"California: Designing Freedom" is an engaging exhibit showing at London's Design Museum until October 15. It chronicles the global design influence and innovation of the Golden State, in everything from pop culture, to counterculture to the technology boom of Silicon Valley.
Personal liberation and expression, whether it be through a gadget or a political movement, is a key theme of the exhibit. We started with a replica of Peter Fonda's "Captain America" chopper from the 1969 film "Easy Rider." The motorcycle is part of "Go Where you Want," one of the exhibit's five sections.
Naturally, technology giants such as Apple are well represented in the exhibit. The first Macintosh from 1984 has a prime spot while Ridley Scott's infamous "1984" TV commercial played on a loop nearby.
Also part of the exhibit's "Make What You Want" section is an Apple PowerBook 100. Released in 1991, it was notable for its portable design, dark grey color and the placement of the trackball below the center of the keyboard. It cost $3,200 when it first went on sale.
This photo spread showed four famous California garages. Clockwise from top left: the garage of Walt Disney's uncle in Garden Grove near the present site of Disneyland; David and Lucille Packard's garage in Palo Alto where HP was founded in 1939; the garage of YouTube CEO and former Google exec, Susan Wojcicki, in Menlo Park; and the garage of Steve Jobs's parents, Paul and Clara, in Los Altos.
A centerpiece of the exhibit's "Say What You Want" section is Gilbert Baker's original rainbow flag made in 1976. The flag, which is now used worldwide as a symbol of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride, first flew publicly at the 1978 Gay Freedom Day Parade in San Francisco.
As someone old enough to remember playing Frogger on this console, I enjoyed seeing a pristine Atari 2600. Until it was formally discontinued in 1992, the 2600 was hugely responsible for bringing video games from the arcade into the home. Its original price was $199, which included two joysticks and a Combat Cartridge. Iconic games like Space Invaders were sold separately.
The Aeron chair supported the rear end of many a startup employee during the dotcom boom of the late 1990s. Though comfortable and a fine example of modern design, the chair's high price (north of $1,000) became a symbol of the excess of the dotcom bust.
Two screens next to each other showed scenes from World of Warcraft (seen here) and Second Life. San Francisco-based Linden Lab launched Second Life in 2003 and Blizzard Entertainment in the Southern California suburb of Irvine released World of Warcraft the next year.