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Computer Museums - fun for the whole family

By imrdkl in Culture
Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 05:50:34 AM EST
Tags: Technology (all tags)

Who will remember computers?

An historical perspective of computers, outside of a written or pictorial perspective, takes one thing in particular. Space. Lots of space. This article will give you an overview of a few of the larger and best endowed Computer and Technology museums around the world, along with a couple of local efforts.

Preserving the history of computing is the challenge that is faced by a growing number of computer museums, and meeting the challenge takes interest, time, money, and lots of space. As I was researching this note, I found that quite a large number of these real working museums have closed, or moved. My supposition is that the space required is simply too expensive, for the audience (thus donations) which are received

What is left, primarily, are web-based Virtual Museums by the dozens, where photographs and historical notes aplenty can be found. I haven't included these virtual museums, but I am certainly interested in linkage which you think is interesting. More interesing, perhaps, are links to real computer/tech museums which aren't listed here.

US - Mostly California

Computer Museum History Center
The Computer Museum History Center, located in Mt. View, CA, is a very well-endowed museum, with more than 3000 artifacts. Established in 1996, with the help and artifacts which were formerly located at the Computer Museum in Boston, MA, this museum has plans to relocate in Moffett Field, as part of the proposed NASA Research Park.
Current exhibits at the Computer Museum History Center include A History of the Internet: 1962-1992 as well as Microprocessor Evolution: 1971-1996. Their Collections include an Apollo Guidance Computer among many thousands of offerings.
Computer Museum of America
The Computer Museum of America in San Diego has a nice collection of interesting items, including a Royal Precision Vacuum Tube Computer of which they are quite proud. They have also recently obtained an Brunsviga Midget calculator, a curious little beast indeed.
The Tech - San Jose
While not formally a computer museum, the Tech Museum of Innovation in lovely, warm Downtown San Jose, CA, has a large and quite diversified exhibit of computers, and plenty of other cool stuff to hold the interest of children and adults alike. The Tech is primarily a "Hands On" museum, which makes it great fun and a learning experience for children in science and technology. Current exhibits include The Science of Sport, in the spirit of the Olympics, and their regular collections continue to expand.
UC Davis - Computer Science Museum
At the UC Davis, also in California, one can find their Computer Science Museum in the Engineering building (possibly relocated by now), with a small collection of things.
American Computer Museum - Compuseum
And dont forget the American Computer Museum - Compuseum, located in lovely Bozeman, MO, this little museum seems like a nice, local effort to put together a collection of various artifacts which illustrate even the earliest history of information exchange.


Computer Museum at Bletchley Park
The Computer Museum at Bletchley Park, in affiliation with the Station X, proudly claims the honor of being the location where German WWII codes were broken, and houses a number of relics, including plenty of information and hardware which was used by none other than Alan Turing himeslf.
Computer Museum - University of Amsterdam
In Amsterdam, if you can tear yourself away from other distractions, you'll find the Computer Museum, University of Amsterdam has a collection of artifacts, including old calculators and analog systems such as the EAI 680.

I should state in closing that I have personally only visited one (1) of these fine institutions, that being The Tech in San Jose. If you have been to any of the others, please consider sharing your impressions.


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How many Tech Musuems have you seen?
o 0 47%
o 1-2 31%
o 3-4 13%
o more 7%

Votes: 38
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Computer Museum History Center
o Computer Museum
o Moffett Field
o A History of the Internet: 1962-1992
o Microprocessor Evolution: 1971-1996
o Collection s
o Apollo Guidance Computer
o Computer Museum of America
o Royal Precision Vacuum Tube Computer
o Brunsviga Midget calculator
o Tech Museum of Innovation
o The Science of Sport
o regular collections
o Computer Science Museum
o collection
o American Computer Museum - Compuseum
o collection [2]
o Computer Museum at Bletchley Park
o Station X
o Alan Turing
o Computer Museum [2]
o collection [3]
o calculators
o analog systems
o Also by imrdkl

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Computer Museums - fun for the whole family | 15 comments (11 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
Smithsonian Institution (5.00 / 1) (#5)
by Bad Harmony on Fri Feb 08, 2002 at 07:12:58 PM EST

The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. has exhibits on the history of computers in the Museum of History and Technology. The last time I was there, which was a very long time ago, they had a UNIVAC I and part of the ENIAC.

The NSA also has a small museum just outside of Fort Meade in Laurel, Maryland with some computer related exhibits.

5440' or Fight!

