History and culture of computing
June 22, 2003 8:26 AM   Subscribe

While there are a number of sites devoted to the history of computer and information technologies, their invention, design and manufacture is also a human story. So I'm glad that there are sites devoted to computing history and culture that also look at the lives of those involved. The Charles Babbage Institute and Center for the History of Information Technology, includes oral histories of engineers and 500 photographs of the Burroughs Corporation form the 1890s on. The Smithsonian Museum Division of Information Technology and Society is a gateway to a large number of 'real life' and online Smithsonian exhibitions related to the history of science and technology, including more oral histories and PDFs of the original DoD press releases for ENIAC. The Oxford University Virtual Museum of Computing includes tributes to information science pioneers, as well as much other stuff. Finally, the Silicon Valley Cultures Project is using anthropology to document the lives of many of those in the Valley.
posted by carter (6 comments total)
Great - thanks carter.
posted by plep at 9:18 AM on June 22, 2003

lovely stuff...
posted by rdr at 9:35 AM on June 22, 2003


You may enjoy this, it is the only surviving of three made for Bardeen, Brattain, and Bell Labs archives. It is the first functioning device to use the newly invented transistor. It is a music box that plays the tune "how dry am I?". Bardeen used to take it all over the country in the 50s to show it off to spell bound audiences about the wonders of the transistor. Sorry for the self-promotion, I do work at the museum in Urbana that holds the item.
posted by jmgorman at 5:41 PM on June 22, 2003

Some links to some good stories, if you do a little digging. There are many more out there.

Multicians, all about the culture that gave rise to the revolutionary Multics operating system.

Computer History Vignettes from Bob Bemer, who helped create ASCII and (shudder) COBOL.

DigiBarn Computer Museum Stories

The archives of the CHAC Analytical Engine (RIP)

And of course classiccmp for those who like mailing lists and alt.folklore.computers for those who like newsgroups.

Computer history is great: a Gutenberg every ten years and many of the players are still alive--talk about primary sources!
posted by tss at 7:35 PM on June 22, 2003

Thanks to all for the new links. jmgorman, does the music box still play? It would be nice to see an mp3 of this on the museum page!
posted by carter at 7:27 AM on June 23, 2003

Unfortunately, it does not. It last worked in 1996. Last spring I met with Bardeen's grad student (who is now an 80-year old emeritus professor who is still largely known as a grad student) to replace the battery to see if we could get it going again. Turns out in the 80s it was dropped by a baggage handler at LAX and a capacitor was broken. They replaced it (leaving the original in there for historical accuracy), but it had steadily been getting quieter and quieter from that point on.
posted by jmgorman at 8:10 AM on June 23, 2003

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