto Alto, a town filled with low rise buildings and pictureseque sreets. It was a welcome change to the clutter and bustle of San Francisco.
We followed a tour guide through the Computer History museum tour, and followed through the inception of computers from a huge mechanical machine used to tally census votes, the inception of the “computer” term (which originally referred to a room full of women doing manual calculations) all the way to a display full of robots and the potential future of computing. The computer history museum houses the Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine – a mechanical computer conceived on pen and paper by Charles Babbage in 1837 and built int 1991 by the London Science Museum. The difference engine was the first design of a general purpose computer that could be described as Turing complete. Ada Lovelace’s work on the Babbage engine eventually become recognised as the first algorithm, and she became to be known as the first ever computer programmer.
It is difficult to imagine a world without computers, especially when you are travelling within the heart of San Francsico and technology companies seem to he be the life blood of modern SF. In a world where we are used to the noise and hype of new technology, seeing how brilliant minds made huge leaps in computer research and design that culminated in both the high power processing laptop I’m writing this on and the way in which I use it is both humbling and exciting. The museum is fantastic and I definitely recommend a (perhaps more leisurely) visit to read through all the exhibits and see the sheer scale of development that has happened over the past few decades.
After the computer history museum, we visited the Stanford campus. One striking feature of Stanford (or American universities in general I assume) was the sheer scale and quality of sports fields and facilities. We were taken on a tour guide by a lovely bubbly Stanford student, and then had a few moments to explore the compus on our own.
We happened to be on campus on a careers fair day, and hundreds of stalls a huge variety of different companies were set up on the centre of campus. This was perhaps the most interesting part of the trip for me, and the most shocking in a way. As technical people in Australia, the pipeline from university is straight into a huge enterprise company or research. Stepping onto Stanford’s careers fair was being met with excitement, I chatted to many biotechnology startups that are aiming on using the huge amount of data we are collecting to change the way we approach medicine. Anyone interested in any particular field of technology could talk to and apply to intern at a company that is trying to do something novel and exciting, as well as some familiar techn companiesfrom Nvidia to Blizzard. The sense of opportunity truly is overwhelming at Stanford, and many renowned and brilliant
researchers and innovators often speak on campus. I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy that such opportunities can be given to these students that we don’t see as much of in Australia, but I was also proud to be be afforded the chance to be here in the hub of technical innovation and realise that those opportunities aren’t completely unaffordable to me.