The Birthplace of Electronics and the Global Village
913 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, California 94301

One Block Unit* from
HOMER AVENUE

Only a brass plaque on a tombstone-size rock now marks 913 Emerson Street, where events in 1912 changed the world profoundly and forever. Here, radio pioneer Lee De Forest, working for the Federal Telephone Company, coaxed the Audion (triode) vacuum tube that he had invented earlier to amplify electrical signals, and electronics was born.

The building blocks of our Silicon-Information Age -- oscillators for generating radio, TV, and computer signals; the amplifiers and electronic switches that make them useful -- are variations of the amplifier Dr. De Forest invented at 913 Emerson, Palo Alto, California. The communications and information revolution these devices enabled is rivaled in its impact only by the invention of writing and the printing press.

* For his groundbreaking work in Palo Alto, De Forest created a correspondingly pioneering electrical measurement unit, The Block. He rated the performance of his amplifier circuits in terms of the number of city blocks from this laboratory from which he could hear their emissions. Homer Avenue was at the one-block mark, a milestone. One literally walks in history here.

(The Block is no longer used by electronics professionals, but stereo owners often experiment with it.)

 Photo: Palo Alto Historical Association

De Forest's laboratory was located in this modest house, which was demolished in 1965 to make way for a vacant lot. The office building currently occupying its site was built many years later.

 

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