15 geeky places to visit before you die

If you like reliving geeky history, you’ll want to add visiting these places to your bucket list

A bucket list

The Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Colosseum in Rome - these are among the places that many say you should see at least once in your life. But if you’re somebody who’s into computers or math or science or science fiction, then your list of must-see places probably includes some other - geekier - locations. If you’re one of those people, ITworld has put together a list of 15 places where something historically geeky occurred that are accessible to the public which, if possible, you should visit before your number is up. To help plan your visits, we’ve created a Google map with all of these locations marked.

Pythagoras cave
Marathokampos 831 02, Samos, Greece

Sitting at the foot of Mount Kerkis on the island of Samos, Greece sits the Cave of Pythagoras, which, for a time, served as the home and classroom of the famous philosopher and mathematician. The man who came up with one of the bedrock equations of mathematics was born on this island around 570 BC and spent part of his life living and teaching in the cave, supposedly in hiding from the ruler Polycrates, before he left the island around 530 BC. While it’s a bit of a hike to reach, his caves are open to the public. Ironically, Pythagoras Cave, being a cave and all, doesn’t have any right angles.

Royal Observatory Greenwich
Blackheath Avenue Greenwich, Greater London SE10 8XJ, United Kingdom

People who prefer to know their time and location with high precision will want to visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich. The observatory was founded in 1675 by King Charles II to help solve the problem of determining one’s longitude (east-west location) at sea. It’s most famous today for being the site of the prime meridian (0° longitude). It’s also the site where Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was derived which was the global time standard until January 1, 1972 when it was replaced by Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Computer geeks, of course, know UTC well, as it’s the official time standard of the Internet. The observatory is open from 10:00am to 5:00pm daily - GMT, of course.

Birthplace of Hewlett-Packard
367 Addison Ave Palo Alto, California

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the garage that birthed Hewlett-Packard is also known as the Birthplace of Silicon Valley. In 1938 Dave Packard moved into this address while buddy Bill Hewlett moved into the garage. Using $538 in capital, and flipping a coin to choose the name, HP was born in 1939. They went to work in that garage producing whatever they could to make money, including a self-flushing urinal, a weight loss machine and, their first product, the HP200A audio oscillator. The property has recently been restored and, while only open for private tours, you can admire if from the curb, while thinking about all the useless junk in your own garage.

Bletchley Park
Sherwood Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK3 6EB, United Kingdom

World War II lasted for six years years, but it might have gone on significantly longer were it not for the secret work that went on at Bletchley Park. During the war it was the site of the UK’s Government Code and Cypher School, which eventually broke the “unbreakable” encryption by Germany’s Enigma machine. Over the course of the war 12,000 people worked at Bletchley on code-breaking efforts, including mathematicians, linguists, chess masters and crossword puzzle experts, among them Alan Turing, the “father of computer science.” Visitors can see Turing’s office, Enigma machines and the devices used to break them - which could no doubt still easily crack your own lame password scheme.


Rooster T. Feathers comedy club
Credit: Google
157 West El Camino Real Sunnyvale, California

This is the former site of Andy Capp’s Tavern, which was where Atari’s first Pong arcade game was installed in November 1972. Atari had been founded earlier that year by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney, and Pong was their first official release. The Pong prototype was made by Allan Acorn and included a black-and-white TV and an old milk bottle to collect the change. The game quickly proved to be the world’s first popular video arcade game. Andy Capp’s is now Rooster T. Feathers, a comedy club, so if you go there, have a laugh and a moment of silence in remembrance of this epic moment in the history of time-wasting activities.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin highway sign
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

When most people think of nerds, they picture guys in a basement rolling 20-sided die playing fantasy games, which is why we’ve included the birthplace of Dungeons & Dragons on this list. The game was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson and first published in 1974. The initial 1,000 copies of the game were printed and assembled in the basement of Gygax’s home in Lake Geneva. Gygax also held the first Gen Con, now one of the largest gaming conventions in the world, in his house in 1967. If you fly there to visit this hallowed nerd ground, be sure to leave your chainmail behind, since it probably won’t be allowed through airport security.

Site of the former Sundowner Motel
Credit: Google
6141 Central Ave NE, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Route 66 is famous for being one of America’s first highways, eventually stretching from Chicago to Santa Monica. While “The Main Street of America” gave birth to a famous song and TV show, it also gave birth to Microsoft. In 1975 founders Bill Gates and Paul Allen set up shop in the Sundowner Motel to write a BASIC interpreter for the new MITS Altair 8800 microcomputer, which was eventually released as Altair BASIC. While Microsoft moved to Washington in 1979 and the Sundowner closed in 2009, it’s currently being renovated will be turned into apartments for veterans, homeless and special needs residents. Needless to say the motel has lots of windows.

