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
- This control panel is a small part of a very large programmable calculator built by Bell Telephone Laboratories of New York for the U.S. Army. By the mid-twentieth century, improving communications required complicated calculations. In order to improve the clarity and range of long distance voice signals, George Stibitz, a research mathematician at Bell Labs, needed to do calculations using complex numbers. Stibitz and Bell Labs engineer Sam Williams completed a machine for this purpose in 1939–it later was called the Bell Labs Model I. With the outbreak of World War II, Stibitz and Bell Labs turned their attention to calculations related to the aiming and firing of antiaircraft guns. Stibitz proposed a new series of relay calculators that could be programmed by paper tape to do more than one kind of calculation. The BTL Model 5 was the result. The machine consisted of 27 standard telephone relay racks and assorted other equipment. It had over 9000 relays, a memory capacity of 30 7-digit decimal numbers, and took about a second to multiply 2 numbers together. Two copies of the machine were built. This one was used by the U.S. Army for ballistics work at Aberdeen, Maryland and then at Fort Bliss, Texas. Machines that used relays were reliable, but slower than those using vacuum tubes, and soon gave way to electronic computers.
- Currently on loan
- Date made
- Bell Telephone Laboratories
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- National Museum of American History