Computer History Museum

The Computer History Museum (CHM) is a museum established in 1996 in Mountain View, California, US. The museum is dedicated to preserving and presenting the stories and artifacts of the information age, and exploring the computing revolution and its impact on society.

Computer History Museum
Computer history museum
LocationMountain View, California, US
Coordinates37°24′52″N 122°04′37″W / 37.414371°N 122.076817°WCoordinates: 37°24′52″N 122°04′37″W / 37.414371°N 122.076817°W


The museum's origins date to 1968 when Gordon Bell began a quest for a historical collection and, at that same time, others were looking to preserve the Whirlwind computer. The resulting Museum Project had its first exhibit in 1975, located in a converted coat closet in a DEC lobby. In 1978, the museum, now The Digital Computer Museum (TDCM), moved to a larger DEC lobby in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Maurice Wilkes presented the first lecture at TDCM in 1979 – the presentation of such lectures has continued to the present time.

TDCM incorporated as The Computer Museum (TCM) in 1982. In 1984, TCM moved to Boston, locating on Museum Wharf.

In 1996/1997, The TCM History Center (TCMHC) in Silicon Valley was established; a site at Moffett Field was provided by NASA (an old building that was previously the Naval Base furniture store) and a large number of artifacts were shipped there from TCM.

In 1999, TCMHC incorporated and TCM ceased operation, shipping its remaining artifacts to TCMHC in 2000. The name TCM had been retained by the Boston Museum of Science so, in 2000, the name TCMHC was changed to Computer History Museum (CHM).

In 2002, CHM opened its new building (previously occupied by Silicon Graphics), at 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd in Mountain View, California, to the public.[1][2] The facility was later heavily renovated and underwent a two-year $19 million makeover before reopening in January 2011.[3]

Collections and exhibition space

Steve Russell-PDP-1-20070512
Steve Russell, creator of Spacewar!, operating the PDP-1 at the Computer History Museum
Difference Engine Computer History Museum - Aug 2015
Charles Babbage's Difference Engine on Display at the Computer History Museum

The Computer History Museum claims to house the largest and most significant collection of computing artifacts in the world (the Heinz Nixdorf Museum, Paderborn, Germany, has more items on display but a far smaller total collection[1][4]). This includes many rare or one-of-a-kind objects such as a Cray-1 supercomputer as well as a Cray-2, Cray-3, the Utah teapot, the 1969 Neiman Marcus Kitchen Computer, an Apple I, and an example of the first generation of Google's racks of custom-designed web servers.[5] The collection comprises nearly 90,000 objects, photographs and films, as well as 4,000 feet (1,200 m) of cataloged documentation and several hundred gigabytes of software. The CHM oral history program conducts video interviews around the history of computing and networking, with over 700 as of 2016.

The museum's 25,000-square-foot (2,300 m2) exhibit "Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing," opened to the public on January 13, 2011. It covers the history of computing in 20 galleries, from the abacus to the Internet. The entire exhibition is also available online.[6][7][8]

The museum features a Liquid Galaxy in the “Going Places: A History of Silicon Valley” exhibit. The exhibit features 20 preselected locations that visitors can fly to on the Liquid Galaxy.[9]

The museum has several additional exhibits, including a restoration of an historic PDP-1 minicomputer, two restored IBM 1401 computers, and an exhibit on the history of autonomous vehicles, from torpedoes to self-driving cars.

An operating Difference Engine designed by Charles Babbage in the 1840s and constructed by the Science Museum of London was on display until January 31, 2016. It had been on loan since 2008 from its owner, Nathan Myhrvold, a former Microsoft executive.[10]

Former media executive John Hollar was appointed CEO of The Computer History Museum in July 2008.

