The museum got its start back in the 1960s when Gordon and Gwen Bell first exhibited their personal collection of computing devices in the lobby of the Digital Equipment Corporation in Boston. From there the collection evolved and grew scooping up memorabilia and important artifacts and computing devices along the way. The museum and its collection were relocated to Silicon Valley in 1999 and renamed as the Computer History Museum. It wasn’t until 2002 though that the museum found its home, fittingly, in the former headquarters of Silicon Graphics, a computer hardware and software manufacturer that catered to the graphics industry.
But the former high tech building was ill-suited as a museum and after a round of fundraising, the museum was able to do a major renovation. Mark Horton Architecture led the two year, $19 million renovation with the help of Van Sickle & Rolleri, Ltd. to upgrade the exhibits. The renovation now includes a lobby, a cafe, a gift shop, a theater, multiple exhibitions spaces, event space and administrative spaces. The original lobby, which was a confusing series of smaller spaces, was opened up and made into a grand public space that is brilliant and naturally daylit.
The museum is home to the most significant and varied collection of computing hardware, software, documents and ephemera in the world. This includes everything from a Babbage Difference Engine (designed in 1821), the first Google server and three examples of the rare Cray-1 supercomputer, all the way to a Pong game console, Palm Pilots, and even the iPad. The museum also plays host to a significant online collection of photos, information, videos and anything that may have to deal with the history of computing. When the museum reopened in January of 2011, it also showcased its signature exhibition: Revolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computing.
Images ©MH/A and Ethan Kaplan and Computer History Museum