Although San Francisco has developed a care free – hippy type reputation, behind that wispy façade is a heart of silicon that calls to geeks far and wide to indulge their innermost digital passions.
The Musée Mécanique at Fisherman’s Wharf
Formerly known as Playland, this private for-profit museum holds nostalgic toys and games collected since the 1920s by owner Ed Zelinsky. Step out of the digital age and delight in the penny arcade machines once common along boardwalks but lost their appeal as video arcades rose in popularity. Besides being featured in the movie “The Princess Diaries,” this hidden treasure united geeks and locals who joined forces in 2002 to petition the National Park Service not to move this icon of San Francisco to a new area, disagreeing with their conclusion that the location at Fisherman’s Wharf was “cramped, noisy, damp and a little dingy.”
Apparently, this musty atmosphere is considered by “old school” aficionados to be ideal for perusing the collection of coin-operated fortune tellers, player pianos and dioramas that fascinated early geeks who frequented these attractions as kids. So, for now, the 300 mechanical toys remain in their rather worn, but often refurbished, museum in one of the most coveted sections of San Francisco.
Computer History Museum
Thought you knew all there was to know about computers, the Internet and world of micro processing? Well, if you don’t visit this museum dedicated to all things digital, you may never know what you don’t know! Featuring exhibits that explain the evolution of the Babbage engine, the rise of Silicon Valley and the advent of visible storage, even the geekiest of geeks find new information they can add to their list of topics to impress their geeky friends.
Of course, they have online exhibits where you can learn about the timeline of computer history or help celebrate the first hundred years of IBM, but nothing replaces the thrill of seeing the real stuff first hand, up close and personal.
Weird Stuff Showroom
Sure, you can shop for this stuff online, but seeing it all assembled in the huge warehouse in Sunnyvale is a treat no self-respecting geek wants to miss. Open daily, this place has everything from antique computer servers to LED widgets, all assembled in a dazzling display of geeky goodies lovingly referred to as the equivalent of a CraigsList of electronics.
Located just a block from the Moffett Channel that leads to the sea, this neighborhood is also home to Yahoo! Inc, so you can even look forward to a geek-styled snack at the Yahoo! URL’s Cafeteria across the street. Bargain hunters will delight at the chill sales staff who are always willing to help answer questions and strike a bargain, especially if you’re brave enough to buy from their “as is” bin.
More than just another science and technology museum, the Exploratorium touts itself as “an ongoing exploration of science, art and human perception.” Preparing to move to luxurious new quarters at Pier 15 in 2013, the curators are delighted because the current location on Doyle Drive at the Palace of the Fine Arts is just too limiting for all this museum has to offer.
Their new campus promises to push the envelope on subjects that will enchant the most die-hard geeks, and their interactive exhibits will endeavor to usher neophyte geeks into the brave new world of cyberspace.