Highlights of the
1. CDC 6600 transfer board, serial
number 1: the CDC 6600 was a Control
Data Corporation mainframe computer designed by legendary computer
architect seymour Cray. it is considered
the first successful supercomputer, and
was the world’s fastest computer from
1964 to 1969.
2. Busicom calculator prototype: the
first device to use the first microprocessor, the intel 4004 from 1971.
3. Altair BASIC paper tape: An original
tape of the BAsiC language interpreter
written by Bill Gates for the Altair 8800
computer, and signed by him.
4. Apollo Guidance Computer: the computer which, with less computing power
than a typical digital watch, guided the
Apollo lunar module through its descent to the moon’s surface in 1969.
5. SAGE: A huge and amazingly reliable
air defense computer built in the 1950s
out of 51,000 vacuum tubes and located
in an underground concrete bunker.
6. John Backus interview: Videotape
and transcript of a long interview with
Fortran pioneer John Backus, made the
year before he died.
7. Apple Lisa ephemera: Button, hat, t-shirt, and poster for the 1983 release of
the graphics-oriented Lisa computer.
8. Johnniac: Built in 1954 and named
for John von neumann, this was one of
17 custom-built machines inspired by
his design, and is the only complete one
that has survived.
9. Rabdologia: An original copy of
napier’s 1617 book on calculating
methods, including a description of his
10. IBM card sorter: A model 080
punched card sorter from 1925. Although over 10,000 were made, few have
11. Palm Pilot prototype: the engineering model of the first highly successful
personal digital assistant.
to search the online catalog, see
to view historic videos and recent
lecture events, see http://www.youtube.
on, and forever more, computers will
be an intimate and inseparable part of
our life and work. The engines of the
19th century industrial revolution were
amplifiers for our physical bodies. The
computers of the 20th century information revolution are amplifiers for
Viewed from 1,000 years from now,
the 50 years that elapsed from the invention of the computer to its ubiquitous use will seem like a point in time.
We owe it to ourselves as current participants, and to future generations as
our beneficiaries, to document and explain how the information revolution
came to be.
This perspective motivates the
mission of the Computer History Museum (CHM; http://www.computer-
history.org): “To preserve and present
for posterity the artifacts and stories
of the information age.” Therefore,
the Computer History Museum is an
evolving institution with three primary
Collecting. At the core of CHM is
the computing collection, which was
started 30 years ago in Boston, MA, by
Gordon and Gwen Bell within Digital
Equipment Corporation. It then became part of The Computer Museum,
a public museum in Boston, and when
that institution closed in 1999 the collection became part of CHM. This ever-growing repository, whose catalog is
online, now has about 70,000 objects
in six categories:
Physical artifacts: from microscop- ˲
ic chips to room-sized mainframes;
Software: source code, executable ˲
code, and documentation for systems
and applications, both in original formats and converted to modern digital
Documents: 30 million pages of ˲
primary reference material useful for
the technical, business, and social history of computing, much of which is
unpublished or near-print;
Photographs: tens of thousands of ˲
prints, negatives, and digital images of
items, locations, and people related to
the history of computing
Moving images: films and videos ˲
stored on many kinds of media, most
of which have been converted to digital
Oral histories: interviews of com- ˲
puting pioneers, most done using