- CHM Happenings
The year 2016 was another banner year for the Computer History Museum (CHM), with record attendance, multiple new exhibits, hundreds of new donations accepted into the Museum’s permanent collection, our usual unique and engaging lecture series, and the establishment of two major new research centers.
Nearly 200,000 people, representing over 140 countries, came to CHM in Mountain View in 2016 to learn and explore our main exhibit on the history of computing, Revolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computer History, as well our other exhibits on Ada Lovelace, self-driving cars, and the world’s smallest computer.
Just as impressive were the Museum’s online statistics: more than 2 million unique visitors to the Museum’s website, computerhistory.org, with the majority of visitors exploring our online Timeline of Computing History. CHM’s YouTube channel, now with over 500 videos on the history of computing, had over 900,000 views and over 48,000 subscribers.
Our major new 10,000 square foot exhibit on the history, impact, and technology of software opens January 28, 2017. Entitled Make Software: Change the World, the exhibit features seven focus stories that reflect the range, power, and protean nature of software: Photoshop, World of Warcraft, Texting, MRI, Car Crash Simulation, Wikipedia, and MP3 (see Figures 1 and 2). Each of the seven galleries features an interactive station to engage visitors in hands-on learning and reinforce key concepts, and the exhibit also features a software learning lab for visitors and school groups.
CHM has dramatically expanded the depth of its research capabilities with the creation of two new research centers. The CHM Exponential Center focuses on entrepreneurialism, the Silicon Valley ecosystem, and the processes through which companies start, grow, and succeed (or fail). In November, for example, the Center held a “Day of the Dead” event to conduct “postmortems” of failed companies. The Center has attracted widespread interest and support, particularly from the Silicon Valley VC community, and is led by Marguerite Gong Hancock, formerly director of the Project on Emerging Companies at Stanford University.
The Center for Software History, led by historian David Brock, is tasked with growing the collection and interpretation of the Museum’s software collection (already one of the largest in the world). David and colleague Hansen Hsu have already made a number of highly significant additions of personal papers and software to the collection and are actively engaged in the larger historical community. Both Centers extend a welcome hand to anyone wishing to contribute knowledge, documents, or software, or to conduct research using the Museum’s permanent collection. For assistance with any research requests, simply email email@example.com.
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Off the Museum’s main lobby, two temporary exhibits also provided visitors with a small glimpse of earlier technologies. Let ERMA Do It was about the ground-breaking SRI/GE ERMA system, which fostered and [End Page 89] enabled the dramatic growth in checking accounts (and bank growth) after WWII, a problem so acute that by 1955 one bank officer noted that to keep up with demand, “we’d have to hire every high school girl graduating in California.” We carry part of ERMA’s legacy on the MICR-coded characters still at the bottom of our checks.
Tools of the Trade looked at the history of commodity and stock exchanges across history, beginning with Sumerian clay tokens and ending with a modern-day Bloomberg terminal. Particularly interesting were the various telephone-based technologies and specialty devices appearing in the 1960s onwards when computer-based trading was beginning to take hold.
On the media front, CHM curators intercted with many of the world’s major news outlets, including ABC News, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, Foreign Policy, Voice of America, and Agence France-Presse. We have noticed an uptick in interest in history of computing topics by mainstream media...