Computers & Business Machines
Imagine the loss, 100 years from now, if museums hadn't begun preserving the artifacts of the computer age. The last few decades offer proof positive of why museums must collect continuously—to document technological and social transformations already underway.
The museum's collections contain mainframes, minicomputers, microcomputers, and handheld devices. Computers range from the pioneering ENIAC to microcomputers like the Altair and the Apple I. A Cray2 supercomputer is part of the collections, along with one of the towers of IBM's Deep Blue, the computer that defeated reigning champion Garry Kasparov in a chess match in 1997. Computer components and peripherals, games, software, manuals, and other documents are part of the collections. Some of the instruments of business include adding machines, calculators, typewriters, dictating machines, fax machines, cash registers, and photocopiers
- The Apple Macintosh introduced a graphic user interface (GUI) to the Apple line of computers. The idea had originated at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s, but Xerox was slow to commercialize it. Apple proved far more successful when it introduced the Macintosh in January 1984, with a splashy television advertisement during the Superbowl. The original price was around $2,500.
- Instead of typing out names of programs on command lines, users with a GUI could click "icons," or pictures that represented the programs they wanted to run. They could also execute functions like saving, moving, or deleting files by clicking and dragging the icons around the screen with a pointing device called a mouse. Apple's version of the mouse had a single button, which became an Apple standard. The first Macintosh had only 128K RAM, and users quickly found this insufficient. The Macintosh 512 KB, nicknamed "Fat Mac," was introduced in September 1984. It gave users four times as much memory, and allowed them to keep several major programs open simultaneously. The vertical processor case and 9" monochrome screen were distinguishing features of all the early Macintosh line.
- The Macintosh 512 KB contained a Motorola 68000 microprocessor which ran at 8 MHz. It contained 512 KB of RAM and 64 KB of ROM and initially had a 400 KB Floppy disk drive. Applications included MacWrite, a word processor, and MacPaint, a drawing program that turned the mouse into a paintbrush. Shortly after the 512 KB appeared, Apple also introduced a LaserWriter printer, which enabled desktop publishing for individuals and small businesses. Over time, Apple computers would appeal most strongly to artists and designers, while the IBM/DOS line of computers sold better in business markets.
- After selling hundreds of thousands of units, Apple discontinued the "Mac Classic" line of computers in April 1986.
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- National Museum of American History
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