12 more geeky places to visit before you die

A dozen places where something decidedly nerdy took place that all hard-core geeks should try to see before they die

The words Halfway to Hell painted on the sidewalk of the bridge between MIT and Harvard in Massachusetts

While many of us are currently suffering through the dead of winter, now is the time to start planning for your big summer vacation. Sure, amusement parks and beaches are fun, but more nerdy types may instead enjoy soaking up some real geek history. Following up on ITworld's list from last year of 15 geeky places to visit before you die, here are a dozen more places you can visit where something historically geeky took place. We’ve also once again created a Google map with all of these locations marked. Now go ahead and start planning your nerd-tastic vacation!

Boelter Hall on the campus of UCLA
580 Portola Plaza, Los Angeles, California

It was from room 3420 of UCLA’s Boelter Hall that the world’s first Internet message was sent on October 29, 1969. UCLA was the site of one the first four nodes of ARPANET, a computer network created by the Department of Defense that was the start of the modern Internet. That first message was sent from an SDS Sigma 7 computer in room 3420 to a computer at Stanford, which promptly crashed. Today, the room, as well as the original Interface Message Processor, is preserved as part of UCLA’s Kleinrock Center for Internet Studies. Information about visiting the site is available, appropriately, on the Internet.

Exterior picture of the building in Bern, Switzerland where Einstein lived in 1905
Kramgasse 49, Bern Switzerland

The second floor apartment of this building in Bern is where Albert Einstein lived in 1905, his annus mirabilis (“year of wonders”). It was in this apartment that he did some of the work that became the foundation of modern physics, including his special theory of relativity and E=mc2. The apartment has been restored to its 1905 appearance and is open to the public for tours. If you go to visit this historic location, be sure to also visit the corner of Speichergasse and Genfergasse, the site of the the patent office where Einstein famously worked - and no doubt didn’t see a single patent application from Apple or Google.

The words 364.4 smoots + 1 ear painted on the sidewalk of the bridge between MIT and Harvard in Massachusetts
Harvard Bridge, Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Harvard (AKA Massachusetts Avenue) Bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge, was the site of one of MIT’s most enduring hacks. In October 1958, freshman Oliver Smoot, a pledge at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, which had a house in Boston, was used to measure the length of the bridge. At 5 feet, 7 inches tall, the bridge officially measured 364.4 “smoots” plus one ear. Every ten smoots were marked on the bridge sidewalks and the markers get repainted every year by the fraternity. Fittingly, Smoot himself went on to become the chairman of the American National Standards Institute Board of Directors but has since retired from that job - and from being used as a tape measure.


Exterior picture of a brick building with a Subway restaurant
Credit: Google
4017 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

Fans of first person shooters should visit this Chicago address, for it was here that they shot the scene in the 1986 movie The Color of Money from which the classic FPS Doom got its name. As Tom Hall, id Software’s creative director, tells it, the title was taken from the name of Tom Cruise’s pool cue in a scene shot at North Center Bowl, which has since been demolished and replaced with a Subway. You can also visit the site where the exteriors for that scene were shot at 6412 S. Cottage Grove Avenue in Chicago. Who knew something so historically geeky could come from a movie that was so cool?

Picture of South Park in San Francisco
South Park, San Francisco, California

This small park near San Francisco’s financial district is the birthplace of Twitter. According to Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder (and, later, founder and CEO of Square), he first shared the idea for everyone’s favorite status-sharing service with two of his Odeo co-workers while on the slide in this park in 2006. Shortly thereafter, the idea was fleshed out and a prototype built, which served as an internal communications service at Odeo. The following year, Twitter, which Dorsey originally wanted to call Stat.us, was formally spun off as its own company by founders Dorsey, Evan Williams and Biz Stone. Of course, if you visit the park, be sure to tweet out a picture.

Exterior nighttime picture of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Trento, Italy
Vicolo delle Orsoline, 1, Trento, Italy

The church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Trento, Italy is where the Gregorian calendar was born. In 1563, the Third Council of Trent, meeting there, adopted a plan by Italian astronomer Luigi Lilio to modify the Julian Calendar to ensure a more consistent scheduling of Easter. That became the basis of the Gregorian calendar which now plays an important role in computing, as it accounts for some of the more unusual epoch dates on computer systems, such as January 1, 1601 for Windows and January 1, 1904 for early versions of Mac OS. Here endeth (we think) the Catholic Church’s influence on Windows.

