IBM Great Oaks

The IBM Great Oaks facility was a research facility in south San Jose where they developed the RAMAC computer and the magnetic disc drive. You can view a short movie on its development, it includes a shot of the semi-famous mosaic buildings in the short.

At its peak, IBM employed 11,000 workers here, including yours truly for one summer. The company manufactured hard drives in San Jose, but like much of the original industrial base of Silicon Valley, manufacturing moved off-shore; in this case to China and Guadalajara, Mexico. IBM eventually sold its hard-drive business to Hitachi in 2002.

Hitachi hard-drives, now a division of Western Digital, is expanding the facility which includes demolishing much of the old space and rehabbing some existing buildings. #


IBM Building 50, partial shown in picture below, was the largest clean-room manufacturing building in the United States. It was used for assembling large hard drives. I worked in it briefly during college, though my role mainly was filling part trays and sending them through a high-tech dishwasher into the clean room.

We were building large disk drives with eight 14″ platters, likely the IBM 3380. It was about the size of a large microwave, and a storage capacity of 7gb. I don’t know the price, since they weren’t really retail devices, but likely in the tens of thousands of dollars.

IBM Building 50