In 2010 the museum began with the collection of source code of important software, beginning with Apple's MacPaint 1.3, written in a combination of Assembly and Pascal and available as download for the public.[11][12] In 2012 the APL programming language followed.[13] In February 2013 Adobe Systems, Inc. donated the Photoshop 1.0.1 source code to the collection.[14][15] On March 25, 2014 followed Microsoft with the source code donation of SCP MS-DOS 1.25 and a mixture of Altos MS-DOS 2.11 and TeleVideo PC DOS 2.11 as well as Word for Windows 1.1a under their own license.[16][17] On October 21, 2014, Xerox Alto's source code and other resources followed.[18]


The CHM Fellows are exceptional men and women 'whose ideas have changed the world [and] affected nearly every human alive today'. The first fellow was Rear Admiral Grace Hopper in 1987. The fellows program has grown to 80 members as of 2018.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Bell, Gordon (2011).
  2. ^ Backgrounder Archived 2005-03-01 at the Wayback Machine Press release on the Computer History Museum
  3. ^ "COMPUTER HISTORY MUSEUMS MAJOR NEW EXHIBITION OPENS". Computer History Museum. Archived from the original on January 3, 2017. Retrieved March 5, 2017.
  4. ^ Heinz Nixdorf Museum Archived 2011-07-09 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ How Google Works David F. Carr,, July 6, 2006
  6. ^ Wollan, Malia (2011-01-13). "Computer History Museum Unveils Its Makeover". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2016-12-04.
  7. ^ Bilton, Nick (2010-01-14). "Bits Pics: The Computer History Museum". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2011-01-19. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  8. ^ "Computer History Museums Major New Exhibition Opens January 12th 2011". Archived from the original on 2011-01-17. Retrieved 2011-01-15.
  9. ^ "David Laws' App Shines in New Exhibit at Computer History Museum". BATW. Archived from the original on 2017-01-06.
  10. ^ Difference Engine Leaves Computer History Museum Archived 2016-03-02 at the Wayback Machine, Mark Moack, Mountain View Voice, January 28, 2016
  11. ^ "MacPaint and QuickDraw Source Code". Computer History Museum. July 20, 2010. Archived from the original on August 22, 2012.
  12. ^ Hesseldahl, Erik (2010-07-20). "Apple Donates MacPaint Source Code To Computer History Museum". Archived from the original on 2012-02-09.
  13. ^ Shustek, Len (2012-10-10). "The APL Programming Language Source Code". Archived from the original on 2013-10-07. Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  14. ^ Bishop, Bryan (2013-02-14). "Adobe releases original Photoshop source code for nostalgic developers". Archived from the original on 2014-01-17. Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  15. ^ Adobe Photoshop Source Code Archived May 7, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Shustek, Len (2014-03-24). "Microsoft Word for Windows Version 1.1a Source Code". Archived from the original on 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2014-03-29.
  17. ^ Levin, Roy (2014-03-25). "Microsoft makes source code for MS-DOS and Word for Windows available to public". Official Microsoft Blog. Archived from the original on 2014-03-28. Retrieved 2014-03-29. (NB. While the author and publishers claim the package would include MS-DOS 1.1 and 2.0, it actually contains SCP MS-DOS 1.25 and a mixture of files from Altos MS-DOS 2.11 and TeleVideo PC DOS 2.11.)
  18. ^ McJones, Paul (2014-10-21). "Xerox Alto Source Code - The roots of the modern personal computer". Software Gems: The Computer History Museum Historical Source Code Series. Computer History Museum. Archived from the original on 2015-01-02. Retrieved 2015-01-08. With the permission of the Palo Alto Research Center, the Computer History Museum is pleased to make available, for non-commercial use only, snapshots of Alto source code, executables, documentation, font files, and other files from 1975 to 1987.
  19. ^ Computer History Museum Hall of Fellows Archived 2015-01-02 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading

External links

Alan Kotok

Alan Kotok (November 9, 1941 – May 26, 2006) was an American computer scientist known for his work at Digital Equipment Corporation (Digital, or DEC) and at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Steven Levy, in his book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, describes Kotok and his classmates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as the first true hackers.

Kotok was a precocious child who skipped two grades before college. At MIT he became a member of the Tech Model Railroad Club, and after enrolling in MIT's first freshman programming class, he helped develop some of the earliest computer software including a digital audio program and what is sometimes called the first video game (Spacewar!). Together with his teacher John McCarthy and other classmates, he was part of the team that wrote the Kotok-McCarthy program which took part in the first chess match between computers.

After leaving MIT, Kotok joined the computer manufacturer DEC, where he worked for over 30 years. He was the chief architect of the PDP-10 family of computers, and created the company's Internet Business Group, responsible for several forms of Web-based technology including the first popular search engine. Kotok is known for his contributions to the Internet and to the World Wide Web through his work at the World Wide Web Consortium, which he and Digital had helped to found, and where he served as associate chairman.

