floor reception area with several
exhibits. “Shakey,” the pioneering mobile robot built by the
Valley’s SRI industries who was
featured in the September 2004
Micro Memories, is housed in a
Plexiglas case there, along with
the first Ethernet cable, the first
disk drive (which looks to be
over three feet in diameter —
unlike the device that fits into
the 5-1/4” drive bay in your PC,
and early Apple Is and
Macintoshes, each also similarly protected by Plexiglas. The
increased space has also allowed for a
larger staff, which has grown from
three at the beginning of the Moffett
days to 26, currently.
Off to one side is the new version
of what the museum calls “The
Visible Storage Facility.” At 10,000
square feet, it’s much larger than its
Quonset hut predecessor. It contains
the same pieces of “Big Iron” featured in the July 2001 Nuts & Volts
article, including a hulking Johniac
and Air Force Sage mainframes from
the 1950s; early IBM mainframes; the
sleek but useless Neiman-Marcus
“kitchen computer” from the 1960s;
and a NASA Apollo guidance computer. More recent computers include
a row of stylish Cray mainframes;
several cases’ worth of 1970s and
‘80s PCs and their accompanying
software; Google’s first server
farm; and numerous early pocket
calculators, robots and even stand-up
coin-op videogames from the 1970s.
“It’s quite different from the
The entrance to the Visible Storage Facility.
Johniac mainframes from the 1950s.
Visible Storage facility that was over
in Moffett,” Toole is quick to mention.
“Now, we’ve got about 10,000 square
feet. We do docent-led tours there
every Wednesday, Friday, and
Saturday afternoons, which are open
to the public. The Visible Storage area
only houses ten percent of our collection, but it’s an up-close and personal
view of the artifacts, but now there are
labels there — unlike what we had at
Moffett back in the old days!”
sworn to secrecy), this warehouse
is crammed full of technology —
everything from fin-de-siecle stock
tickers to at least eight Altair 8080s,
to a good half dozen TRS- 80 Model
IIIs, and all points in between.
Another room, closer to the
lobby, has a sign on its door that
announces that it is the “PDP-1
Visiting the Museum
But the Visible Storage Facility is
merely the tip of the museum’s iceberg. In the back of the reception hall
is another storage facility, normally
closed to the public, that resembles
the vast warehouse at the end of
Raiders of the Lost Ark, except that
rather than the Ark of the Covenant
(at least, I don’t think this museum
has that — if they do, they’re clearly
The Computer History Museum is
1401 North Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
org/about/tour for complete tour
information, including hours and
Row of stylish Cray mainframes.
Early IBM mainframes.
computer and the Google server.