Trip to Computer History Museum

By June Seo

Six weeks have passed since I arrived at this beautiful campus. On my first week, it seemed like time didn’t pass fast enough, but now, I’m surprised at how time goes by so quickly. I am a student in the International Honors Program (IHP) of this year’s Stanford Summer Session. The IHP students were granted this amazing opportunity to go to the Computer History Museum, located near Googleplex, Mountain View.

Referring to the Oxford dictionary, the word compute means calculate. The definition of a computer is an electronic device which is capable of receiving information (data) in a particular form and of performing a sequence of operations in accordance with a predetermined but variable set of procedural instructions (program) to produce a result in the form of information or signals. So what’s the point of writing this long definition of a computer? Just to inform you what the layout of the museum is. Since a computer is a calculator, when entering the first section of the entire exhibition, an abacus is the first thing you will see. The exhibition is divided into 20 sections, all different generations of computing, from abacuses to floppy disks to room-sized early computers, and finally to the rise of Apple, Google and Microsoft. Each section has very detailed explanation cards of history with the best examples. So, my advice is, if you are not so much into the history of abacuses, save your time for the later sections of the exhibition, which you’ll find yourself more familiar with!

There’s a whole room with the IBM 1401 Printer, located close to the main exhibition. Two gentlemen explained to us the history of this printer, how it was a cutting-edge technology when it was first introduced in 1959. The old printers were kept in a cool room since it takes up a lot of electricity to run the computer. As a souvenir, we were allowed to take our names printed on the IBM 1403 printer and punch card. We saw the demonstration of the old IBM machines with the punch cards, as we were allowed to take our names punched, or printed, as a souvenir.

When you take a turn left to the main exhibition, you will see Google’s self-driving car with explanations written on the wall. Close to that, there’s a corner in the Adobe photoshop section, where people can see tutorials of simple photoshop techniques. Also, there’s a photo booth where we can select a background and a famous person with ourselves in the photo. To prove that we are in the heart of Silicon Valley, we selected Googleplex as our background and took a nice photo with Steve Jobs. Not just us, but people waiting in the line burst into laughter together.

Walking through the sections of the old phones, video games, computers and more, I’ve never thought I would get to see my parent’s Walkman and CD player again. This museum has not only devices that you might have actually touched before, but also the ones you saw only through movies or books. For me, it was really amazing to see Enigma and Google first production server with my own eyes. The trip to the computer history museum was indeed educational, and at the same time, really rekindled my appreciation to computers and the effort and progress humans made in such a short period.  

Below are some photos of the trip!!

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