The house where Apple was born
2066 Crist Drive, Los Altos, California

Back in 1976, this nondescript California house (which, at the time, was 11161 Crist Drive) owned by Paul and Clara Jobs became the birthplace of Apple. The Jobs’ adopted son Steve founded Apple along with Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne on April Fool’s Day, 1976 (Wayne, who helped to design the original Apple logo, sold his 10% share in the company less than 2 weeks later for $800). Apple began in a spare bedroom of the house, before the operation was moved to the garage. The first 50 Apple I computers were built here (one of which recently sold for $671,000). If you take a selfie there, have some respect and don’t do it with an Android phone.


Hôtel Sidi Driss
Matmatat-Al-Qadimal Tunisia

Not so long ago (35+ years), in a galaxy not so far away (this one) the Hôtel Sidi Driss in Tunisia served as the (interior) setting of Luke Skywalker's boyhood home in Star Wars. The hotel is a centuries old Berber house where you can actually stay and feel The Force be with you (NOTE: not guaranteed). While you’re in Tunisia, you may as well also swing a few hundred kilometers west to Chott el Jerid, a salt flat where the exterior shots were filmed and some of the original sets are still standing. We don’t know if the Hôtel Sidi Driss is pet-friendly, so, just to be sure, leave your Wookie at home.


The 7-Eleven featured in WarGames
Credit: Google
41440 Big Bear Boulevard Big Bear Lake, California

Fans of movies about hacking should be sure to make a pilgrimage to southern California to the 7-Eleven featured in the movie WarGames. Matthew Broderick played teenaged computer whiz David Lightman in this 1983 classic who hacks into a NORAD computer and almost starts World War III. When the feds finally catch up to him, they do so outside this 7-Eleven. Hardcore WarGames fanatics may also want to bid on the actual computer used in the movie. If you visit the 7-Eleven, buy yourself a Slurpee and relive the movie moment in the parking lot - unless you have something to hide from the feds, in which case you should probably stay away.


Funspot arcade
579 Endicott Street North Laconia, New Hampshire

If you want to visit a geeky landmark that can also provide an afternoon of fun, try Funspot, which the Guinness Book of World Records recognizes as the world’s largest arcade. First opened in 1952, it now features more than 500 games, as well as bowling, bingo and mini-golf. It also houses the American Classic Arcade Museum, featuring games built before 1988. Funspot has also been the place where world record high scores for many classic video games have been set, including Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Centipede and was featured in the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. If you visit, make sure you have some time (and money) to kill.


Particle accelerator at CERN
Credit: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
Route de Meyrin 385 1217 Meyrin, Switzerland

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or, as it’s better known, CERN, is a must-visit place for any physics geek. Created in 1954 to research the building blocks of the universe, CERN is home to the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator which has been called “one of the great engineering milestones of mankind.” CERN is also hallowed ground to computer geeks, though, since it was the site of the world’s first web site, which launched on December 20, 1990 on the world’s fist web server, a NeXT computer. CERN is open for visits and tours but, don’t get too excited; they won’t let just anybody smash particles.

Hobbiton
501 Buckland Road Matamata 3472, New Zealand

If you’re a fan of fantasy books and movies, as most geeks are, you will definitely want to visit Hobbiton, the set of the fictional middle earth village in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. Built on a 1,200 acre family farm in New Zealand, Hobbiton fell into disrepair after the LOTR trilogy was finished, but was restored on a more permanent basis for the Hobbit prequels. Hobbiton is the most popular of numerous LOTR-related sites you can visit in New Zealand. Be warned, though, if you go there because you have a thing for small, hairy creatures: the only ones you’ll see are the 13,000 sheep that also live on the farm.


Pinocchio's Pizza
Credit: flickr/Bill
74 Winthrop Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts

The next time you're in Cambridge, Massachusetts, be sure to drop in for a slice at Pinocchio’s, Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite college pizza place. Reportedly, the Zuck would often hang out here late at night talking about - what else? - “computer stuff.” Zuckerberg has been known to visit the tiny restaurant in Harvard Square when in town, and has been commemorated with his picture on the wall. After eating there, be sure to walk off some of the calories by strolling past nearby Kirkland House where Zuckerberg lived as an undergraduate and was the birthplace of Facebook. If you have heartburn from the pizza, don’t worry; there’s a CVS nearby.

Captain Kirk future birthplace plaque
Riverside, Iowa

Nothing historically geeky has happened here yet. But it will on March 22, 2233 (Stardate 1277.1) when it becomes the birthplace of Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk. While the exact location of his birth is still unknown (odds are the hospital doesn’t yet exist), you can see the plaque commemorating (er, prememorating?) the event (which, for some reason, lists a different birth year from the accepted one), a model of the USS Riverside, which looks a lot like you-know-what, and the Voyage Home Museum. There’s also the annual Trekfest, for hardcore Trekkies. Getting here may still take you a little while, though, since, like Captain Kirk, warp speed doesn’t exist yet.