The Computer History Museum (CHM) has a wonderful collection of computers.
I’ve been to the museum a few times. These are photos from my first visit in 2004.
The museum has a long history. Its origins can be traced back to 1968, and was at one stage in Boston—on the other side of the country. Today, the museum has its own building in Mountain View, california: in the heart of Silicon Valley.
This teapot is famous in the field of computer graphics. The teapot was a model used in the early days of 3D graphics. The model was created by Martin Newell at the University of Utah. The model used bézier curves to represent the curved surfaces of the teapot.
The coordinates for the model were manually digitised from this very teapot: the one Newell purchased in 1974.
The Apple I was the first product sold by Apple Computers (now Apple Inc) in 1977. Designed by Steve Wozaiak, it was instrumental in starting the personal computer revolution.
The Apple I was sold as a kit. It was just the circuit board and components, which had to be put together with a soldering iron. The owner also had to supply their own keyboard, monitor and case.
The Hollerith tabulating machine is credited as the start of commercial data processing. Invented by Herman Hollerith around 1884, it was used to process the 1890 US census.
In 1911, Hollerith’s company was merged with four other companies to become the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) which was renamed in 1924 to International Business Machines Corporation (IBM).
The Hollerith tabulating machine used punched card to represent the census data.
Punched cards were used long before computers. They were used to control the weaving machines during the industrial revolution.
Punchard cards were used in computing well into the 1970’s.
IBM was known as “big blue”, because their mainframe computers were big and blue.
Not only were the computers big, but their storage was also big. These are a bank of IBM tape drives.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, computers came with lots of flashing lights and switches. The light showed the status of the computer and what’s in its memory. The switches can be used to enter data—literally one bit at a time.
Computers quickly became smaller and cheaper. From occupying an entire rooms, the smaller “mini-computers” can fit into an equipment rack or on a (large) desk.
The PDP-8 was a popular line of minicomputers produced by the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). Over 50,000 PDF-8 computers were sold between 1965 and 1976.
The PDP-11 was was released in 1970, and over 600,000 of them were sold. Despite looking roughly the same size as a PDP-8, the PDP-11 was a much more powerful general purpose machine.
The Unix operating system first ran on a PDP-11.
The Computer History Museum has many more fascinating items in its large collection.