Computer History Museum overview by director John Toole, ~2004/02/02

Director Toole presented a very general overview of the Computer History Museum’s mission and holdings, which includes mainframes, PCs, software, documentation, and ephemera such as computer-related coffee mugs. (This museum is located in Mountain View, CA and this overview was given at Xerox PARC, Palo Alto, CA.)

Part of the mission is to give visitors as much hands-on experience with the holdings as possible. The fragility and irreplaceability of much of the tangible holdings presents a big challenge. But what interested me most was how they plan to exhibit the software, especially server-based software such as portals and networked games.

It appears that the museum has very few holdings in this area, and Toole’s best guess of an exhibit would be screenshots. While I don’t have any suggestions for this problem, it seems a real shame that these experiences will soon be inaccessible. Wouldn’t it be great to try Google as it was in its first month, or AOL/Yahoo/MSN in their early stages, or networked computer games, just for a sense of how far we’ve come and what lessons have been learned.