posted by Eugenia Loli on Wed 23rd Jul 2003 18:20 UTC
IconThe mission of the newly re-opened Computer History Museum (CHM) in Mountain View, California, is to preserve and present for posterity the artifacts and stories of the information age. As such, we wouldn't miss the opportunity to visit the museum last weekend, trying to be part and have a "feel" of how computers where like before the desktop home computers took off only two decades ago. Before that time, computers were much different, and I am sure that every geek on this planet would like to witness how they looked and felt like. Read more for the report and plenty of pictures from our visit.

The building was acquired just last October and used to be SGI's, built 5-6 years ago "back when they still had money". It is standing next to the SGI campus and it is very modern and spacious with several levels and storage departments.

The museum is open at 1 PM Wednesday and Friday for a 1-hour tour, and on every first and third Saturday of each month for a 1 PM and 2 PM tours. The tours are free for the public. Most tours are done currently by volunteers. We were lucky to be guided by Randy Neff, a knowledgeable guy with a... humor twist.

We started the tour by seeing the first IBM machine, built around 1890, which was made for census purposes. The guide quickly told us the history of IBM and how it became the company we know today. Then we moved to other artifacts like huge hard drives (3 feet in diameter, 25 platters, 100KB per head) and all sorts of tapes from the past 50 years.

One of the highlights of the museum is that they had an Enigma machine on display (check pictures below). A rack of ENIAC followed, which I found very impressive. A quick explanation of Von Neuman's report followed and we saw a few computers created based on this report: Johniac and then Illiac ("NASA had to replace its Illiac with the slower... Cray because they couldn't find spares anymore in the '80s").

We saw a lot of machines from IBM including one of the first S360 series, then it was Digital's turn with most of the PDP range in full display: PDP-8, PDP-11 etc. We also saw a very... funny machine, the "Kitchen Computer" created in the '60s for the... housewives of the time. Too bad they never sold any of these (actually, they only made one) as it was too expensive and the small display was only showing binary code instead of human-readable text. It was definately not something that housewives would like for $10,600 USD of that time.

Other interesting exhibit items were the RAID machine that was built in Berkeley in 1991, which was the one test machine that brought us the RAID protocol, and the first router of the ARPA Net (a.k.a. Internet).

Check the pictures and then read more below for the second page of the article.

Click for a larger version
20th anniversary Mac, a BeBox and an Apple Cube
Click for a larger version
A Sun workstation and a NeXT Cube
Click for a larger version
The Enigma Device
Click for a larger version
Another analog computer
Click for a larger version
Computer that helped in the Great war
Click for a larger version
The IBM census machine
Click for a larger version
The first router
Click for a larger version
16 KBs of memory
Click for a larger version
An analog computer
Click for a larger version
The Wiskonsin "shooting" computer
Click for a larger version
Another defense system
Click for a larger version
Type of memory
Click for a larger version
A rack of the legendary ENIAC
Click for a larger version
Part of a CRAY
Click for a larger version
Storage system based on photography technology
Click for a larger version
A book of the "father of computing", Babbage
Click for a larger version
Computer which handles nuclear bombs
Click for a larger version
Defence system with an ash tray
Click for a larger version
More memory
Click for a larger version
Yes, this is memory
Click below to go to the second page
Table of contents
  1. "Computer History Museum, Page 1"
  2. "Computer History Museum, Page 2"
e p (0)    39 Comment(s)

Technology White Papers

See More