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Back from the dead, Silicon Valley icons hitchhike across the US

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Into the Valley A new, rather high mark has been set for those hoping to secure lasting fame here in Silicon Valley. You have to die, be modeled out of wood, have a GPS device secured to your back and hitchhike your way around the country.

Many of you CEOs and top engineers out there are no doubt wondering - am I willing to be made out of wood? Well, you might not have any choice should Mike Mosher, Julie Newdoll, Jim Pallas and Mario Wolczko hear of your accomplishments.

This combination of artists and technophiles has created life-size, wooden cutouts of Lee de Forest, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, William Shockley, Frederick Terman and Robert Noyce - all considered "Fathers of Silicon Valley." And each cutout has its own mission.

The wooden figures ship with information on their backs that details their goal of hitching-hiking from a given point A to a given point B. The figure of Intel co-founder Noyce, for example, has been sent to his boyhood home of Iowa with the request on his back saying that Noyce would like to end up at the Intel Museum out here in Santa Clara. An Iowa pig farmer has agreed to ask local truckers if they'll help the wooden Noyce make its journey. Spectators can then follow Noyce's travels across the country thanks to a GPS tracking device/Google maps combo set up by Wolczko, a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems Labs.

"We tried to pick people that were really on the ground floor of developing Silicon Valley," said Newdoll, an artist who spearheaded the project. (You can see Newdoll's rather fantastic mix of art and science here.)

All five hitch hiker cutouts

De Forest, Hewlett and Packard, Shockley, Terman and Noyce

This particular hitchhiker project was constructed for the ZeroOne festival that's part of the International Symposium of Electronics Art - a conference taking place next week in San Jose. Pallas, however, has crafted non-techie hitchhikers in the past. Most of the creations have gone missing along their journeys.

For the first time ever, Pallas' creations will be trackable thanks to the system devised by Sun's Wolczko. Each figure has a Motorola i415 cell phone strapped to its back, along with a lead-acid battery. The cell phone sends its location information to AccuTracking - a site as handy for keeping tabs on a cheating spouse as it is for following a wooden Terman.

"The commercial technology that can do similar stuff is just really expensive," Wolczko said. "It's not that bad for one system, but when you're paying for this out of your pocket and need five systems, you want to find something cheaper. Also, we were a bit worried that someone might try and steal the equipment.

"Once I found the AccuTracking software, I was hooked. There was no way out. It was all pretty straightforward and took a couple of days to hack together."

Wolczko explains more of the geeky details here. But we know what you all really want, and that's to track a pioneer.

Only Noyce and Terman have been released into the wild thus far, and that's because they have the longest journeys to make. The wooden Noyce is at that pig farm in Iowa, while Terman has started out at MIT where he picked up an advanced degree in electrical engineering.

So far, you can see evidence of Noyce's trip on a delivery truck from Pallas' house to the pig farm in Iowa.

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Next page: A Noyce guy

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