Bill Joy

William Nelson Joy (born November 8, 1954) is an American computer engineer. He co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982 along with Vinod Khosla, Scott McNealy, and Andy Bechtolsheim, and served as chief scientist at the company until 2003. He played an integral role in the early development of BSD UNIX while a graduate student at Berkeley, and he is the original author of the vi text editor. He also wrote the 2000 essay Why The Future Doesn't Need Us, in which he expressed deep concerns over the development of modern technologies.

Difference engine

A difference engine created by Charles Babbage is an automatic mechanical calculator designed to tabulate polynomial functions. Its name is derived from the method of divided differences, a way to interpolate or tabulate functions by using a small set of polynomial coefficients. Most mathematical functions commonly used by engineers, scientists and navigators, including logarithmic and trigonometric functions, can be approximated by polynomials, so a difference engine can compute many useful tables of numbers.

The historical difficulty in producing error-free tables by teams of mathematicians and human "computers" spurred Charles Babbage's desire to build a mechanism to automate the process.

Donn Lewin

Donn Lewin (April 1, 1926 – December 18, 2010) was an American professional wrestler, marine and tropical fish breeder. He is the father of Dan'l Lewin, the CEO/President of the Computer History Museum and former Apple/NeXT employee.

Eudora (email client)

Eudora is an email client that was used on the classic Mac OS, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows operating systems. It also supported several palmtop computing platforms, including Newton and the Palm OS. In 2018, after being years out of print, the software was open-sourced by the Computer History Museum.


The command-line tool exe2bin is a post-compilation utility program available on MS-DOS and other operating systems.

Gate array

A gate array is an approach to the design and manufacture of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) using a prefabricated chip with components that are later interconnected into logic devices (e.g. NAND gates, flip-flops,etc.) according to a custom order by adding metal interconnect layers in the factory.

Similar technologies have also been employed to design and manufacture analog, analog-digital, and structured arrays, but, in general, these are not called gate arrays.

Gate arrays have also been known as Uncommitted Logic Arrays (ULAs) and semi-custom chips.

John Cocke

John Cocke (May 30, 1925 – July 16, 2002) was an American computer scientist recognized for his large contribution to computer architecture and optimizing compiler design. He is considered by many to be "the father of RISC architecture."He attended Duke University, where he received his Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1946 and his Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1956. Cocke spent his entire career as an industrial researcher for IBM, from 1956 to 1992.

Perhaps the project where his innovations were most noted was in the IBM 801 minicomputer, where his realization that matching the design of the architecture's instruction set to the relatively simple instructions actually emitted by compilers could allow high performance at a low cost.

He is one of the inventors of the CYK algorithm (C for Cocke). He was also involved in the pioneering speech recognition and machine translation work at IBM in the 1970s and 1980s, and is credited by Frederick Jelinek with originating the idea of using a trigram language model for speech recognition.Cocke was appointed IBM Fellow in 1972. He won the Eckert-Mauchly Award in 1985, ACM Turing Award in 1987, the National Medal of Technology in 1991 and the National Medal of Science in 1994, IEEE John von Neumann Medal in 1984, The Franklin Institute's Certificate of Merit in 1996, the Seymour Cray Computer Engineering Award in 1999, and The Benjamin Franklin Medal in 2000.

In 2002, he was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum "for his development and implementation of reduced instruction set computer architecture and program optimization technology."He was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and died in Valhalla, New York.

Ken Thompson

Kenneth Lane Thompson (born February 4, 1943) is an American pioneer of computer science. Having worked at Bell Labs for most of his career, Thompson designed and implemented the original Unix operating system. He also invented the B programming language, the direct predecessor to the C programming language, and was one of the creators and early developers of the Plan 9 operating system. Since 2006, Thompson has worked at Google, where he co-invented the Go programming language.

Other notable contributions included his work on regular expressions and early computer text editors QED and ed, the definition of the UTF-8 encoding, his work on computer chess that included creation of endgame tablebases and the chess machine Belle.


Kotok-McCarthy also known as A Chess Playing Program for the IBM 7090 Computer was the first computer program to play chess convincingly. It is also remembered because it played in and lost the first chess match between two computer programs.

