The Incubator of American Ingenuity

Over 100 years ago, after putting the finishing touches on his first gasoline-powered car, Henry Ford was forced to invent something else…the garage. You see, once it was ready for a test drive, his Quadricycle — so termed because of its four bicycle tires — didn’t fit through the doors of the coal shed in the home he was renting in Detroit Michigan. Yielding an axe, he pounded the brick wall to create a bigger opening and, as they say, the rest is history. His landlord allowed him to add a larger door in the new opening!

The Famous HP Garage

In 1939, Stanford University classmates Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard built an audio oscillator in a Palo Alto garage that would become Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) first product. Short on funds, the young company received a surprise order from Walt Disney Studios for eight oscillators, purchased to develop and test the sound for the movie, Fantasia, thus launching the company and this humble garage on Addison Avenue as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.

Another HP Engineer, Steve Wozniak, and his friend also created a revolution in a garage. While at HP, he and Steve Jobs, an Atari employee, tried unsuccessfully to convince their respective employers to support their new idea. However their employers just didn’t believe that the computer would be relevant to individuals. So, in his spare time, Wozniak collaborating with Jobs in the Jobs family’s Los Altos garage built a personal computer. An old, wooden workbench served as the assembly station and soon became Apple’s manufacturing plant and shipping department.

Motown Sound

Another famous Detroit resident, Barry Gordy, launched Motown Records by auditioning acts in his garage. Imagine listening to Smokey Robinson, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight & the Pips, The Commodores, Martha and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5 emanating from your neighbor’s garage.

For more on the history of garages, visit Garagez.

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