Sunday, September 22, 2013

Silicon Valley: A Day at the Computer History Museum

One of my fun childhood memories is getting unusual Christmas gifts from my parents.  Two moments brought huge smiles when I found my small wireless transistor radio and a portable tape recorder under our tree.  I spent hours listening to my AM transistor radio which I took everywhere.   What was the story behind these inventions?

Fast forward today, who knew I would find myself exploring gadgets like this at our Computer History Museum in Mountain View.  I love this unusual history and each time I visit I unveil new stories.  I recommend this place to our visitors all of the time - I got a chance to do some exploring on my own.

If you haven’t been to this museum in a couple of years, you will find amazing changes.  I watched the transformation in progress and it was in January 2011, our Museum re-opened.  

Babbage No 2 Engine in action!  Math calculations Ed Note:  Exhibit not here anymore (Image by DWest)
The main Revolution Exhibition floor is easy to walk through and has a large amount of information to read and absorb on a self guided tour.  The exhibition is larger than it appears with 19 galleries and I recommend allowing plenty of time to see it.  Don’t worry, you’ll find something that interests you.

Make sure you pick up a free visitor map when you purchase your ticket.  Tickets are $15 per person, (students, active Military, and older adults will receive a discount).  You don’t have to buy a ticket to eat at the Cloud Café and find unusual gifts in the Gift Shop.   The Museum is open Wednesday – Sunday, from 10 am – 5 pm.  Note: please call to check times are available.

The Computer History Museum floor with a special tech design! Image by DWest

Insiders Tip at the Computer History Museum ~

Be sure to ask about the times of the demonstration of the Babbage Difference Engine No. 2 and the guided  volunteer docent tours through Revolution area.  I recommend doing both of these.  And, don’t worry about repeating because each docent shares very different stories.  (Update: this exhibit is no longer at our Museum)

I found myself immersed in private conversations (with myself) and with several prominent women in technology and computer history starting with Ada Lovelave, and includes Grace Hopper, Lynn Conway, Fran Allen from IBM, and the eight women who programmed the ENIAC (Kathleen McNulty, Mauchly Antonelli, Jean Jennings Bartik, Frances Synder Holber, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Frances Bilas Spence and Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum)  and many others the day I went.  

How Google Street Map started Image by DWest
 And, after watching the Babbage demonstration, I sat in one of the Google Street View Cars that has transformed the way we do business today. Plus,  I wrote my name on the Jeopardy Stage Set of Watson the Computer.  Plus much more. 

Jeopardy Stage Set for Watson the Computer Image by D West
What is your favorite piece of computer history?  
You'll find it here ~ The Fun Tour Guru

Visit our new website, Lighthouse Travel and Tours, for trip ideas.

All pictures courtesy of D West

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Thank you with your interest!