Considering that at this time the year before I was in a different country on a different continent across an ocean, San Francisco may not seem like it would be nearly as exciting. And it wasn’t.
But it was still fun. There was a group of twelve students from Loras, as well as two professors, who were out to meet with businesses and important business people for our Business Seminar class, aka the senior capstone for business majors. The San Francisco bit isn’t typical of the Bus Sem class, but lucky for me I got into the J-term section. What is typical to the class is the simulation we ran before we left. Our class formed four different teams that competed against each other to gain control of the market for computer sales. This was all fictional of course, run out of an internet simulation game. What wasn’t fictional was my team staying solidly in third place for the majority of the game, then coming out of nowhere to dominate the market in the last three quarters, thus ensuring our grade for the class.
After two weeks of blood, sweat, tears, and heartbreaking business decisions (made by mouse clicks over coffee), we were off to San Francisco. The last time I was in San Francisco, Full House was still airing new episodes, so I was actually looking forward to it. Also, the day before we left the Midwest finally received the snow it had been missing all winter — all the snow — so I was also looking forward to the weather.
For essential San Francisco we went to Pebble Beach and 17 mile drive, Big Sur, Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf, Lombard Street, Ghirardelli Square, saw the sea lions, and rode the trolleys.
For class we met with Loras Alumni Rich Clayton — a high up executive at Oracle. We toured several businesses of varying sizes and models, including a steel frame bicycle specialty shop, an internet application development firm, a philanthropy firm, a whole boat load of different marketers, a winery, and of course Oracle, among many others. My favorite was the winery (Wente Vineyards) because, you know, it’s a winery.
We also got to do some nerdy things, I assume because I was there. We went to the Computer History Museum, where I got to see such treasures as the Xerox Alto (the first desktop computer to employ a GUI and mouse and designed for personal use), a prototype of the Apple I that was signed by Woz, and Herman Hollerith’s census counter (the genesis of punch cards, and essentially IBM). All of this paled in comparison, however, upon the discovery that the museum was hosting none other than Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine. Let me clarify: THE Babbage Difference Engine. The first ever computer.
No, it doesn’t look like a computer. In fact, it was never actually finished. But it was designed by British mathematician Charles Babbage, commissioned by Queen Victoria, and programmed by Ada Augusta. Yes, not only was the first-ever programmer a woman, she was the daughter of Lord Byron. Figure that one out.
I can hear some of you snoring, so I’ll move on. We also went to the Google headquarters, which I’m sure is awesome, but as we were there on MLK Jr. Day, the campus was closed. Instead of touring buildings, we settled for posing with the giant statues of desserts placed nonsensically in the front yard, and stole the G-bikes provided for employees to use to travel to the different buildings on campus.
It was a great experience for many different reasons, and I was quite upset to return back to the Midwest. And to all the snow. I was impressed that I was able to have such a good time and learn so much and get a requirement for my major out of the way, all at once and over J-term. Well done, Loras! You haven’t screwed this part up…yet.