Ribbonfarm Field Trip #3: Computer History Museum, 11/19/2011

I’ll be in the Bay Area for some consulting work Nov 15-19, so I decided it’s time for another Ribbonfarm Field Trip. If you missed the first one (Sausalito Houseboats), I hope you can make this one. We had a lot of fun last time (here’s the post about Field Trip #1, with more  pictures).

This time, I thought it would be interesting to visit the Computer History museum in Mountain View and chat over coffee afterwards.

We’ll meet at 1:00 PM on Saturday, November 19. Click here to register (free). You’ll have to buy a ticket to enter the museum itself when you get there ($15 general admission). I’ll buy everyone a round of coffee after we’re done (after all, you guys have been buying me coffees for years now).

I keep meaning to visit each time I am in the area, but something always gets in the way. With the passing of Steve Jobs and an equally important academic figure, John McCarthy, it’s an interesting time to take stock and ponder the future of technology from the perspective of the longer story, now that Act I is sorta symbolically over. I am also reading Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon right now and noodling around with themes for my next book, which will likely have a strong technology angle. So all in all, we have ingredients for an interesting conversation. I’ll try to rope in a couple of gray eminences who’ve survived a couple of boom-bust cycles, to talk history and context at us.

If you register and later need to cancel, let me know. Last time, we had some people bailing at the last minute without telling me, so I didn’t have time to let the waiting-list people know, and we ended up with extra box lunches.

Same as last time,  let me know if you need to carpool.

Field Trip #2: Las Vegas Storm Drains

And in case you’re wondering about the mysterious, missing Field Trip #2, that was actually an exploration of the Las Vegas storm drain system a couple of weekends ago with Bay Area reader Laura Wood, who I met on Field Trip #1.

I learned about the extensive storm drain system (hundreds of miles of tunnels under Las Vegas) from another reader, Josh Ellis, one of exactly two readers I appear to have in Las Vegas, and told Laura about them during the first field trip.

I had no more than a casual curiosity at that point, but Laura got interested enough that she hunted down the author of a book about the storm drain system and the homeless people living in them (Matt O’Brien, the book is Beneath the Neon, I am reading it now).

When Laura told me she wanted to come down to Vegas and explore the storm drains, we briefly talked making it a larger group event and roping in more readers from the Bay Area and LA, but ultimately decided it would be too dicey.

So it was just the two of us. We first met up with Matt, got some advice and tips, and then spent several hours over the next two days exploring miles and miles of underground tunnels, filled with fantastic graffiti, garbage, smelly water and a few homeless people.

Later, I met up separately with Matt and Josh over coffee and chatted more about this and that (Josh did the initial explorations and co-authored some articles with Matt, who later explored the storm drains more deeply and wrote the book).

I’ll write a longer post about the storm drains at some point, once I am done with Matt’s book.

Anyway, if you’re up for Field Trip #2, go ahead and register.

Also, if you’re interested in meeting up 1:1 for lunch/dinner/coffee between Nov 15 – Nov 19, email me.

And finally, once again I am in the market for couches. Rather than wearing out my welcome with my gracious hosts from last time (thanks Mark, Jane and Greg) I figured I’d see if there were other potential hosts out there with whom I could stay and explore more Bay Area neighborhoods. I’ll need a place to stay the nights of Nov 15, 16, 17 and 18.

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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. Love the website

    But surely Dennis Ritchie shoudl be on your recently deceased computer scientists list.
    He shaped the current computing landscape more than anyone – C & Unix to name just two.

    Without Dennis, there would have been no NeXT for Steve to rip off.

  2. Wow that’s so cool that the two of you actually went down the storm drains! I can’t wait to hear more about it.