A Walk Through Computer History at the Living Computers Museum + labs

Today, I took a stroll down technology memory lane and visited the Living Computers Museum + labs in Seattle, WA.  This museum houses working computers from the 1960’s through today.  By “working”, I really mean that they are powered up and you can interact with them.  They have some items that are encased or that they don’t want people to touch, but it is by far the most “hands on” technology exhibit I have ever seen.  I couldn’t resist leaving a little PR campaign for this blog on the Apple I they have on display.  I guess a tip of the hat should go to my 9th grade computer instructor, Dallas Werner.  After all of these years, I can still produce an operational Applesoft BASIC program.

Apple I Computer – Living Computers Museum + labs

Although it does make me feel just a little bit old, I will admit that I have actually worked with a number of computer systems that they have on display there.  Many of the ones I have worked with are in the “Vintage Computers” section.  In college and in my early work at Motorola, I was an active user of a machine like this one, a Digital VAX 11780-5.

Digital VAX 11/780-5 at the Living Computers Museum + labs

In addition to the actual hardware, they have memorabilia, many short videos, an interactive virtual reality area, robotics demonstrations, many activities for children of all ages and a gift shop.  They also have a small section on technology related toys.  This was one of my favorite childhood games.  I wonder if I still have mine somewhere?

TRON – Living Computers Museum + labs

They also have an area dedicated to technology books and documentation.  Although I don’t believe you can “check them out”, you are free to peruse them during your visit.

During a visit, you can even take a spin on your very own virtual presence device, much like Sheldon Cooper did on The Big Bang Theory.

A Personal Presence Device – Living Computers Museum + labs

It is not too surprising that there is a large amount of Microsoft memorabilia present. After all, this museum is located in Seattle, just a stones throw from the Microsoft campus, and is operated by Vulcan, a company owned by Microsoft co-founder, Paul G. Allen.

Although they have a few items form Cray, I was a bit surprised that they didn’t have more representation from the Super Computing arena.  Although the main premise is that the computer systems found here would be in working order, I would like to see them add some older machines, even if they were not operational.

It is truly remarkable that they have taken the time to find, refurbish, and maintain these systems.  This has been no easy task.  Keeping these machines running in the future will only become even more difficult since replacement parts will become even harder to find.

I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent there today and look forward to returning for another visit soon.  Now, if I could just get the virtual presence device configured correctly, I could avoid my commute into the office…

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