The computer history museum

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This evening I attended a reception at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA… it was a party for the alumni of the computer science program at the University of Washington.
The reception itself was good, though frankly I didn’t recognize a single student there. I did see a few professors I recognized, most importantly my senior project advisor Tony DeRose (now at Pixar). Gordon Bell and Dennis Ritchie were also there, which was pretty freakin’ cool.
I’m happy to see that my department is doing a bunch of research related to video games. They’re also in a new building! Which is great, because the old building… well, it wasn’t so great. In fact, it was coming apart. But I still have a soft spot in my heart for it, since I spent so much time there.
In any case, the Computer History Museum… is incredible! It was a great place to reminisce… and think “hmmm, I’m getting older!” Except the good news is, I was surrounded by even older people. At one point a young graduate and a much older one were talking to each other. The older one points to a TRS-80 Model I and says “That was the first computer I programmed on!” (It was for me, too…) The young grad walks over to the abacuses and says jokingly, “this was mine!” Sheesh. Kids nowadays. Hhahahhaahah. 🙂
Anyway, the exhibits at the museum were incredible. The place really is just like a big warehouse full of junk, only the junk is all organized and labelled and has historical notes added, and some of it has been refurbished and is working. There are a lot of prototypes there, such as of the Apple Newton. But the most impressive things are the huuuuuge old mainframe computers (ENIAC), and the huge new mainframe computers (Cray Y-MP, etc). They also have the old Galaxy games from Stanford (the Computer Space game that ran on the PSP-11, not the production arcade units), and incredible galleries of memory and long-term storage media over the years. Really wonderful stuff.
My favorite exhibit was this huge disc platter, probably 3 feet in diameter. In the center of the platter was a tiny little hard drive – an IBM microdrive. Both discs were 1GB: the large one was 40,000 times larger than the small one. Aaaaaamazing.
The Computer History Museum has some good images on their website under “Visible Galleries”. But you should really check it out in person. Highly recommended!