Nestled amongst the tech giant HQ’s in Silicon Valley you will find, fittingly, the Computer History Museum. This quirky and nerdy museum is an important one and covers the many technological advances that have shaped the world we live in today. From the Abacus to the Internet, it is covered and on full display.
I was lucky enough to experience the Computer History Museum for myself one hungover Sunday in April. Here are some of my favourite highlights.
After an Uber pitstop at In & Out burger, I arrived at the Computer History Museum fully prepared to get my geek on. The Museum’s main exhibit, ”Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing” is split up into 20 galleries and takes guests on a tour through man’s quest to compute. The first few galleries take you back to the invention of the Abacus and other simple calculation tools. Boring yes, but oh-so-important. These tools were the foundation to computers after all.
Man’s quest for bigger, stronger, faster varies in many aspects, including computing. With the invention of the transistor, man’s quest to compute faster received a serious shot in the arm. Suddenly, electronics and circuit boards became smaller, replacing bulky and expensive glass tubes. The “ Supercomputers” of the 60’s and 70’s were massive machines, taking up entire rooms.
Today, the power from those supercomputers can fit in your pocket. Still, the steps made by IBM, Texas Instruments, and Cray Computers were important steps in getting us to today and beyond. On display in these exhibits, you will find a mock-up of IBM’s Model 65 and the Cray-1 Supercomputer, the world’s most expensive loveseat. Cray-1’s design was key to cramming more in and seats were added to cover the cooling system below.
Again, odd yes. Important? Absolutely.
PCs, Vids, and Animation
Easily the most interesting galleries at the Computer History Museum are those dedicated to the move from large supercomputing only found in universities, banks, and government agencies to those found in your home. Hobbyist by the names of Jobs and Gates led to more important things like the creation of video games, home computers, and computer animation.
Okay, so maybe they’re not important in a “saving the world” sense, however, they are very important in computing. Inside you will find the Neiman-Marcus kitchen computer, an Apple One, Commodore 64, and an Atari system.
You know you’re our old when your entire childhood is behind glass in a museum.
Also on display is the system designed to create and animate “Toy Story,” a movie that kicked off the endless possibilities of computer animation.
As I always seem to do when lost in a museum, I spent too much time at the first few exhibits and had to speed through the rest. This meant skipping past Google’s first rack of servers and an exhibit on computer networking. I did have a bit of time to play in the museum’s interactive section. There, guests learn about simple programming skills such as loops and subroutines through simple games and coding.
A Silicon Valley Must
Visiting the Computer History Museum is a must for any nerd heading to Silicon Valley. And really, if you are visiting Silicon Valley chances are this is right up your alley. It is a museum dedicated to appreciating the complete story of where we are today, how we got here, and where we are going in the future in the computing world.
It truly is about as much fun as you can have in Silicon Valley…unless you are a hockey fan like me of course.
What say you?
Thoughts on the Computer History Museum?
Let’s hear it!