Celebrating 25 Years of Innovation and Inspiration
Like many of our neighboring companies in Silicon Valley, we too started in a garage. A space literally called “The Garage.” It was a much smaller location on West San Carlos Street that could hardly contain the big ideas of its founding members. But that’s not why you’re here.
You’re here because it was 25 years ago, on October 31, 1998, that The Tech Interactive (then The Tech Museum of Innovation) opened our doors with a bright, new mango and azure building, a block party hosted by our robot mascot “Buster,” and a vision to bridge the gap between technology and everyday life.
Today, we celebrate our remarkable 25-year journey — a testament to a vision that continues to define this iconic science and technology center. The City of San José has formally acknowledged the profound and lasting influence that The Tech Interactive has wielded in the realms of education and innovation within Silicon Valley over the past quarter-century, affirming its significance with an official mayoral proclamation.
Join us as we reflect on the brilliant architect, memorable moments, and inspiring exhibits that have marked The Tech Interactive's transformation over the years.
The Visionary Architect:
In 1998, the renowned architect Ricardo Legorreta was commissioned to design The Tech Interactive in partnership with The Steinberg Group. Legorreta’s vision was a testament to the ingenuity of Silicon Valley, using vibrant colors, bold lines, and open spaces to create a structure that echoed the region's innovative spirit. The building's design was a fitting reflection of the museum's mission: to make technology accessible and relatable to all.
The Tech Interactive's inception coincided with a period of significant technological and societal change. Over the past 25 years, the museum has played a pivotal role in helping people of all ages understand and embrace these changes. Some notable historical highlights include:
Dot-com Boom and Bust (Late 1990s - Early 2000s):
The Tech Interactive's opening in 1998 was in the midst of the dot-com boom, a time of rapid technological advancement and economic prosperity. However, as the bubble burst, the museum served as a platform for discussions on the impact of technology on the economy. In 2000, for example, President Bill Clinton visited for a meeting with Silicon Valley executives about a trade agreement with China.
Y2K Fears (2000):
The onset of the new millennium was accompanied by widespread concerns over the Y2K bug and, in response, significant leaps in innovation. The Tech Awards program was launched in 2001, aimed at honoring trailblazers who have harnessed technology to drive positive global change. Further highlighting The Tech's commitment to cutting-edge science, 2004 marked a significant milestone when The Tech Interactive became one of the world's first public institutions to feature a wet lab accessible to the public, offering a unique experiment involving jellyfish DNA.
The Rise of Smartphones (Mid-2000s):
In the mid-2000s, the advent of smartphones heralded a new era of heightened productivity and innovation at The Tech. Simultaneously, the institution reinforced its commitment to sustainability with the introduction of the "Green by Design" exhibit and the installation of expansive solar panels atop the mango roof. This technological evolution also facilitated enhanced networking opportunities, as evidenced by notable figures who graced The Tech's premises: Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates delivered a memorable speech in 2006, Vice President Al Gore was honored with the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award in 2009, and Steve Wozniak, an early supporter of our mission, returned to The Tech for his 60th birthday celebration in 2010.
The Digital Revolution (2010s):
The Tech adapted to the rapidly evolving technological landscape by introducing engaging exhibits focused on artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and cybersecurity. These exhibits played a pivotal role in helping visitors navigate the complex digital terrain. The Tech's commitment to enhancing technological literacy was underscored by a series of interactive exhibits, including "Social Robots" in 2010, "Cyber Detectives" in 2016, and "Reboot Reality" in 2019, all designed to make engineering concepts more accessible to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. Notably, "Cyber Detectives" harnessed groundbreaking exhibit technology that contributed to The Tech's recognition with the prestigious 2015 National Medal for Museum and Library Science — the nation's highest honor given to museums and libraries.
The IMAX Dome Theater notably entered the digital age in 2018, installing the first IMAX laser projector for a dome theater anywhere in the world. The new flexibility has allowed our theater to host an incredible array of larger-than-life events, from community film festivals to remote calls to the International Space Station.
The Pandemic Era (2020s):
The pandemic era emphasized the museum's resilience and adaptability, as it transitioned to virtual programming, interactive online exhibits, and educational resources that reached far beyond its physical walls. In this dynamic environment, visitors enthusiastically returned to explore the captivating "Body Worlds Decoded" exhibition. This unique display delves into the human body — with both the world-famous plastinated specimens and an augmented reality layer you’ll only find at The Tech — serving as a powerful catalyst for health awareness and education.
The Green-Tech Renaissance (Present):
The Tech Interactive embraces the Green-Tech Renaissance era, marked by a renewed sense of purpose and collective action. This era is particularly significant as we welcome back the return of field trips, in-person learning, and collaborative efforts to address the urgent need for sustainable solutions through exhibits like Solve for Earth and The Tech for Global Good.
In this post-pandemic era, The Tech Interactive is poised for even greater heights. The one thing we know for sure is that we will continue to evolve, embracing technology's ever-changing landscape, while staying true to our mission to inspire the innovator in everyone. Here's a glimpse of what's on the horizon:
- Cutting-Edge Exhibits: The museum is committed to staying at the forefront of technological advancements. It will continue to introduce exhibits that explore emerging technologies including biotechnology, artificial intelligence, and sustainability solutions.
- Expanded Virtual Engagement: The lessons learned during the pandemic have reinforced the importance of virtual engagement. The Tech will continue to invest in online programming, making its exhibits and educational content accessible to a global audience.
- Community Impact: As a cornerstone of the Silicon Valley community, The Tech Interactive will strengthen its commitment to fostering the next generation of innovators. This includes educational outreach, mentorship programs, and partnerships with local schools to make high-quality STEM education accessible to as many children as possible.
- Global Initiatives: The Tech's mission goes beyond Silicon Valley. It will expand its global initiatives, collaborating with organizations and museums worldwide to promote technological literacy, innovation, and global problem-solving.
- Sustainability and Inclusivity: With growing global concerns, The Tech will lead the way in promoting sustainable technology and ensuring equitable access for all, fostering inclusivity and diversity in STEM fields.
As we look to the future, we can only imagine the incredible exhibits and experiences that await in the next 25 years, further cementing The Tech Interactive's legacy as a beacon of innovation and inspiration in Silicon Valley.
“In celebrating our 25th anniversary, we not only honor our past but also embrace the ever-evolving world of technology that continues to shape our world. The Tech Interactive has been at the forefront of demystifying, exploring, and celebrating these changes, and as we look ahead, we remain committed to inspiring the next generation of innovators and problem solvers.”
— Katrina Stevens, President & CEO of The Tech Interactive