1945, the on-board computer from the
Gemini space capsule, the Apple 1, a
LEGO Turing machine, and Europe’s
largest collection of cipher machines.
One of the current attractions at HNF
is the world’s most famous automaton:
Wolfgang von Kempelen’s chess playing machine, the Chess Turk, which
dates from the 18th century.
The exhibition was updated in 2004
with the addition of new themes such
as robotics and artificial intelligence,
mobile communications, and digitization. The new galleries present the
latest information technology themes
in an interactive, multimedia exhibit.
Visitors can try their skills at old and
new computer games, test advanced
man-machine interfaces, and experiment with the latest applications and
products from research and industry in
the showroom. A multimedia scenario
presents 150 pioneers of computer history from 1940–2009. Along with conventional museum formats, HNF has
chosen to use a range of interactive
multimedia applications and videos:
approximately 100 special interactive
multimedia application developments
and video installations introduce visitors to the functions of the objects that
are on display as well as to the life stories of famous historical figures.
Themes relating to the present and
the future are also presented in HNF’s
Software Theatre, which offers virtual
tours through cyberspace. Visitors can
test the latest computer applications
and software developments at the Digital Workbench. The games booths offer educational games and games of
skill and strategy for guests to try out.
In 2005, the HNF marked the 40th
anniversary of Moore’s Law by presenting a huge illuminated “chip pagoda”
demonstrating the continuous minimization of the chip surface area over
the years in 20 stages. The individual
levels of the pagoda consist of illuminated plexiglass panes and the display
is lit by some 3,500 LEDs.
In 2007, the HNF opened the world’s
first gallery on software and computer
science (informatics). A black cube is
decorated on its “shell” with early instances of computer programs and 13
small “miracle chambers of computer
science.” These provide concrete three-dimensional examples of ostensibly abstract topics: Russian nested dolls are
used to explain the method of recursion,
while a tin of English luncheon meat
demonstrates the origins of the term
“spam,” and toy robots illustrate an important software application area.
HNF has compiled a varied educational museum program to motivate
children and young people to take an
active approach to the exhibits and
their history. At workshops children
can, for example, build robots, encrypt
messages or learn how to ‘make’ paper.
Teachers and pupils are given numerous ideas for study content. Besides a
guided tour of the permanent exhibition, special tours can be booked on
such topics as arithmetic, writing, inventors and entrepreneurs, women’s
work in information technology, and
Special HNF events focus on people in the information age. Numerous
presentations, discussions, conferences and workshops deal with current concerns in today’s information
society and information technology. A
quarterly newsletter on HNF activities
is published in two languages and distributed free of charge.
Alongside the permanent exhibition, the museum has two additional
areas that cater to an ambitious special exhibition program, such as focusing on historical slot machines or the
world of computer games.
The HNF’s “Computer.Medicine”
exhibition, designed to provide a broad
overview of the computer’s importance
in present-day medicine and featuring
many exhibits on loan from abroad,
proved to be the most successful exhibition in the history of the HNF, attracting
more than 93,000 visitors. The exhibition is currently being shown in Vienna
(until mid-April) on the occasion of the
100th anniversary of the opening of the
Austrian Technology Museum.
Until the end of February, the HNF
in cooperation with the MIT Museum is
presenting the exhibition “Codes and
Clowns: Claude Shannon, The Juggling
Scientist,” which will showcase Claude
Shannon’s scientific work as well as his
famous toy collection. The selection of
Shannon’s inventions range from the
highly practical to the downright useless and the presentation sets Shannon’s inventions in the context of his
biography and the history of information technology, shedding light on the
relevant scientific relationships and
implications. The exhibits are on loan
from the MIT Museum in Boston, MA,
the first time they have been on display
a different location.
The Forum part of the HNF organizes over 800 events every year, ranging
from scientific congresses to popular
lecture series, senior’s IT workshops,
and business fairs.
Norbert Ryska ( email@example.com) is the managing director
of the Heinz nixdorf MuseumsForum.
Copyright held by author.