Museum Traces Computer History, Visionaries in field.(LIFE - SCIENCE &Amp; TECHNOLOGY)(WEBWISE)

Article excerpt

Byline: Joseph Szadkowski, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The work of John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry during the late 1930s forever changed the world. Their development of the first digital computer eventually led to a man landing on the moon, our having Internet access at our fingertips and an overall technological revolution.

Paying homage to men of this type and to the information age they initiated, the Computer History Museum in California's Silicon Valley has amassed one of the largest computing collections in the world, with more than 3,500 artifacts, 3,000 films and videotapes and 5,000 photographs. The museum's Web site tempts those in search of the computer's origins to pay the museum a visit and also offers some information about the machine's fascinating history.

Computer History Museum

Site address:

Creator: The 3-year old site came to life through the work of the museum staff, based in Mountain View, Calif.

Creator quotable: "We created this site to showcase the long and varied history of computing to as wide an audience as possible. To do this, we stuck to the basic technologically, always keeping in mind that not everyone has a high-speed Web connection. We put our resources into content, simply expressed and never more than two mouse clicks away. The audience reading level we kept in mind, which includes most adults, was the intelligent 12-year-old," says exhibit curator Dag Spicer.

Word from the Webwise: A simple burgundy-and-gold layout greets visitors to the site, which acts as part promotional vehicle for the museum and part historical database. This review will cover the historical information contained in the Timeline, Collections and Exhibits sections of the site.

Timeline lives up to its name and explores the history of computing from 1945 to 1990. Each year is listed at the top of the page along with topics such as software, robots and companies for more defined research. Clicking on the different areas will reveal text blurbs and illustrations on everything from innovations in hardware to software technology to the development of artificial intelligence to short biographies of pioneers in the field.

For example, in 1971, Scientific American advertised the first personal computer, the Kenbak-1, for $750, and in 1969, Victor Scheinman invented the first electrically powered, computer-controlled robot arm, which by 1974 could assemble a Ford Model T water pump.

Switching to Exhibits, tech types will appreciate both "A History of the Internet: 1962 to 1992" and the detailed "Microprocessor Evolution: 1971 to 1996." The history mimics the Timeline design, mentioning highlights such as J.C.R. Licklider's memos about his Intergalactic Network concept in 1962. …