Lee Felsenstein

Lee Felsenstein (born April 27, 1945) is an American computer engineer who played a central role in the development of the personal computer. He was one of the original members of the Homebrew Computer Club and the designer of the Osborne 1, the first mass-produced portable computer.

Before the Osborne, Felsenstein designed the Intel 8080 based "SOL" computer from Processor Technology, the PennyWhistle modem, and other early "S-100 bus" era designs. His shared-memory alphanumeric video display design, the Processor Technology VDM-1 video display module board, was widely copied and became the basis for the standard display architecture of personal computers.

Many of his designs were leaders in reducing costs of computer technologies for the purpose of making them available to large markets. His work featured a concern for the social impact of technology and was influenced by the philosophy of Ivan Illich. Felsenstein was the engineer for the Community Memory project, one of the earliest attempts to place networked computer terminals in public places to facilitate social interactions among individuals, in the era before the commercial Internet.

In 2016, Lee was made a Fellow of the Computer History Museum.

List of historical anniversaries

Condensed list of historical anniversaries.

Lois Haibt

Lois Mitchell Haibt (born 1934) is an American computer scientist best known for being a member of the ten-person team at IBM that developed FORTRAN, the first successful high-level programming language. She is known as an early pioneer in computer science.

Lynn Conway

Lynn Ann Conway (born January 2, 1938) is an American computer scientist, electrical engineer, inventor, and transgender activist.Conway is notable for a number of pioneering achievements, including the Mead & Conway revolution in VLSI design, which incubated an emerging electronic design automation industry. She worked at IBM in the 1960s and is credited with the invention of generalized dynamic instruction handling, a key advance used in out-of-order execution, used by most modern computer processors to improve performance.


MacPaint is a raster graphics editor developed by Apple Computer and released with the original Macintosh personal computer on January 24, 1984. It was sold separately for US$195 with its word processor counterpart, MacWrite. MacPaint was notable because it could generate graphics that could be used by other applications. Using the mouse, and the clipboard and QuickDraw picture language, pictures could be cut from MacPaint and pasted into MacWrite documents.The original MacPaint was developed by Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple's original Macintosh development team. Early development versions of MacPaint were called MacSketch, still retaining part of the name of its roots, LisaSketch. It was later developed by Claris, the software subsidiary of Apple which was formed in 1987. The last version of MacPaint was version 2.0, released in 1988. It was discontinued by Claris in 1998 because of diminishing sales.


The PDP-1 (Programmed Data Processor-1) is the first computer in Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP series and was first produced in 1959. It is famous for being the computer most important in the creation of hacker culture at MIT, BBN and elsewhere. The PDP-1 is the original hardware for playing history's first game on a minicomputer, Steve Russell's Spacewar!


The structured computer-aided logic design (SCALD) software, was a computer aided design system developed for building the S-1 computer. It used the Stanford University Drawing System (SUDS), and it was developed by Thomas M. McWilliams and Lawrence Curtis Widdoes, Jr. The work led to the start of the Valid Logic Systems company.

Sophie Wilson

Sophie Wilson FRS FREng (born 1957) is a leading computer scientist who has been named one of The 15 Most Important Women in Tech History. Wilson designed the Acorn Micro-Computer, the first of a long line of computers sold by Acorn Computers Ltd, including its programming language BBC BASIC. Wilson later designed the instruction set of the ARM processor, which is used in most 21st-century smartphones. Wilson serves as a director at the technology conglomerate Broadcom Inc. In 2016, Wilson was appointed an honorary fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge.

Utah teapot

The Utah teapot, or the Newell teapot, is a 3D test model that has become a standard reference object and an in-joke within the computer graphics community. It is a mathematical model of an ordinary teapot that appears solid, cylindrical, and partially convex. A teapot primitive is considered the equivalent of a "Hello, World" program, as a way to create an easy 3D scene with a somewhat complex model acting as a basic geometry reference for scene and light setup. Some programming libraries, such as the OpenGL Utility Toolkit, even have functions dedicated to drawing teapots.

The teapot model was created in 1975 by early computer graphics researcher Martin Newell, a member of the pioneering graphics program at the University of Utah.

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