EXHIBITS: Computer Nostalgia

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Science  29 Sep 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5488, pp. 2235
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5488.2235e

Remember that first clunky Hewlett-Packard calculator with its glowing red numbers, the sturdy Commodore PET with its cassette drives, the personal computer you built from a kit? If those 1970s devices bring fond memories, then you might enjoy the Web site of the Computer Museum History Center in Palo Alto, California. A clickable timeline runs through computing history from John von Neumann's 1945 vision of electronic storage to replace punch cards, through Tim Berners-Lee's 1990 outline of the Web. It stops there because “there's not enough perspective” on events until a decade has passed, explains museum curator Dag Spicer.

Among the landmarks are such pop culture factoids as Walter Cronkite's distrust of a UNIVAC computer's prediction, based on early returns, that Eisenhower would defeat Adlai Stevenson in the 1952 presidential election. Cronkite delayed his report, but you don't have to wait to see nifty artifacts such as a 1969 scrawling of the first four nodes of ARPANET, the Internet's precursor.


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