People and Computers: Milestones of a Revolution

Nine milestones traced the evolution of the computer from the punched card machines of the 1930s to the ubiquitous embedded microprocessors of the 1990s. The centerpiece of each milestone was a life-size re-creation of a computer environment typical of the featured computer era. The displays drew upon the Museumís rich collection of artifacts, and were enhanced by interactive computer stations and historical film and video.

The emergence of computer programming languages was featured in a milestone showing how, for the first time, computers were programmed to accept a common language - COBOL. A 1970s vignette portrayed a PDP-8 minicomputer being used backstage to control theater lighting. Scientific computing was exemplified by a CRAY-1 at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts. A student publishing her school newspaper using a Macintosh showed the beginning of personal computing.

The milestones explored the social and technological forces that shaped major advances in computing technology, and also touched on their societal impact.

Information About The Exhibit

Opening: June 29, 1991

Square Footage: 5,000 sq.ft.

Cost: $1 million

Major Underwriter: The National Endowment for the Humanities

Sponsors: Digital Equipment Corporation, IBM, Apple Computer, Lotus Development Corporation, Matsushita Electric Industrial Company The MITRE Corporation, The Travelers Companies, Unisys Corporation

Donors: Charles and Constance Bachman, John Cocke, Allen Michels, Douglas Ross, Jean E. Sammet



Development: Gregory Welch, Olivier Strimpel, Gwen Bell, Rachel Hellenga, Mary Beth Dorus, Natalie Rusk

Design:Theodore Groves, Richard Fowler, Asa Chibas

Exhibit Advisors: Charles Bachman, Gordon Bell, Daniel Bell, I. Bernard Cohen, Ruth Swartz Cowan, John Diebold, Gardner Hendrie, Jane Manzelli, David Marc, Christopher Morgan, Douglas Ross, Jonathan Rotenberg, Jean Sammet, Howard Segal, Merritt Roe Smith

Contributors: Brad Larsen, David Greschler, Daniel Griscom, Stephen Snow, Don Green, Peter Somers, Tyrone Peterson, Wayne Cookson, David Smith, Brian Wallace

People and Computers, TCM Annual Report 1991

People and Computers Opens, TCM News Autumn 1991

People and Computers Hands On, TCM News Autumn 1991

People and Computers Video, TCM News Summer 1991

Over 70 clips from early, classic films and videos stored on three video disks. Movies and videos from each era. 1930s - Segment from the movie Metropolis and a film of the 1939 World's Fair. 1940s - Footage from some of the computer pioneers. 1950s - Video clips of people serving the machines that worked around the clock. 1960s - Popular TV programs and movies. 1970s - Clips of linotype operators at the New York Times. 1980s - TV ads touting the personal computer.

Interactive computer stations: Punch Your Name, Hit The Target, Core Memory, High and Low Level Programming, Tell Your Own Tale, Light Up The Stage, How Fast Are Computers?, Publish Your Own Postcards, Spreadsheets-A Tool For A Changing World, What Do You Think?, Comparing Computers

Virtual Worlds: Electronic Mail To The White House, The Virtual Reality Chair.

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Updated: February 2015