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
- In 1974 Stanford University doctoral graduates Harry Garland and Roger Melen established a partnership named for their former dormitory Crothers Memorial Hall. Cromemco was formally incorporated in 1976. For the life of the company Garland and Melen remained the sole shareholders and avoided outside investment. At the insistence of their accountant, the company held a bank credit line but never had to tap the full amount. Their business philosophy was to grow only within the parameters of available cash. Revenues in 1975 were $50,000 and grew to an estimated $55 million by 1987 when the owners sold the company to Dynatech.
- The company’s first products were a microcomputer system digital camera, the Cyclops, and a color graphics card called the Dazzler. From these products the company moved on to making reliable, high-quality business and scientific computers and in 1982, they introduced the C-10 Personal Computer. Cromemco systems were the first commercially marketed microcomputer certified by the U.S. Navy for use aboard ships and Ohio class submarines for data logging during tests. The United States Air Force became a major customer for their Theater Air Control System (TACS) and the Mission Support System (MSS) for F-16, F-15 and other aircraft. By 1986 more than 80 percent of the major-market television stations in the U.S. used Cromemco systems to produce news and weather graphics.
- According to the user manual, “The C-10’s high-quality construction, continual self-testing, and proven design assure that it will perform faithfully year after year.”
- This Cromemco C-10 microcomputer was used at Monroe High School in Monroe, MI from 1982-2008. In 1980 physics teacher Darol Straub started an after school computer class which led to the development of the school’s first formal computer curriculum. To be accepted into the course, students were required to take an aptitude entrance test. Classes were two periods per day for three years. Hardware and software topics included basic circuits to microcomputer design and building, and programming in binary code and assembly language as well as higher level languages such as BASIC, FORTRAN, PASCAL, COBOL, and “C.” The third year focused on developing advanced projects using speech recognition, numeric control, fiber optic communication, graphic design, and robotics.
- Many of Straub’s students went on to college to study computer science and earned jobs with companies such as Microsoft and Intel. Two brothers who completed the curriculum opened a computer company when they graduated from high school. According to Mr. Straub, the company was still in business in 2018. The brother of the donor, also a student of Straub’s, graduated from Monroe High School in 2009 and MIT in 2013. He now works for Space X.
- In 1988 the Computer Engineering Program students produced a 20 minute video “Monroe High School – Current Generation” which the school used to promote and recruit new students for the course.
- Currently not on view
- date made
- ca 1982
- Straub, Darol
- Gagnon, Blair
- Cromemco Inc.
- ID Number
- accession number
- catalog number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History