A new development complex in Mountain VIew, CA. The site was formerly home to Shockley Semiconductors, which first brought silicon transistor technology to California. Photography: Preston Gannaway

Into the Valley

Silicon Valley Has Amnesia

Why can’t Silicon Valley build itself a single decent monument?

Andrew Leonard
Published in
6 min readFeb 27, 2020

This article is part of Into the Valley, a feature series from OneZero about Silicon Valley, the people who live there, and the technology they create.

WWith its basketball and tennis courts, children’s playground, baseball diamond, and soccer field, south San Jose’s RAMAC Park is indistinguishable from any other suburban recreational facility. But there’s something that sets it apart: RAMAC Park is probably the only park in the United States named after a 70-year-old piece of computer technology — the world’s first hard disk drive. You wouldn’t know that from visiting. There’s no informational sign in sight.

The only clue sits across a distinctly un-pedestrian-friendly avenue, in the parking lot of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store. There, in the middle of a sea of SUVs, stands a memorial, a rectangular framework of girders enclosing a small reflecting pool. A nearby sign spells it all out:

“You are standing on part of the former IBM Cottle Road Campus, a pioneering research and manufacturing facility in San Jose. Immediately behind you once stood Advanced Research Building 025, an important laboratory in the 1950s and 1960s.”

If you turn around, all there is to see now is an AutoZone.

Top: A single sign at RAMAC Park references the site’s history with a placard for “Spinning Platter Picnic Area” in San Jose; Bottom: An AutoZone and a Lowe’s Improvement store is now located at the former site of IBM’s Building 25.

Silicon Valley has a reputation for hurtling headlong into the future, for moving fast and breaking things and elevating the concept of “disruption” into a guiding ideology. But the price of the area’s focus on the future may also be a failure to fully appreciate its past. The few existing plaques and memorials that commemorate the region’s history feel like pallid afterthoughts.

San Jose recently approved a plan to spend $1 million building an “iconic landmark” to Silicon Valley in a downtown city park, but the request for proposal for “the most meaningful…



Andrew Leonard

20-year veteran of online journalism. On Twitter @koxinga21. Curious about how Sichuan food explains the world? Check out andrewleonard.substack.com