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
- Some personally operated computers, such as this one, came from companies traditionally associated with larger machines. In late 1972, the IBM General Systems Division in Atlanta, Georgia, asked the IBM Scientific Center in Palo Alto, California, to develop a product that would raise the visibility of the programming language APL. Paul Friedl and his colleagues in Palo Alto spent six months developing this pioneering portable computer, known as the SCAMP (Special Computer, APL Machine Portable). The prototype used existing components - a cathode ray tube from Bell Brothers, Inc., for the display; a Norelco audiotape cassette recorder for secondary storage; a keyboard from IBM in Raleigh, North Carolina; memory cards from IBM Germany; and a PALM microprocessor board from IBM in Boca Raton, Florida. The APL language processor emulated one for the existing, much larger, IBM 1130 computer.
- The SCAMP is designed to be a portable and folds into a suitcase-like frame. The upper part, including the monitor, pops up when in use. The frame is chocolate brown and the cover and upper part are almond white.
- Friedl and his colleagues used the SCAMP in over one hundred demonstrations. A menu on the screen indicated possible uses – as a calculator or for financial analysis, project planning, educational drill, engineering analysis, or statistical analysis. The machine served as a prototype for the IBM 5100 portable computer, a machine announced in 1975 that sold for between $8975 and $19,575 and found a range of applications. Some consider the SCAMP as the grandfather of the highly successful IBM Personal Computer (IBM 5150), introduced in 1981.
- Paul J. Friedl, “SCAMP: The Missing Link in the PC’s Past?” PC Mag: The Independent Guide to IBM Personal Computers, November 1983, vol. 2 no.6, pp. 190-197.
- Jonathan Littman, “The First Portable Computer: The Genesis of SCAMP, Grandfather of the Personal Computer,” PC World, October 1983, pp. 294-300.
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- National Museum of American History