The Computer History Museum is the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its continuing impact on society. Our mission is to preserve and present the artifacts and stories of the information age.
Like today’s computers and software, The Computer History Museum is a collaborative creation that has thrived through multiple versions, with new features added along the way.
The kernel of today’s Museum formed in the late 1960s when Gordon and Gwen Bell first exhibited their personal collection of computing devices in the lobby of the Digital Equipment Corporation in Boston. The Bells had a vision, shared by few at the time: early computers would one day be priceless historical artifacts.
The collection went on public display in 1984 as The Computer Museum, sharing space with The Children’s Museum at Museum Wharf in Boston. The Computer Museum created the first of its ground-breaking exhibitions and education programs that explored modern perspectives on computing, culture, history and ideas.
Museum Chairman Leonard J. Shustek, then a member of the Computer Museum Board, relocated the artifact collection to California’s Silicon Valley in 1999. The reborn institution, now called The Computer History Museum, was far from a lavishly funded start-up. Shustek supplied some of the muscle power required to move the bulky machines into a leaky storage building at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View.
In 2002, the Museum acquired its most important artifact for $25 million: the former Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI) headquarters on Shoreline Blvd. The Museum expanded its mission to include collecting and preserving any and all materials related to the history of computing.
The Museum holds the most significant and varied collection of computing hardware, software, documents and ephemera in the world. The iconic machines are here, including the first Google server and no less than three splendid examples of the rare Cray-1 supercomputer. And there are thousands of items that bring the story of computing to life: oral histories, toys, photos, videos, ancient calculating devices, advertisements, t-shirts and digital gizmos, from anti-lock braking systems to early pacemakers.
The Museum began a brisk schedule of exhibits, lectures and other events; it created a website that attracted scholars, students and technology buffs worldwide; and it established a YouTube channel that showcased thousands of hours of unique videos. The Museum continued to raise funds and plan for the next step: a major, signature exhibition covering the history of computing from the abacus to the smart phone.
The Computer History Museum, V 2.0
After years of planning and collecting – and a six month closure for renovation – The Museum re-opened to the public in January 2011 with its signature exhibition: Revolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computing.
Revolution traces the explosive growth of computers, software and networking. The 25,000 square foot exhibition is a richly layered, multi-media experience that tells the stories of the technology, people, companies and impact of computing.
It’s a story that’s dramatic, engaging and relevant to people of all ages and technical know-how. Revolution features more than 1,000 artifacts from The Museum’s collection, enriched by dramatic graphics, hands-on displays, period settings, machine demonstrations and more than 100 multi-media stations.
Vast as it is, Revolution can only present about 1% of the treasures in The Museum’s collection. The on-line experience, Revolution Online makes it possible to bring all of the content of Revolution, plus many more stories, artifacts and videos to people all over the world.
The $19 million renovation included a new lobby, a café, an expanded Museum store, an orientation theater, new educational facilities, and an expanded conservation workshop.
Tel: (650) 810-1010
Fax: (650) 810-1055
Computer History Museum
1401 N Shoreline Blvd
Mountain View, CA 94043