Meta 0 January 2002

Updated 11 November 1997.

These notes detail Planning and Progress for the Computer History Exhibits.

The Participants include

Planning the Historical Display

When the original plans for a new Computer Science building were made, in 1990, Gio Wiederhold proposed to take responsibility for some display cases that could show artifacts relevant to computer science education and to Stanford CSD in particular. Gio had earlier received from the children of George and Alexandra Forsythe some computing devices which could not be kept with the Forsythe archive kept in the Stanford Libraries. A simple manual calculator used by George Forsythe was given to The Computer Museum (TCM) in Boston. It is now shown in the display case dedicated to George Forsythe


During the period of the construction of the Gates building Gio collected more relevant artifacts and made contacts for donations of other devices and documents of interest. However, no provisions were made by the architects for the actual display areas.

Early in 1996 joint interests in documenting the history of computing with The Computer Museum were discovered, and a cooperation ensued.

During the summer of 1996 available space was surveyed. The initial locations for displays will be

Other candidate spaces are:
Some of these spaces may be used to show the development of Silicon Valley startups and their relation to Stanford.

Approval in principle was obtained from the CSD faculty in the fall of 1996, and some initial donations were provided by the faculty.

Early in 1997 display cabinet designs were presented and selected.

23Mar1997: A meeting to develop a time-line for early Stanford activities was held and documented. The resulting video tape is being made available to exhibit planners and a copy will soon (July 1997) be in the Stanford Library.

Planning meetings for the actual intial contents were held during May and June.

  1. On the main floor, the topics will be George Forsythe, the devlopment of the Stanford Computer Science department and it's computational facilties. A 4' disk platter from the Stanford AI Lab's Librascope storage unit will be the centerpiece.
  2. In the central mushroom on the main floor, we will have a guide to the other display sites.
  3. Floor 2: The fifties, with an emphasis on numerical computing
  4. Floor 3: The sixties, with an emphasis on communication ?
  5. Floor 2: The seventies, with an emphasis on information systems
  6. On the basement floor will be a display of technology developments and their timelines.

On July 7th, the disappearing SUMEX facility was surveyed with Tom Rindfleisch for material of possible historical interest.

A name `Stanford Computer Exhibits' was proposed for the project July 10.

On July 18th, 1997, a meeting was Bill Pitts investigated the feasibility of resoring the original 70ties StarWars Galaxy game and making it a part of the Computer Exhibits. A very extensive PDP-11 installation could also be made available.

Meetings were held among the exhibit developers and Stanford building experts to assure conformance with all applicable rules. The actual physical installation of the cabinets started 23 July 1997. They should be completed, with glass and lights, by 15 August.

A meeting was held July 31st at the Computer Museum History Center where themes for the various exhibit areas were determined. Some teaser items are being placed into the completed cabinets starting 11 August 1997.

7Jul1997: Surveyed, and later received material from SUMEX-AIM service from Tom Rindfleisch. Eventuall DEC disk cut open and put on display. More devices, as printers and Tektronix recorded stored for later display.

14Aug1997: The librascope disk, salvaged by Mary Frost, a centerpiece for the exhibits, was mounted in its case.

Feedback from John McCarthy encouraged us to add panels for documentation next to the cases on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th floors.

Material and photographs for the Stanford displays was collected from the Stanford Newsburea and Library by Wiederhold. Penny Nii is organizing the exhibit.

A link to these web pages from the CSD home page was added by William Barr Sept2nd.

A meeting of TMC and Stanford participants on Sept. 4th determined that we could not manage to have the opening before October 1st. Since several participants would be out of town for October, the opening was defered to November 5th or 6th, with a reception starting at 5:30, and candidate speakers were selected. Both grpups will invite a limited number of people, we will expect about 150 attendees. In that meeting the name for the exhibits was changed to `Computer History Exhibits', sponsored by the Computer Museum History Center (a subsidiary of The Computer Museum) and the Stanford Computer Science Department.

Bill Pitts told us on Sept.6th that he will have the Spacewar game, built in 1972, ready for the exhibit -- or soon after. He will provide material about its history. We will also get a history of the Stanford Robotics Blue arm from its builder, Victor Scheinman.