Exterios picture of a house used in the movie Revenge of the Nerds
Credit: Google
931 N. 5th Avenue, Tucson, Arizona

1984 marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most famous geek movies of all time, so why not celebrate it by visiting the house used as the Lambda Lambda Lambda (nerd) fraternity house in Revenge of the Nerds? The movie, starring Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards, follows a group of geeks and outcasts attending a big college and their battles with the jocks and cheerleaders. In the end (SPOILER ALERT), the nerds band together, form their own fraternity (the Tri-Lambs) and eventually triumph over the jocks. Building exteriors were shot at the University of Arizona in Tuscon, including the Tri-Lamb house. If you visit, show your nerd pride by wearing a pocket protector.

Exterior picture of Woolsthorpe Manor in England
Water Lane, Grantham, Lincolnshire, UK

Woolsthorpe Manor is the site of the Isaac Newton’s famous apple tree, as well being his birthplace. While it’s probably not true that he was hit on the head by an apple that fell from it, several of Newton’s contemporaries wrote that Newton himself told them that it was seeing an apple fall from a tree on the Woolsthorpe property in 1666 that gave him the idea for his famous theory of gravity. The home has been restored to how it looked at that time and the famous tree, supposedly, is still there. If you go, don’t sit under it, just to be safe.

Exterior picture of the house in Bellevue, Washington where Amazon started
Credit: Google
10704 NE 28th Street, Bellevue, Washington

Garages have famously been the birthplaces of some big tech companies, and this location features one: the garage where Jeff Bezos started Amazon. When Bezos quit his job in finance in 1994 to move to Washington and start an online bookstore, he was inspired by the previous success of garage-based startups and looked for a house to rent with a suitable one, which he found on 28th Street in Bellevue. The site was officially launched in July, 1995 and within two months was selling $20,000 worth of books per week. Amazon is currently building a new headquarters in Seattle to house 12,000 workers - and who knows how many drones.

Picture of the Lucille Y. Gilman Memorial Fountain at Occidental College that was used in Star Trek II: The Search for Spock
1600 Campus Road, Los Angeles, California

At the entrance to Occidental College is the Lucille Y. Gilman Memorial Fountain which should be more recognizable to Trekkies as the fountain used in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. The fountain, installed in 1979 and featuring a sculpture named Water Forms II, became famous in the 1984 movie when it was used as part of the Vulcan scenery during a visit from the crew of the Enterprise. In addition to its movie star credentials, the fountain continues to be an integral part of the Occidental campus life, as students are often thrown into it on their birthdays. Hopefully, the fountain will live long and prosper.

Exterior picture of 685 Main Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Credit: Google
685 Main Street Cambridge, Massachusetts

This building on Main Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts is the place where the world’s first two-way telephone call was received. Alexander Graham Bell came to Boston from Scotland in 1872 to help teach the deaf how to speak using a system that his father developed. He soon decided to devote his time to developing techniques for transmitting sound and in 1875, with the help of Thomas Watson, he received a patent for the acoustic telegraph. On October 9, 1876, Bell made the first call from his lab in Boston to Watson at the Walworth Manufacturing Co. in Cambridge. Luckily, voicemail (or caller ID) had not been invented, so Watson had to answer.

Exterior picture of Dobie Center in Austin Texas
2021 Guadalupe Street, Austin, Texas

Dobie Center is notable not only for once being the tallest building in Austin, but also for being the birthplace of Dell Computer. Part of Dobie Center, which is privately owned, serves as a residence hall for the University of Texas at Austin and it was here in room 2713 where Michael Dell was living as a student in 1983 when he began his business, originally called PC’s Limited. Dell began by upgrading existing IBM PCs, before eventually building and selling his own brand of personal computers. Today, you can’t visit Dell’s old room, but you can grab a bite in the Dobie Center Subway while recalling better times for Dell.