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!

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