Friday, May 09, 2008

The museum for geeks

Most geeks I know of don't give a damn about Museums. I have known a lot of geeks, but I am still not confident that I can make a generalization out of it. But I did find one museum which I believe would be interesting for geeks too - Computer History Museum at Mountain View, CA. I visited it last Saturday with Manav and had a great time.

Apart from the machines or reproduction of machines from over 100 years, they also have free guided tours. They also have been working on restoring old machines like the PDP-1 and have also obtained one of the world's two Babbage Machines. We were lucky enough to witness a live working demo of the PDP-1 when we want and the Babbage Engine is going to be inaugurated this Saturday. If you are interested in these things, head out there this weekend.

I will share a bunch of photos along with some descriptions:

The worlds first router, though it was called "Interface Message Processor" back then.

Peter telling us about the PDP1. He also told us the story of how he lost the punch cards for the original music he wrote and how he got it back 40 years later at the musuem and how they reconstructed the program to synthesize the music and how he manage to restore everything together. The demo was a once in a lifetime experience.

Peter Samson and Stephen Rusell are live demoing the PDP-1 to us. Peter wrote the first music software, which synthesized 4 tunes and it was written on a PDP 1 and he actually demoed the original 40 year old music program to us. Stephen wrote the first Video Game, again on a PDP 1 and he also demoed it us. It had 4 controls - one each for Left and Right, one for shooting and one to go into Hyper Space. You probably guessed right that it was a Space Wars game. The amazing constraints of the machines then and the significance of the game on that was quite marvellous to experience.

Me trying to play the world's first ever video game. Peter Samson and Stephen Rusell look on.

A gimmick of a computer, priced at $10,600 and meant to be installed in a kitchen and used for storing recipes. At that time, you could buy a home in that money and apparently not a single piece was ever sold.

Thats an IBM 360. It was a dream to see the legendary system. It was the first series of machine that IBM designed to be compatible across multiple versions and the backward compatibility to that instruction set has been maintained till today.

Computer connected to a radar used for detecting Russian bombers over the North Pole. These were deployed near the Canadian Border, had a 100% success rate (US was never bombed over the NP). It had a light gun to capture input and also had a small ashtray and a lighter. How cool of a workstation was that!!

This machine was used for counting people and their details in a Census. This was a machine built by Hollerith whose organization eventually became IBM. (I don't know why I was posing like that!!)

The Babbage engine - only 1 of 2 ever built. It was conceived by Charles Babbage but never executed, but was completed in 2008. It will be inaugrated on May 10 at the Musuem.

For more photos check out the Flickr photo stream.

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