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» VIEW ALL POSTS Feb 23 2010   11:37PM GMT

Data storage and computing history at the Museum of Science



Posted by: Beth Pariseau
Tags:
Storage

This past Sunday, a friend of mine and I took a trip to a staple of most New England childhoods (mine included): Boston’s Museum of Science. As we explored the exhibits, a surprising number of which remain unchanged since I was a kid, an exhibit called “The Computing Revolution” caught my eye for the first time.

This exhibit was kind of the inverse of the rest of the museum — while the main exhibit halls contained relics unchanged since my childhood, the computer retrospective introduced machines I remember using as a child to the museum. I’ve never had the experience of seeing things I’ve actually used displayed in a glass case as historic artifacts — but that’s computer time for you.

Luckily I also had my camera with me, and the Museum allows photography — so I can share some of this trip down memory lane with the people in my audience I know will appreciate it.

Photos after the jump.

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Whirlwind, an MIT mainframe from the 1950′s.¬†

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Whirlwind details. Not sure what the thing on the left is, but the thing on the right is a memory module. Capacity: 16 bits. Yep, you read that right.

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My impersonation of a 1950′s mad scientist, which is what I always think of when I see this kind of machine. Note: I am not an actor.

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Fairly self-explanatory…

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A highlight of the exhibit for yours truly: this early IBM hard drive holds a whopping 1 Gigabyte.

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Univac computer room from the 1950′s. The plaque with this exhibit, which is kept behind a plexiglass picture window, reads “This is as close as most people got to a computer in 1952.”

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Paper tape from an Enigma machine, c. World War II.

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Photo of Raytheon in the 1970′s. Those are all IBM machines, with what look like reel-to-reel tapes.

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I mean no disrespect, but look at the size of that thing.

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Ah, now I’m starting to get nostalgic — dot matrix paper!
(Update: Twitter follower @alextangent informs me this is 132 character impact print, not dot matrix)

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An early DEC minicomputer.

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Industrial design doesn’t get much more 70′s than this.

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The plaque makes it fairly clear what this is, but I don’t even have a guess as to how it would actually work.

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Now’s the part where I get to feel old — on the left is an IBM PC much like the one I used at home as a kid; on the right, the kind of Apple computer most children of the 80′s probably recognize from their school computer lab.

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Motherboard with labeled anatomy.

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I now realize it’s there because of the virus, but I have to admit I laughed out loud when I first saw this floppy drive in a glass case.

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Also, his picture is what would be in the dictionary, if it had an entry for “mainframe guy.”

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Believe it or not, this is a modem. Note the rotary phone.

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