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Silicon Valley 101: a helpful guide to exploring computer technology's capital - a virtual reality if there ever was one.

Silicon Valley is where Dilbert meets Donald Trump, where Jolt Cola-guzzling geeks build technologies that change the world, and where venture capitalists dole out the cash it takes to keep everyone running on the treadmill like good millionaires. But don't go looking for Silicon Valley on a map - there are no freeway signs pointing the curious to the birthplace of the semiconductor or the homes of technology's richest entrepreneurs. You'll have to plug Silicon Valley together like the cables on your computer, connecting all walks of Valley life to get a picture of the frenzied pace, down-to-earth style, and Wall Street wealth that electrifies this virtual reality.

Bone up

You need to be able to talk the talk. Here are a few places to start your Silicon Valley circuit so you can understand what the heck everyone's so excited about.

TECH MUSEUM OF INNOVATION. The Tech just unveiled a $96-million new home, designed by renowned architect Ricardo Legorreta of Mexico City. It's a warm caffe latte of information in a cold, cruel world of computer whizzes. Learn about the Internet and computer chips. Read up on the industry's founding fathers - you'll need to remember which names to drop later in the tour. And underneath that bright dome is an Imax theater. 201 S. Market St., San Jose; (408) 795-6100.

INTEL MUSEUM. Find out what a silicon chip is and how Intel became one of the Valley's hugest successes. Intel Corp., Robert Noyce Bldg., 2200 Mission College Blvd., Santa Clara; (408) 765-0503.

FRY'S ELECTRONICS. Throw on a ratty T-shirt and Teva sandals, then go see geeks in action. The renowned chain sells computer and consumer-electronics equipment, software, music CDs, magazines, and junk food - in short, everything a Valley denizen needs to live. 1077 E. Arques Ave., Sunnyvale; (408) 617-1300.

Walk the walk

Here's where the magic happens.

APPLE COMPUTER. Your destination here is the Company Store, where you can pick up everything from apparel bearing the familiar logo to computer equipment. 1 Infinite Loop (exit I-280 at De Anza Blvd.), Cupertino; (408) 974-5050 or www.apple. com/companystore.

ORACLE. Fighter-plane aficionado and multibillionaire Larry Ellison wouldn't settle for just any old industrial park for his company. Zen-student Ellison had the Oracle campus designed to look like monolithic shapes in a Japanese tea garden. Cruise by and check out its gleaming blue towers; those people strolling around the large pond are actually software engineers (oohahh). 500 Oracle Pkwy., Redwood Shores; (650) 506-7000.

SILICON GRAPHICS. SGI makes the computers that Hollywood uses to create special effects (although competition's nosing in), and its headquarters' architectural style comes straight out of a sci-fi thriller. SGI's scenic campus houses its company store, where you can load up on lots of stuff bearing the corporate logo. Bldg. 5, 2011 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View; (650) 933-1028.

HEWLETT-PACKARD GARAGE. Stanford University pals William Hewlett and David Packard founded one of the world's largest technology companies. It all started in a one-car garage, with nothing but a bench, a vise, a hacksaw, and other simple tools, back in the 1930s. Today it's a California historic landmark. Behind 367 Addison Ave., Palo Alto.

DOWNTOWN PALO ALTO. On high-rent University Avenue, you will begin to hear the buzz: cell phones ringing, joggers talking about building their "team's" performance, and recent college graduates in khakis and polo shirts discussing their company's current stock price. They flock to the area for lunch, schmooze-time, furniture and book shopping, and business dinners.

STANFORD SHOPPING CENTER. Welcome to the heart of chichi in the Valley. Gaze at a few Tiffany diamonds, see what Ralph Lauren is up to this season, visit Northern California's only Bloomingdale's, or sit by a fountain and watch the matching mother-daughter pairs stroll by with their coordinating Italian shoes and handbags. 180 El Camino Real Palo Alto; (800) 772-9332 or (650) 617-8585.

Prepare to name-drop

Witness budding millionaires in their natural habitat.

IL FORNAIO. Head to Il Fornaio right after dawn to catch the morning shift of venture capitalists signing deals with wide-eyed entrepreneurs. Get your coffee and Italian pastry and watch the little guys sweat. 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto; (650) 853-3888.

BUCK'S OF WOODSIDE. An Elvis painting, model airplane kits, a human-size Statue of Liberty, and some framed semiconductor samples on the wall. Come for lunch, lose the tie you put on for Il Fornaio, and roll up your sleeves. Investors love this place, because it's close to Sand Hill Road, a boulevard of chalet-style woodsy office complexes that house the cash brokers who fuel the Valley's rising stars. Or maybe it's the burgers. 3062 Woodside Rd., Woodside; (650) 851-8010.

SPAGO. New millionaires need a restaurant that makes them feel like they've made it after a long day of decorating with imported marble. Set in an airy, open building in downtown Palo Alto, Spago is one of the few places that offer valet parking, but it still maintains that egalitarian Valley feel. Maybe that's because the gent in jeans could be Web wizard Marc Andreessen. 265 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto; (650) 833-1000.

MING'S RESTAURANT & BAR. Take the size of a grand hotel's lobby and multiply it by four. Now you can picture Ming's, a sprawling Chinese restaurant across U.S. 101 from the rest of Palo Alto. Corporate gossip echoes off the ceiling. 1700 Embarcadero Rd., Palo Alto; (650) 856-7700.

DUTCH GOOSE. Many a Valley CEO spent long nights here, leaving his or her initials carved into one of the tables. Get a pitcher of hefeweizen, order a plate of spicy deviled eggs, and listen in on fresh-faced Stanford biz-school graduates arguing about business plans. 3567 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park; (650) 854-3245.

STANFORD UNIVERSITY. Don't call it the Harvard of the West or you might get clocked by an in-line skater. With sandstone buildings topped by Spanish tile roofs, majestic Memorial Church, economists toiling away in Hoover Tower, and a host of Nobel Prize winners, Stanford is home to many of the Valley's entrepreneurs. The university remains the hub that holds the Valley together. Campus tours: (650) 723-2560.

RELATED ARTICLE: Wired hotels

Charming, historic inns that don't have phones may be fine for the meandering troglodyte, but high-tech explorers need a wired establishment. These San Jose hotels are definitely plugged in. (Lodging packages, including Tech tickets: 888/726-5673 or www.sanjose,org.)

DOUBLETREE HOTEL. It offers cordless phones that work throughout the hotel, plus high-speed (T1) Internet access for your laptop. From $89. (800) 222-8733.

FAIRMONT HOTEL. The stomping ground of the chip moguls has fax machines and fast modem connectors in the rooms. From $89 (suites from $209). (800) 527-4727.

HILTON SAN JOSE & TOWERS. Located across from the Tech, it offers Internet access through the television with a wireless keyboard, or you can plug into T1 ports for your laptop. From $119. (800) 445-8667.
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Author:Williams, Tish
Publication:Sunset
Date:Feb 1, 1999
Words:1137
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