Monday, December 03, 2007

Memories from the past

I am in the heart of Silicon Valley visiting the Management Developers Conference which starts on Monday. More on that in a later post.

The first day I visited the Computer History Museum (CHM) with its marvelous collection of historic computers and parts. The majority of which is stored in the archive, vacuumed and wrapped in plastics preserved for future generations. Only a small fraction of artifacts is on display, dubbed visible storage.

Here one can see parts of the original ENIAC computer, a real IBM System/360, the Apollo Guidance Computer or a ZUSE Z23. Too bad I didn't bring my camera.

Whats unique about this museum are the - excuse me - human artifacts. Those guys and gals still living in Silicon Valley who designed and hacked the early machines. I really enjoyed a guided tour given by Ray Peck which was sprinkled with background information and anecdotes. Just wonderful.
Next was a live demonstration of the PDP-1 restoration project. One could see a 1961 computer up and running, demoed by Peter Samson and Lyle Bickley. They both hacked the PDP-1 during their student time at MIT. Peter is the original author of the PDP-1 music program and gave an example of his work. Hilarious !

On my way out, I picked up a free copy of Core, the museums biannual publication. The article about rescued treasures was most interesting, showing how challenging preserving history can be.

To quote from the museums flyer: "It's ironic that in an industry so concerned with memory, how quickly we forget."

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