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.