Wandering Silicon Valley looking for techy funAugust 2, 2014
A podcast listener, Brian, asked an interesting question- he’s been traveling to San Jose and San Francisco for work, he enjoyed stopping by HSC/Halted. If you’ve never been there, it is very amusing. It is a warehouse where electronics go after they’ve been bought, resold, taken apart, and then resold again. It is a fun to visit, looking at power supplies from the 60s, radio cabinets from the 40s, and disk drives from the 80s. He planned to visit Weird Stuff in Sunnyvale, a similar sort of store. He asked if there were other places I could recommend checking out. My response:
Have you been to Hacker Dojo in Mountain View? People go there to hang out, get together at meetups, and sometimes to work. You can walk in for free and walk around asking people what they are working on. People apparently don’t mind. (I’ve only worked there once and we had a pretty strong don’t-bug-us vibe.) Being a member lets you schedule rooms and get a key to use the site in off hours. You don’t have to be a member to grab a table and have folks come by to talk to you.
There are a few hacker spaces, many of them are very friendly. I’d search for you goal zip code and “hacker space”.
There is also the Tech Shop. There is one in downtown SJ (also SF and a couple others). Tours are free, classes can get expensive. You don’t have to be a member to take classes and while you are there for the class, they usually let you roam. (You can just go in to use tools you are rated on for ~$10 or the monthly/annual fee.) The Tech Museum is more for kids but can be amusing (and is downtown SJ so you can do that and the Tech Shop in one day).
More in the HSC/Weird stuff range, have you been to Saturday De Anza Electronics swap meet? Imagine you got to wander every electronics hoarder’s garage. Some say the people are very nice (it is one of those “if you are social, they are social” things that I tend to fail at).
It seems like there is a conference every week at Santa Clara, San Jose, and SF’s Moscone convention centers. (Seriously? The World Flash Memory Summit? Why?) These sometimes cost money but you may be surprised how quickly they’ll give you a pass if you say “I have a blog” or “I want to see what it is about so I can let my boss know”.
Is this what you were looking for? There is also meetup.com which has a ton of meetups: robots, auto hacking, ham radio, etc.
Oh, right, don’t forget to hit HRO when you are near HSC.
I’ve also found wandering the Google campus on the weekends to be nice, they have a strange set of buildings (and I like architecture). The Computer History is in Mountain View too. Make sure you see the Babbage Engine go, it makes calculation stunningly beautiful.
I don’t know as much in SF, I usually go that way for culture more than tech. But there is a ton of tech there (and meetup.com will help with finding that).
From his happy response, I went into more detail than expected. And, of course, he’ll be in town for the Flash Memory Summit.