Never miss a story from Breakfast Bytes. Subscribe for in-depth analysis and articles.
Last summer, I did a series of posts about technology museums. If you missed them, here are the links:
The nearest museum to Cadence is the Intel museum, but not much further is The Tech, subtitle Museum of Innovation. It's in downtown San Jose, a distinctively bright orange building (officially they call the color "mango" apparently, although I've never seen a mango that color). Since I was doing a series on technology museums, it seemed odd to omit The Tech.
It opened in October 1998, so almost exactly 20 years ago. I went there soon after it opened, and once about a decade later. It seemed to suffer from a problem a lot of museums suffer from (and all sorts of other things like public transit). The money is raised to open the museum (or a light rail line) but instead of spending the money required to maintain it, money gets spent on something new and shiny, such as a sports stadium (or a new light rail line). The existing facility deteriorates.
When I first went to The Tech, it was new and had several interesting exhibits. For me, the most interesting was the section on semiconductor manufacturing which let me show my kids some of what went on in a fab. They had some automated wafer handling equipment, and some other silicon paraphernalia. My daughter already knew a little bit, since one year on "take your daughter to work" day, VLSI Technology had done a great job. They took all our daughters for the morning, dressed them all in bunny suits, and took them through the corridor where you could see into the fab bays and watch manufacturing taking place. They then gave them all a wafer (surprise, every single die had a black dot on it). In the afternoon, my daughter came to my office and to any meetings I had on my calendar that day.
Anyway, the second visit, about 10 years later, nothing seemed to have changed. Basically the same exhibits, but looking very tired. I decided it would just deteriorate further and I would not bother going again. But someone told me recently that they have revamped a lot, so I decided to give it another chance and went along recently.
So recently I went back. Because I arrived just before a movie started, I went to the Imax theater. Almost the first thing I saw was a Cadence logo. We are one of the sponsors of The Tech Challenge, which is a challenge for grades 4-12 to use engineering to solve a real-world problem. This year it is to design something that can survive a drop to deliver supplies, under the name "drop and dash". Each entry has to survive a 10-foot drop, and then deliver a cent coin up a ramp to a target zone without using any batteries. There's a lot more detail for entrants, but it is academic since the challenge started months ago and judging is the end of April (28th for grades 4-6, and 29th for grades 7-12). I think anyone can go along and watch the judging.
The main sponsor seems to be Dell, but Cadence is a "principal" sponsor, whatever that means.
There are three floors in The Tech, but the first floor is the ticket office, café, store, and the entrance to the Imax dome. The upper level has:
I thought the most interesting area was the lower level, which had:
I thought the most interesting section was the section on cybersecurity. Partly because of my own interests, I admit. But also, it was the only section that seemed to really discuss true technology as technology. As you can see from the above picture, it doesn't shy away from trying to explain deep concepts such as public-key cryptography.
It had a good section on social engineering that tempted you to give a smartphone app called CatCalendar access to all your data since your friends were using it—or rather it said they were. It also had a fake cable company with the wonderful name of Concast. There was a section on password cracking, firewalls and network security.
One section had a massive cylinder lock that you could either find a key to open, or recode the lock to match a key, or even use giant lock picking tools to open the lock without a key. Which reminds me of an academic paper on master keys that came under a lot of attack from locksmiths when it was published. Interestingly, the attacks apparently fell almost equally into two groups. The first group said that everyone knows this, why are you publishing a paper on this as if it is a new research result. The other group said, nobody knows this except a few locksmiths, you shouldn't be publishing this, it's too dangerous for mere mortals to possess this knowledge. I'll cover that in a separate post some time soon. In the meantime, make do with a little girl opening a massive lock:
If you've seen any of the Body Worlds exhibitions before, then you have some idea of what this will be. I saw the original one when it was in London about 20 years ago. These are actual human bodies that have been "plastinated" so that the fluids are replaced by plastic, and various other processes stabilize the muscles. One thing I noticed 20 years ago was how many of the bodies were tattooed. Back then, that was not as common as today, where the untattooed hipster is more an exception than the rule, but my conclusion was that many of the young bodies came through motorcycle accidents. This was something made very clear to me when I was doing my PhD in Edinburgh and a kayaker friend of mine on a forestry course managed to fall out of a tree onto a root and crush his spine. He became paraplegic, but when he was in the spinal hospital (then in Musselburgh, on the outskirts of Edinburgh) he was the only person there—literally the only one—who was not there as a result of a motorcycle accident.
The exhibition at The Tech is apparently there for ten years. The focus is on the internal musculature and the bodies are dancers and baseball players. Somehow, unlike the earlier exhibition I saw, the bodies look less real without their skin, as if they were just plastic. The original exhibition was almost shocking in how real the preserved bodies looked.
The Tech's website has full information. It is open from 10-5 every day at 201 South Market Street.
Usually, when I see teardowns, they are things like the latest iPhone, or even just the application processor from the latest iPhone. But if you want to see a Furby torn down, now you know where to go.
Sign up for Sunday Brunch, the weekly Breakfast Bytes email.