Seattle, WA Part I: Microsoft, Chittenden Locks, and Voula's
Redmond, WA, is a suburb of Seattle located about 15 miles from where we were staying in Bothell. Redmond is the location of the headquarters for Microsoft Corporation. Microsoft Corporation is a major employer in Seattle with about 30,000 employees in the area. Microsoft is best known for its Windows operating system and for the Microsoft Office suite of productivity software. Microsoft has a visitor center in Redmond, so we drove over for a look.
The Altair 8800 microcomputer was introduced in 1975 as a kit sold through electronics hobby magazines. Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who was working for Honeywell, saw an opportunity to start their own company and contacted the creators of the Altair offering to develop a programming language for the 8800. They developed a programing language called Altair BASIC for the Altair 8800 and Microsoft was born. The photo below is an Altair 8800 computer.
Microsoft was originally founded in Albuquerque, MN, where the Altair computer was manufactured. They moved to Washington in 1979.
Following the development of Altair BASIC, Microsoft developed other computer programing languages, but their first big success came with DOS (Disc Operating System) for the IBM personal computer in 1981.
The visitor center has a few historical displays like the Altair 8800 shown above, and the typewriter in the next photo behind Margery. She remembers using typewriters like that.
Most of the displays at the visitor center showcase new technology. There were a lot of hands-on displays, and we had a lot of fun playing with their toys. The photo below shows Paul playing with a Zune MP3 player. Introduced in 2006, the Zune is Microsoft's answer to Apple's iPod.
They also had a bunch of PCs and laptops set up with the latest software including beta versions of Windows 7, scheduled to replace Windows Vista later this year. We've been thinking about a new laptop, but we have been holding off because we have heard so many people dislike Windows Vista.
One of the best toys was a touch sensitive horizontal screen. The default display looks like water in a pond that sends out ripples and waves when you touch it.
When you tap little icons in the corners, the display changes, and you can then use the device to display and sort photos and to play games.
After the Microsoft visitor center, we drove a few miles west to the northern part of Seattle to see the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks on the Lake Washington Ship Chanel. The locks, which were officially opened in 1917, separate the higher-level, fresh water Lake Washington from the salt water in Puget Sound. The locks also enable both pleasure boats and commercial ships to pass between the two bodies of water
Chittenden Locks were named for Hiram M. Chittenden, who was the Seattle District engineer for the Army Corps of engineers who was largely responsible for the design of the locks. Chittenden retired due to poor health before the construction of the locks began.
There are walkways where visitors can cross directly over the gates and view the ships passing through the locks.
Chittenden Locks consist of two sets of locks - a smaller set for smaller boats and times of lighter traffic and a large set of locks. The photo above shows the large locks. The locks accommodate anything from kayaks to a 760-foot, ocean-going ship.
There is a fish ladder at the locks that enables salmon to make the passage from Puget Sound to spawning areas farther upstream. This fish ladder is one of only a few in the world located where salt water meets fresh. Most fish ladders are located in fresh water. The photo beloe shows some of the 21 steps in the fish ladder.
The fish ladder also has an underwater viewing area. Steelhead, sockeye, chinook, and coho salmon all pass through this area. Different varieties of salmon migrate at different times of the year, and with four varieties in this area, there is salmon migration almost all year round. Sockeye were finishing their migration when we were there and chinook were just starting. The numbers at any particular time depend on the tides, and there weren't many passing through during our visit. There is a salmon barely visible in the photo below.
There is also a botanical gardens on the grounds of the locks. The north bank was just gravel until the Corps of Engineers hired gardener Carl English in 1931 to transform the grounds. English collected trees, shrubs, and flowers from around the world. The photo below shows just a few of the flowers in the garden.
After we visited the locks, it was mid afternoon and we headed to Voula's Offshore Cafe for a late lunch. Voula's is located along the ship canal about 15 minutes east of the locks and is another one of those restaurants we saw recently on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Voula's is only open from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM and serves breakfast and lunch with many Greek dishes. We both had Greek hobos, which are hash browns, sweet onions, mushrooms, and scrambled egg topped with melted feta cheese. It covers a dinner-size plate, and also includes your choice of toast or English muffin. Yum! We had enough left over to take back with us for breakfast the next morning.
There is still more to see in the Seattle area, so look for our next post.