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Mountain View, California: Computer History Museum

The world's largest collection of computing artifacts. Has everything from an Altair 8800 to a Cray supercomputer, and the world's first computer mouse (in a wood case).

1401 N. Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View, CA
US 101 to Shoreline Blvd. Head north on Shoreline. First driveway north of the freeway, on the right.
W-Su 10 am - 5 pm. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Adults $17.50
RA Rates:
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SAGE model.

Computer History Museum - SAGE Model

We saw many super-geeky wonders at the lavish Computer History Museum this weekend, which we'll report on later. Here's a small example: The SAGE Model. SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) was a huge project for the Air Force, MIT and IBM, designed to coordinate weapons systems with radar and weather data for NORAD operations against a Soviet bomber strike. The museum devotes an area of the "Real-Time Computing" gallery to it, since it shows a grand-scale coalescing of late 1950s state-of-the-art processing power.

IBM created a scale model so the Cold War-era US military would have a better idea of what they were getting for their $10 billion dollars. The model depicts four floors of a SAGE installation, with many rooms filled with tiny hand-painted console jockeys at their boxy computer workstations and equipment bays. The model rotates slowly, and the lights hitting the colored translucent partitions adds the perfect effect of disorienting, real-time analytics and decision-making.

According to the museum, by the time SAGE was fully operational in 1963, its focus on aircraft threats was already obsolete -- enemy attacks would likely be swarms of missiles. But SAGE facilities operated for another few decades, just in case.

With the wisdom of hindsight, perhaps not the best investment, but that model is a clear winner.

[ Team, 06/07/2011]

Computer Museum vintage photo.

Computer History Museum

The museum has undergone a $19 million overhaul, its first since opening here in 2003 (it's existed in various locations since 1976). More than doubling the exhibit space, its centerpiece is the optimistically titled, "Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing," which uses modern museum tricks such as an orientation theater and high-def videos. Nineteen galleries cover individual topics, each with its own "icon" such as a Cray-1 supercomputer, a 1977 Apple II, and a 1996 Palm Pilot. Those craving more recent history will have to wait; the museum generally waits a decade before it deems a computer worthy of inclusion.

[ Team, 03/22/2011]
Computer History Museum

Well organized and huge computer museum with all kinds of electronic artifacts from the digital age. We love this place, it's geek heaven ;) They rotate materials so there is usually something new for each visit. While the Babbage difference engine is all well and good and educational, my favorite item is the ginormous and kitschy 1969 Honeywell "Kitchen Computer," which is more like a piece of space age furniture with a cutting board and a digital display for your recipe. I love that thing.

[Kitty, 06/24/2010]

Nearby Offbeat Places

Berlin Wall SlabsBerlin Wall Slabs, Mountain View, CA - 2 mi.
Byxbee Landfill Park ArtByxbee Landfill Park Art, Palo Alto, CA - 3 mi.
Body of Urban MythBody of Urban Myth, Palo Alto, CA - 4 mi.
In the region:
Monument to Doomed Australian Sky King, Oakland, CA - 23 mi.

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