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Mountain View's Computer History Museum: A Premier Destination for Computing History
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The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California is a world-renowned institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history of computing and its impact on society. Housed in the heart of Silicon Valley, this museum offers visitors an immersive journey through the evolution of computer technology, from early calculators and mainframes to the personal computers and mobile devices that shape our modern world.

What is the Computer History Museum?

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computerhistory.org
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California is a world-class institution that preserves and presents the history and impact of computing technology. With an extensive collection spanning from early calculators to modern devices, the museum offers visitors an engaging exploration of the digital revolution. Highlights include the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2, ENIAC, IBM 1401, and exhibits showcasing Silicon Valley innovations and pioneering figures like Alan Turing and Grace Hopper. Through interactive displays and informative narratives, the Computer History Museum celebrates the ingenuity and vision behind the technological advancements that have transformed our world.
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Admission Prices and Discounts

The Computer History Museum offers affordable admission prices, making it accessible for visitors to explore the fascinating world of computing history.
Ticket TypePrice
General Admission$17.50
Seniors (65+)$13.50
Students (with ID)$13.50
Children (12 and under)Free
Active Military (with ID)Free
CHM MembersFree
Visitors can enjoy discounted rates for seniors and students, while children 12 and under and active military personnel receive free admission. Becoming a member of the Computer History Museum also grants free entry, along with other benefits such as exclusive events and exhibits.
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How It All Began: The Computer History Museum's Origins and Development

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The Computer History Museum traces its origins back to 1968 when Gordon Bell began collecting historical computing artifacts. At the same time, others were working to preserve the Whirlwind computer. These efforts culminated in the Museum Project, which had its first exhibit in 1975 in a converted coat closet in a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) lobby. In 1978, the museum, renamed The Digital Computer Museum (TDCM), relocated to a larger DEC lobby in Marlborough, Massachusetts. The following year, Maurice Wilkes delivered the first lecture at TDCM, establishing a tradition of presentations that continues to this day. TDCM officially incorporated as The Computer Museum (TCM) in 1982. TCM moved to Boston in 1984, finding a new home on Museum Wharf. In 1996/1997, the TCM History Center (TCMHC) was established at Moffett Field in a former Naval Base furniture store provided by NASA. Many artifacts were transferred from TCM to TCMHC during this time. In 1999, TCMHC incorporated, and TCM ceased operations, sending its remaining artifacts to TCMHC in 2000. Since the Boston Museum of Science had retained the TCM name, TCMHC was renamed the Computer History Museum (CHM) in 2000. CHM opened its doors to the public in 2002 at its current location in Mountain View, California, in a building formerly occupied by Silicon Graphics. The facility underwent a significant two-year, $19 million renovation before reopening in January 2011. In July 2008, John Hollar, a former media executive, was appointed CEO of the museum. A decade later, in March 2018, Dan'l Lewin, a technology executive, succeeded Hollar as CEO.
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Exploring AI: Exhibits and Initiatives

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The Computer History Museum features several exhibits and sections dedicated to the history and development of artificial intelligence (AI). These exhibits showcase the key milestones, pioneers, and technologies that have shaped the field of AI over the decades.
  • The "Artificial Intelligence and Robotics" exhibit explores the evolution of AI from its early beginnings in the 1950s to the cutting-edge research and applications of today. Visitors can learn about the key concepts, algorithms, and approaches that have driven AI forward, such as machine learning, neural networks, and natural language processing.
  • The exhibit features a timeline of major AI milestones, including the development of the first chess-playing program by Alan Turing in 1951, the creation of the ELIZA chatbot by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1966, and the victory of IBM's Deep Blue over world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.
  • Visitors can interact with various AI demonstrations and hands-on exhibits, such as a facial recognition system, a natural language chatbot, and a robotic arm that can be controlled using gestures and voice commands. These interactive elements help visitors understand the capabilities and limitations of modern AI technologies.
  • The museum also highlights the contributions of AI pioneers such as John McCarthy, who coined the term "artificial intelligence" in 1956, Marvin Minsky, who co-founded the MIT AI Lab in 1959, and Geoffrey Hinton, Yann LeCun, and Yoshua Bengio, who are considered the "godfathers of deep learning."
  • In addition to the main AI exhibit, the Computer History Museum also features a section dedicated to autonomous vehicles, showcasing the history and development of self-driving cars and the role of AI in enabling this technology. Visitors can see a replica of the Stanford Cart, one of the first autonomous vehicles developed in the 1960s, as well as learn about more recent milestones like the DARPA Grand Challenges and the work of companies like Google's Waymo and Tesla.
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Celebrating Innovators: The Computer History Museum Fellow Awards

