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Are there any stories that go deeper into these the histories and purposes of locations like Black Mesa and Aperture?

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Pre-emptive: Please don't use this site as a reference without using other sources to back it up. That site makes big assumptions based on things not found in any of the games. –  user56 May 7 '11 at 17:09

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The Combine Overwiki has full articles on Aperture Science and Black Mesa. These articles cover all that is canonically known about these organizations. A quick summary:

Aperture Science

  • Location: Upper Michigan
  • Purpose: Originally created as a shower curtain manufacturer by a successful shower curtain salesman, the company eventually evolved "into an experimental physics research institution and a bitter rival of Black Mesa" after the owner became deathly ill and brain-damaged.

Black Mesa

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Hunh. GF taught in Austria? –  Raven Dreamer May 8 '11 at 6:23

Valve had a "GLaDOS Terminal" set up at www.aperturescience.com for a long time. With the right logon and commands you could see a compressed history of Aperture Science. It appears to be gone now (replaced by a Christmas video) but you can still access it here. Type login, Use the username cjohnson and the password tier3 to log in, then issue the notes command.

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For those who are curious, the username and password are found in one of the Rat Man's dens in Portal. –  Maxpm May 8 '11 at 2:29

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