Definitely (5.00 / 1) (#6)
by 90X Double Side on Fri Feb 08, 2002 at 07:42:55 PM EST

The Smithsonian exhibit really has some of the most important computers around. The web page for the exhibit is at http://americanhistory.si.edu/csr/comphist/, and there is actually quite a bit of interesting content on it.

“Reality is just a convenient measure of complexity”
—Alvy Ray Smith
[ Parent ]
Missed one... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by jeffy124 on Fri Feb 08, 2002 at 08:10:31 PM EST

The ENIAC Museum

Home of the first computer. Located at University of Pennsylvania Moore Building, Southwest Corner of 33rd & Walnut, Philadelphia, PA.
You're the straw that broke the camel's back!

Intel Museum (5.00 / 1) (#8)
by pbryson on Fri Feb 08, 2002 at 09:04:16 PM EST

There's a free museum in the Robert Noyce building at Intel's Santa Clara headquarters. It's pretty nifty, lots of hands on stuff about how chips are made, and how CPUs work. If you're in the South SF Bay area, stop in sometime.

- - - - - - - - -
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The Old Boston one (4.00 / 1) (#9)
by Woundweavr on Fri Feb 08, 2002 at 09:30:56 PM EST

The first Computer Museum was in Boston. It was next to the Children's Museum and took the form of a giant computer. It was a little lame compared to the ENIAC museum at Penn or the stuff in the Smithstonian. It closed and merged with the Musuem of Science. While its pretty cool to look at some of the artifacts and old computers, it lacked any real 'wow' exhibits or neato gadjets. The stuff that didn't go to the MoS went to the Computer Museum History Center as stated in the article.

Yup (none / 0) (#10)
by imrdkl on Fri Feb 08, 2002 at 09:41:11 PM EST

I did cover the Boston site, if you check your link, you'll find that it actually redirects now to the one I mentioned. A sad day for Boston when they packed up and left, no? I mean, who would not want a tech museum in their own city?

[ Parent ]
Lucky to live near 2 (informal) Computer Museums (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by gauze on Fri Feb 08, 2002 at 10:41:54 PM EST

They are both in Rhode Island. The first and my favorite is the Retro-Computing Society of RI the focus is on Mini and Mainframe computers (there are actually only a few micros left one being the AT&T Unix PC 7300 which is a 68k machine that ran SysV.2 most of the rest being Sun workstations that are work machines for the space.) Last August a complete DECSystem-10 (PDP-10/1090/KL10) was added to the collection. Beautiful Blue 6.5 ton machine!
The other one is the Rhode Island Computer Museum which has just TONS of micros but also has some cool old minis and stuff. The crowning jewel is perhaps the PDP-9.
I guess I'm pretty fortunate to have them in such a small state.

There's nothing wrong with a PC that a little UNIX won't cure.
Stanford (5.00 / 1) (#12)
by pfaffben on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 11:37:05 AM EST

There's a small computer science museum here in the Computer Science building at Stanford. It's scattered throughout the building in the lobby area on each of the 5 floors. There's some information on it available online.

Review of The Tech in San Jose (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by mahlen on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 02:08:26 PM EST

I was underwhelmed by The Tech. It must be fun for children, but it wasn't that novel to me. It's a very stylish museum, it must photograph well, but I didn't notice a lot in new information. There was an interesting display of equipment used to make chips with.

But my wife and I did like the Earthquake Simulator, which uses seimograph readings from the big earthquakes to rattle an 8 foot square platform around. Having been in a couple of the depicted earthquakes, it was pretty accurate.


Sleep is for amateurs.

Siemens-Nixdorf Computer Museum in Paderborn, DE. (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by strickje on Sat Feb 09, 2002 at 11:23:19 PM EST

If you happen to be in Europe, there is an interesting computer museum in Paderborn, Germany, sponsored by Siemens-Nixdorf. As I recall, it was about three floors, separated somewhat chronologically. Lots of old mechanical calculating devices, some of which were hands-on exhibits.
Probably doesn't compare with something like Bletchley Park, but still a great way to spend the day.

Hein Nixdorf MuseumsForum (none / 0) (#15)
by elektrogott on Sun Feb 10, 2002 at 04:30:17 PM EST

It's called Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum"
They have also some information on the origins of scripture and applied mathmatics, which I found exceptionally interesting. Also notable are their special exhibitions (currently Computer.Brain") and the lectures (mostly german, open to public) given there.

P.S. There is no company called Siemens-Nixdorf anymore.

[ Parent ]
Computer Museums - fun for the whole family | 15 comments (11 topical, 4 editorial, 0 hidden)
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