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Computer history museum guide

This fast guide to computing museums will make your next trip down memory lane -- paved with ROM bricks and grouted with clicks and mortar, naturally -- an easy and informative journey.


 Table of Contents
  1. Museums
  2. Images
  3. Places to Visit


  • Computer History Museum
    Start with the biggest and perhaps best collection out there. The  collection includes almost 50,000 objects, photographs and films, along with more than 4,000 linear feet of catalogued documentation and hundreds of gigabytes of software. You can see pictures of a Cray-1 supercomputer, an Apple I, an example of the first-generation of Google's Web servers and much, much more.

    This site is well worth the click as well, going strong since 1997. Ten years later, they've compiled 956 computers in their museum. There's also an excellent timeline of computing history, along with an "Old Computer of the Day" from their database, a feature which should sound familiar to fans.

  • Hans Nixdorf Museum
    This Germany institution, which claims to be the largest in the world, features a virtual tour of its collection. (You'll need Flash to view it.)

  • System Source Computer Museum
    For simple, elegant design and nifty 360-degree views of the machines in question, look no further than this site. The museum features an outstanding collection of mechanical computers (including the Arithma Addiator, the Felt & Tarrant Comptometer and the famous slide rule), "almost" computers and first- and second-generation PCs.

  • Virtual Museum of Computing (VMoC)
    Though the site doesn't appear to have been updated since 2004, the amount of information that is aggregated before that point here is impressive. The virtual museum was designed and maintained by Professor Jonathan Bowen.

  • DigiBarn
    This enthusiast's site, by contrast, is updated through late 2006 and has this comprehensive index of computer systems, including some truly esoteric models.

  • Atari Museum
    Fond memories of Pong, Breakout, Frogger and Pitfall may come rushing back when you visit. You'll discover more about this priceless nugget of tech lore, too: The "Steves" (Jobs and Wozniak, of Apple Inc. fame) were working at Atari when they cobbled together their first prototype personal computer, the Apple I. You can learn about the subsequent history of Atari computing here, too, of course.

  • Home Computer Hall of Fame (HCHOF) features his museum, including an index of models over the years. We think they just might be Tolkein fans, too.

    This site celebrates the birth of the modern computer at that university in the form of the Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM), known fondly as the "Baby." This machine was designed and built at The University of Manchester, leading eventually to the first commercially available computer, the Ferranti Mark 1.

  • ENIAC Museum Online
    The ENIAC Museum commemorates the ENIAC, the primary computing engine for the Army for nine years following WWII. The museum features a link to an ENIAC simulator, if you care to compute a la 1947.

  • University of Virginia Computer Museum
    This museum was created by Professor Gabriel Robins, who continues to curate this fascinating collection of artifacts from the early age of computing. You'll find everything from Burroughs machines all the to the first virtual reality hardware.

 Places to Visit
  • Heinz Nixdorf Museum in Paderborn, Germany
    This institution claims to be the world's largest computer museum. The wall of calculators alone makes this a worthwhile visit.

  • University of Virginia Computer Museum in Charlottesville, VA
    The collection is lovingly curated by the computer science department. We bet Thomas Jefferson (the university's founder) would approve.

  • Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California
    This museum offers frequent tours; make sure you stop by Google if you're in the area too!

  • Boston Museum of Science in Boston, MA
    The BMOS has a wonderful exhibit on-site, the Computing Revolution. You'll find examples of some of the earliest computing machines, including a mock-up of a VAX server room and models of the first Mac and PC.

  • Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC
    While the computer history exhibit is closed for renovations through 2008, you can find pictures, historical documents and interviews with computing pioneers at this archive while you wait for it to reopen.

Can you think of a online PC museum or graveyard that should be listed here? Let us know!

This was last updated in May 2008

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