On November 5th 1997 we had the official opening of the Computer History Exhibits, with two informal talks

  1. Donald Knuth: George Forsythe and the Development of Computer Science
  2. Gordon Bell: Values and Issues in Preserving Historical Computer Artifacts
Jean-Claude Latombe.

Visitors are now providing corrections and addenda, to the exhibits, which will integrate a soon as we can.

On Thanksgiving weekend 1997, Bill Pitts and Ted Panofsky installed the Galaxy game on the fifth floor. There were some problems, so that only one display is working now, but a design change to the updated DAC unit is expected to fix that. Gio mounted the description.

May 1998: Both Galaxy's are working now, and a timers turn the Games on for a limited time every day.

August 1998: lights were rewired to reduce voltage and burnout rate.

September 1998: received and installed IBM Microdisk module mockup from John McCarthy.

December 1998: received CROMEMCO material for display.

May 1999: Received old Apple computers from Prof. Jeffrey Ullma, placed into new top floor case. Still requires description etc.

20Jun2000: finally received 6 additional cabinets: one for each floor, 2 for robots on the first floor. Cabinets mainly funded by our Computer Science Department.

1 July 2000: removed Apollo Guidance Computer from central left basement cabinet and returned it to Computer Museum History Center.

10Dec2000 Installed Mobi robot in front hall cabinet. Collecting material for its description.

18Dec2000: Intalled personal digital assistants (PDA) and handwriting tablet, as well as KBMS picture in central left basement cabinet. PDAs, tablets, and plamtops provided by Larry Fagan of SMI, Prof. Armando Fox, Jerrold Kaplan (now of Egghead), and Gio.

November 2000: Received historical material from Bill McGee, formerly with IBM, and met with him and Bill Olle.

2000 Obtained original Google storage, by transfer from Stanford inventory and reimbursement to Stanford from for equivalent storage capacity by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, installed in Basement.

2000: received old Apple computers from Prof. Jeffrey Ullman, placed into new top floor case. Still requires description etc.

12Dec2000: Received first working Sun Board, early Sun computer and diskdrive from Vaughan Pratt and installed them in former CDC case on 4th floor. Made background and side poster from material copied from SUN anniversery book, borrowed from Vaughan.

2000: moved some CDC 6900 artifacts to device time-line in basement, left most cabinet.

12Jan2000: Interviewed Forest Baskett for the record of the Sun Display. Material still has to be transcribed.

2000: Recveived a model 33 teletype from the Computer Museum History Center. Installed it temporarily in first floor case reserved for Scheinman robot arm.

2000: Installed two additional posters in Main Gates staircase.

  1. Early Computer History, from the British Museum.
  2. Microprocessor History.

Spring 2001: Bill Pitts removed the Galaxy display from the fifth floor and moved it to the Computer History Center at Ames.

2001: Installed CROMENCO display on 3rd floor, new case. The founders of Cromenco saw it and promised more artifacts.

30Aug2001: Received Scheinman gold Robot Arm via Computer Museum History Center through Vic's mediation and installed it in the cabinet designed for it on the first floor. Will still look for artifacts to match, and robot hand.

Moved teletype to third floor, and rearranded DEC PDP-6 display.

12 Sep 2001: Discussed Chromatics computer, developed by Carl Rosendahl, with holder, Prof. Jim Adams in Terman.

4 Oct 2001: Gio was interviewed by Frana from the Charles Babbage Center.

November 2001: Opbtained CROMENCO Cyclops camera from Roger Melen.

December 2001: Cooperated with Vic Scheinman to provide Robot material for EX MACHINA exhibit in Cologne.

4,7 Jan 2002: Obtained some material from Bob Floyd's estate.

March 2002: Obtained card-based manuscript of David Gries' compiler book from Cornell. Installed on 5th floor.

April/May 2002: Bought small 1920 handheld calculator (Comptator) in Leipzig for Mechanical exhibit on 2nd floor. Retrieved small Robot from Cologne museum exhibit.

This page first created 8 August 1997 by Gio Wiederhold, email:
We will update this webpage as the display takes shape.


We obtained assistance and material from Marty Frost, Andy Kacsmar, Les Earnest, Diane Forsythe, Bernard Peuto, Bill Pitts, Ted Panofsky, Colvin Pitts, Andrew Sobel, Jill Knuth and many others.
Back to Computer History Exhibits main page.