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Computer History Museum

Found In: mathematics, science, social studies, 6-8, 9-12

The Computer History Museum maintains twelve online exhibits on a variety of topics related to the history of computing.

Revolution covers the first 2000 years of computing from calculators to artificial intelligence and robotics and related aspects of memory and storage, programming, and the Web. Click one of twenty chapters, the personal computer for example, and explore its evolution in text and images in fifteen pages with additional links.

Kenback-1 personal computer

John Blankenbaker’s Kenbak-1, winner of The Computer Museum’s “Earliest PC Contest,” used small- and medium-scale integrated circuits, had switches and lights for input/output, and came with 256 bytes of memory.

Related is the Timeline of Computer History, which covers 1939-1994. Each year features illustrated descriptions of significant innovations in hardware and software and milestones in commercial applications and artificial intelligence. Biographical sketches of the pioneers are included. The timeline can be accessed year by year or by category.

For students interested in steampunk, the section on The Babbage Engine highlights the man and the calculating machines he designed in the 1830s but never built. Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2 was finally built in 2002. It weighs five tons and measures seven feet high, eleven feet long. The Analytical Engine, which Babbage designed to be programmed with punch cards, is currently being built in the UK. The section includes a short video of the Difference Engine in operation. Poetical minds will be interested in Ada Lovelace’s contributions to Babbage’s ideas. Lovelace was the daughter of the poet Lord Byron.

Mastering the Game is a history of computer Chess. The exhibit features documents, images, artifacts, oral histories, moving images, and software related to computer chess from 1945 to 1997. Chess Software Basics is an interactive look at how chess software works. It explains Minimax game theory bounded lookahead, static evaluation, alpha-beta pruning, and other techniques.

Eight other exhibits are featured, including a This Day in History calendar.



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