Fairchild Building

From: Frank McConnell <fmc_at_reanimators.org>
Date: Sat Jul 26 22:08:33 1997

Paul E Coad <pcoad_at_crl.com> writes:
> A bit of history was demolished this week. The Fairchild building
> on Fairchild Way here in Mountain View has been completely torn down.

OK, a little bit more of that intro I keep putting off, as lead-in
to another story.

I am what I guess is considered a staff member of the Computer History
Association of California, with the title "Assistant Tactical
Director." What this means is that I help CHAC with, well, moving
stuff. There's a long story about how that came to pass which maybe I
will tell some other time, but to steal a note from Uncle Roger it's
cheaper than joining the Y/club/whatever. And CHAC has a computer
collection and you all know what that means, right? I get to see and
touch some moderately k00l iron from time to time.

Anyway, CHAC keeps this stuff in storage containers that recently moved
from one place to another, and there is some cooperation with another
organization, the Perham Foundation, which used to operate a museum of
electronics up on the Foothill College campus, because Perham provides
the storage containers to CHAC.

Perham also has a collection (including computers and some other nifty
stuff), and if CHAC's Tactical Director who is also Keeper of the Keys
or something for Perham says "Hey Frank, could you give me a hand over
here?" I generally don't ask whether "here" is CHAC or Perham
territory before answering.

OK, that's the end of the intro and lead-in, now on with the show. A
couple of months ago those of us on the CHAC staff list got an e-mail
from said Tactical Director.

Remember Ampex up in Redwood City, CA? They're still there, only not
as big, and now they are sandwiched between _at_Home and Excite or some
other hot Internet web-crazed pre-IPO startup that I should probably
pretend to be more excited about.

Up 'til a couple of years ago Ampex had a museum on-site, celebrating
the history of magnetic recording. It's not there anymore. I gather
most of the artifacts were packed up and are in storage with no plans
to display them.

But the building housing the museum was scheduled to be torn down and
the museum furnishings were still there. Basically, this meant the
cabinets and interior walls -- the museum was built in what used to be
Ampex's telephone switch room (you know, telephone switches are a lot
smaller now that they aren't crossbar) and they had spent a fair bit
of money and effort on hiding that with nice wood-frame walls covered
in Fiberglas sound-absorptive material, that not only kept the whole
place nice and quiet but formed lots of little nooks and crannies to
isolate exhibits from each other and keep perusers in one place from
disturbing those in others. Also they had put up a fairly nice
ceiling lighting system. Perham got that stuff, but they had to
dismantle it before the wrecking-ball showed up.

The Tactical Director thought some CHAC folks should get a look so
they could understand what was possible in the way of using space. So
I went that next weekend and helped pull the walls down for transport.

> I can't count the number of times I have driven by the sign and thought
> that I should take a picture of it and the building.

Well, here is where I get to twist some of y'all's guts a little. Any
of you Bay Area folks ever go to the hamfest that used to be held at
the Ampex cafeteria every October? The museum was about 30 feet away
from there. I missed a great chance (actually a couple of great
chances) to see something really wonderful. And now it's Too Late.

And those of you wondering what happened to the Ampex 'fest now have
some idea.

> I guess that is the way things go around here. "Old" buildings are
> torn down and replaced with new buildings. Pretty soon there will
> be no more of the funky 70's stone buildings left.

I think this building was built in the 1950s. It had a lot of that
transparent glass and white metal feel to it, at least the cafeteria
area did but then that was an area for *people*. The switch room,
well, as far as I can tell crossbar switches have no appreciation
for any architecture but their own.


I started writing this the other morning, but put it off because I had
to go to work. Never got back to it. Today I ran into Paul and a
couple of y'all (You Know Who You Are) at the Computer Recycling
Center Saturday sale. When you see some folks stuffing a car with
that classiccmp sort of gear you should walk up and say "I bet y'all
are on the classiccmp list" and see if you get to put faces with your

-Frank McConnell
Received on Sat Jul 26 1997 - 22:08:33 BST

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