The Computer Museum at the Boston Wharf

Exhibit Information

The following description of the Boston museum was written by Gwen Bell in her Director's Letter for the TCM Fall 1984 Report.

"Let me give you a brief tour of our plans for the exhibitions: After rising to the Museum on a large, glass-enclosed elevator overlooking downtown Boston, the visitor is confronted by the Whirlwind, a vacuum tube computer that seems to go on forever.

Going around the corner, the visitor enters the SAGE computer room. Here the major components of the world's largest and longest lived computer simulate their installed environment. The visitor can "start" the console and see its banks of lights cycle-up. Beside each component, such as the 30-foot-long accumulator, today's equivalent chip (or part of a chip) has been placed for comparison. This arrangement reinforces an awareness of decreasing size and power and increasing programming capabilities.

For the history buff, a year-by-year timeline from 1950 to 1970 shows the fundamental inventions, the major computers, major software developments and benchmark applications.

The CW Communications "See It Then" theater shows films of operational computers, starting in the 1920's and ending in the 1960's with the IBM Stretch. The films are complemented by a 1965 IBM 1401 computer room, where the visitor can punch cards, and an operating PDP-89, the classic (but now very slow) minicomputer.

The evolution of Seymour Cray's work illustrates a single hardware contributor and his philosophy. The story begins with the NTDS-17 that he built for the Navy at UNIVAC in Minneapolis, which Greg Mellen, who is still at Sperry Univac, helped the Museum acquire; after that Cray built the Little Character, his first machine at CDC, presented by Control Data Corporation; then to the 6600, Serial Number 1. presented by Lawrence Livermore Laboratories; and finally to components of a Cray I. presented by the Cray Corporation. We have two videotapes of Seymour Cray, one from Lawrence Livermore Laboratories and another given to us by Joe Clarke, a former employee of CDC, who bought a two inch video tape player at a company sale and found on it a tape of Seymour Cray.

The next gallery focuses on chips and their place in the computer revolution, and the process of manufacturing computers. The inside of the "black box" is revealed, and an important. hidden part of the process is illustrated.

This collection of personal computers goes back to the very first one, the 1962 LINC, and extends to the latest models. The ring of live machines, each showing off an aspect of its special input/output, include DECTALK, a touch sensitive screen HP 150 and others.

The final gallery, is devoted to "the computer and the image." Here, the visitor will be able to explore image processing by computer, such as evaluation of landsat data, and image creation by computer, such as computer- aided design. Without much trouble, the visitor could spend two hours in this room experimenting and viewing."

Information About The Site

Opening: November 14, 1984

At the time of its opening at the Boston Wharf, The Computer Museum had 16,000 square feet of exhibitions of both historic computers and state-of-the-art interactive displays; another 8,000 square feet of exhibit space and 4,000 square feet for library/study collections which were to be developed later.

53,000 square feet; 6 exhibition galleries; 275-person function space (3,200 square feet)

Museum Pre-Preview Party

Museum Opening

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Updated: February 2015