Preserving and Demonstrating History

A few weeks ago, I went to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA with a friend of mine. I had gone to its predecessor in Boston in 1990, The Computer Museum (closed in 1999). While the Boston museum focused on how a computer works, the Mountain View museum focuses on the history and the people of computing. Which, as you can see from the titles of both museums, is a conscious difference of focus.

That particular day I visited the History Museum, a demonstration of the PDP-1 was being held twice that day. I admit that while I knew this was an important device, I was murky at the time as to its exact history. Going to the demonstration made me hurt myself for forgetting. The PDP-1 was the first ‘personal’ computer in the sense that one person could operate the machine rather than a team of computer engineers. This paved the way for the MIT Tech Model Railroad Club to make key software in computer history, including Spacewar!

What made this even more special was not just the presence of a working PDP-1, but that one could actually play Spacewar!, on the original hardware. While the control box was a modern fabrication (the original used telephone key switches), the controls were connected to the PDP-1 directly and used the PDP-1’s screen to play. That’s powerful for telling a historical narrative.

PDP-1: Screen

All of this leads me to an idea and/or wish I’ve had for some time:

I want to preserve this historical artifacts of this industry.
I want more than just a book to tell me these things (great book, want more).
I want to make sure every game on every platform can be played.
I want to make sure the story of developing these titles are told and not lost.

I want a computer and console game history museum.

Obviously this is the start of my thoughts on the subject, but expect more when I finally get around to making more posts…