The Center of Santa Clara Valley – San Jose, California - Atlas Obscura

The Center of Santa Clara Valley

A mysterious monument covered in a binary code marks the heart of tech. 

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Along Coyote Creek on a far-flung San Jose, California trail, a mysterious plaque sits next to a bike path. At first glance, it appears to be entirely covered in ones and zeroes. But from a different angle, the words “Santa Clara Valley” are faintly visible, etched beneath the numbers.

The reason for the plaque’s strange location is that it marks the geographical center of the Santa Clara Valley, which may be more familiar by its other moniker: Silicon Valley. The numbers, as it happens, spell out three words in binary. The six rows of numbers read as follows:

010100110110000101101110 

011101000110000100100000 

010000110110110001100001 

011100100110000100100000 

010101100110000101101100 

011011000110010101111001 

For non-coders, go ahead and plug the code in here and select ‘ASCII’ from the ‘Character encoding’ menu for the answer. You need to break the code into 8 character blocks like this:

01010011 01100001 1101110 01110100 01100001 0100000 01000011 01101100 1100001 01110010 01100001 0100000 01010110 01100001 1101100 01101100 01100101 1111001 

The origins of the plaque remain a mystery. Often, it’s referred to as “the Tamienne Monument,” which contains a misspelling of the name of the local Tamyen people. One theory has it that the plaque was set there in the 1980s by the IBM engineers who worked and innovated nearby. Another, likelier theory is that a local artist installed the plaque (with the city’s blessing) in the early 2000s. Regardless of its origin, there’s an intriguing contrast to the remote, windswept location for this decidedly analog monument to technology.

Know Before You Go

The plaque is south of Metcalf Road. Parking is available at the nearby Coyote Creek Lakes parking lot. Walking south along the bike path, the plaque is on the right, after the pedestrian bridge and past Metcalf Road.

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Anne Ewbank
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