The Brain-Challenging Computer History Museum, Part 2


After the Babbage demonstration, Ruth & I opted for a 2 pm docent tour of the Computer History Museum’s main display area.  Called “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing”, it was made possible by Bill Gates. Know him?   This was the way for us to go for 2 reasons.  Our guide was eloquent, knowledgable, entertaining Allen Rosenzweig, the man who had explained the Babbage Difference Engine #2.  In 19 stuffed galleries, Revolution relates the entire history of computing via 1,100+ objects, 100+ videos, touch-screen stations, etc.

If your 24-7 passion has been computers for as long as you can remember, you’re probably ready to go it alone.  But for a relative novice like me, being led like a child in a lunch line to the more important objects, like an actual Apple 1 (see above), reduced frustration and let me know what I wanted to go back to.  Tours last about an hour and aren’t necessarily at 2 pm, so, if you want one, call ahead (650 810 1010) to find out when that day’s guided tour begins.

Each of the 19 display areas has a theme–Supercomputers, Digital Logic, Early Computer Companies, etc.  This is very helpful to visitors with particular interests.  Way in the minority, I’m less enchanted by, say, Computer Games than Birth of the Computer.   Room 20 is, appropriately, “What’s Next?”

A bit of what blew out my personal circuits:

We’ve come a mind-challenging way at warp speed.  In 1935, a heavy paper dictionary (remember those?) defined “computer” as one who computes.

If I had to pick an event that began it all, I’d have to say the 1880 U.S. census.  Due to European immigration, that paper & pencil people-count took 7 years to achieve relative completeness.  The next census took only 18 months because Herman Hollerith invented & built 50 electronic tabulators that used punch cards.   Thomas Watson bought the company that resulted and renamed it….get ready….IBM.

The very first real computers were built to solve military problems, and the Cold War with Russia upped the game as terms like “launch & response” scared the population.  The 1950s SAGE computer system, an air-defense network, became, reportedly, the biggest defense project in the history of the world up to that time.

Every wonder how Silicon Valley happened?  The disk drive was invented in San Jose.  Intel developed the integrated circuit.  ETC

IBM risked its future with the $5 billion System 360 and then couldn’t make them fast enough.

Xerox started a laboratory on the West Cost in Palo Alto.  Screen+mouse+ typing+ graphical user interface+ ethernet+ laser printers=the future.

A man named Jobs+8-bit 6502+Applesoft BASIC=revolution.

In the 21st century the greatest electronic romance of all occurred when the phone married the computer and that’s where we are.  For now.



About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

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