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The Computer History Museum's Fellow Awards Program recognizes and honors distinguished technology pioneers who have made significant contributions to the advancement of computing and the digital age. Some notable fellows include:
  • Grace Hopper (1987): Rear Admiral Grace Hopper was the first fellow inducted into the program. She was a pioneering computer scientist who developed the first compiler and popularized the term "debugging."
  • Steve Wozniak (1997): Co-founder of Apple and designer of the Apple I and Apple II computers.
  • Tim Berners-Lee (2003): Inventor of the World Wide Web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
  • Linus Torvalds (2008): Creator of the Linux kernel and the Git version control system.
  • Margaret Hamilton (2017): Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory, which developed the on-board flight software for the Apollo space program.
  • Guido van Rossum (2018): Creator of the Python programming language.
  • Katherine Johnson (2019): NASA mathematician whose calculations were critical to the success of the first U.S. crewed spaceflights.
The fellows program has grown to include 95 members as of 2023, with nominations open to the public and accepted year-round.
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Other Notable Computing Museums Around the World

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The Computer History Museum is not the only institution dedicated to preserving and showcasing the history of computing. Several other museums around the world offer visitors the opportunity to explore the fascinating evolution of computer technology.
  • The National Museum of Computing (Bletchley Park, UK): Located on the site of the famous World War II codebreaking center, this museum houses a collection of historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world's first programmable electronic computer.
  • The Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum (Paderborn, Germany): This museum features an extensive collection of computing artifacts, from ancient calculating devices to modern computers. It also explores the societal impact of information technology.
  • The Living Computer Museum (Seattle, USA): Founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, this museum is home to a collection of restored and fully functional vintage computers, allowing visitors to experience computing history hands-on.
  • The Centre for Computing History (Cambridge, UK): This museum showcases the development of computing technology from the early days of mainframes to the rise of personal computers and mobile devices. It also offers interactive exhibits and educational programs.
  • The Apple Museum (Prague, Czech Republic): Dedicated to the history of Apple Inc., this museum houses a comprehensive collection of Apple products, from the original Apple I to the latest iPhones and MacBooks.
These museums, along with the Computer History Museum, play a vital role in preserving the rich history of computing and inspiring future generations of technology enthusiasts and innovators.
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What's Coming in 2024: Events and Exhibitions at the Computer History Museum

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The Computer History Museum has an exciting lineup of events and exhibitions planned for 2024, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the past, present, and future of computing technology.
  • "The Future of AI" special exhibition will showcase the latest advancements in artificial intelligence, including cutting-edge research in machine learning, natural language processing, and robotics. Visitors will have the chance to interact with state-of-the-art AI systems and learn about the potential impact of AI on society.
  • The museum will host a series of lectures and panel discussions featuring renowned experts in the field of computing, such as Turing Award winners, tech industry leaders, and pioneering researchers. These events will cover a wide range of topics, from the history of programming languages to the ethical implications of emerging technologies.
  • In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first personal computer, the Altair 8800, the museum will present a special retrospective exhibit highlighting the evolution of personal computing. Visitors will be able to see rare artifacts, such as early microcomputers and prototype devices, and learn about the visionaries who shaped the PC revolution.
  • The Computer History Museum will also launch a new interactive exhibit focused on the history of video games, tracing the development of gaming from early arcade classics to modern virtual reality experiences. Visitors will have the opportunity to play iconic games from different eras and learn about the technological innovations that have driven the growth of the gaming industry.
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Closing Thoughts

The Computer History Museum, a nonprofit organization with a four-decade history, stands as a testament to the remarkable evolution of computing technology. From its humble beginnings in a converted coat closet to its current state-of-the-art facility in Mountain View, California, the museum has tirelessly worked to preserve and showcase the history of computers, offering visitors dynamic and engaging experiences. As a premier institution dedicated to the history of computing, the Computer History Museum plays a vital role in educating the public about the profound impact of technology on our lives. Through its extensive collection of artifacts, oral histories, and interactive exhibits, the museum brings the story of computing to life, inspiring visitors to appreciate the ingenuity and perseverance of the pioneers who shaped the digital age. With its ongoing commitment to collecting, preserving, and interpreting the history of computing, the Computer History Museum ensures that future generations will have the opportunity to learn from the past and be inspired by the incredible journey of technological progress. As we look to the future, the museum will undoubtedly continue to serve as a valuable resource and a hub for exploring the ever-evolving world of computing.
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