Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Microsoft Motel

The Sundowner Motel as it is today

Using Google Earth, a cruise along Route 66 in Albuquerque New Mexico takes you through an industrial wasteland. In a once thriving area of small businesses is now a high-crime zone known for prostitution. In-amongst the gloom of deteriorating commercial buildings stands the vacant and unloved Sundowner Motel.

As you pass by the blight of the boarded-up, abandoned motel, there is no indication that great things happened in one of the modest motel rooms in the mid 1970s that changed the world...

"A Route 66 motor lodge in Albuquerque where Bill Gates and Paul Allen lived while launching Microsoft Corp. is being redeveloped into apartments as part of a neighborhood revival project.

Officials broke ground Thursday on the redevelopment of the Sundowner Uhuru Apartment Complex, one of many projects sought to help revive a once busy area of Albuquerque.

The federally-funded project will create 70 apartments for veterans, the homeless, mixed-income residents, and residents with special needs.

The Sundowner was built in 1960 during the heart of Route 66 tourism.
Gates and Allen later lived at the Sundowner Motel when they wrote a version of the programming language BASIC for the Altair 8800 computer, invented in 1975 by the Albuquerque-based company MITS. The motel was used as a base camp in the mid-1970s before the pair moved Microsoft to the Seattle-area.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry says the motel was "ground zero" for the personal computer revolution and needs to be redeveloped for history.

"All these historic hotels up and down Route 66 have so many stories to tell," Berry said. "If the walls could talk...."

Justin Spielmann, the geoscience collections manager at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, said the motel "is practically where Microsoft started" and played a key role in the upcoming technology revolution."
"This is really the cradle where personal computing sort of came into its own," said Spielmann. "Albuquerque is really the seat of personal computers and the Sundowner plays into that origin."
The $9 million-development includes plans for a growers market, retail, and community space intended for small businesses.
Asbestos remediation on the motel was recently completed and constructed has started on a project official says will bring dozens of jobs to the city.
The Sundowner project is one of many slated for a once popular area of Albuquerque along Route 66.
In recent years, the area around the Sundowner, which was vacant, has been a high-crime zone and known for prostitution."
The partnership that had its origins in a modest guest room of the Sundowner Motel was the beginning of a software giant that now accounts for software on 91% of personal computers worldwide. In my humble opinion, the revitalisation project aimed at attracting corporate welfare doesn't seem to be a fitting tribute.

America was once a country that unapologetically celebrated its nation's corporate achievements in its own brash (and often tacky) style.

Sadly with public money propping up the viability of the Sundowner Motel's revitalisation project, the transformation of a once thriving motel into a low-cost social housing project is destined to become yet another blight on the landscape.

 The Sundowner Motel in its 1960s heyday

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