Facts and stories about
Antique (lonesome) Computers

Visiting again? Updates



Demonstrations of the 'Manchester Baby' ;-)) received Nov 6, 2009
Yes, We do have the 'Baby' computer, the first stored program computer in the world. It is usually demonstrated on Tuesdays by volunteers, including some of the guys who worked on the original 'Baby' project.

Unfortunately, next Tuesday will be the last time the 'Baby' is demonstrated for several months, and it won't be on display for a few months from the end of next week either, due to a major refurbishment project at MOSI.

From approximately next April it will be housed in much nicer surroundings as part of our up-coming 'Revolution Manchester' gallery.

Kind regards,

Sarah Baines
Collections Facilitator
Tel : 0161 606 0127
Museum of Science and Industry
Liverpool Road, Castlefield
Manchester, M3 4FP
Web: www.mosi.org.uk

Image permissions:
Most of the images on this web site:
a) were photographed by me (Ed Thelen)
b) of property (computers) owned by Computer History Museum.
I am advised by the Museum (July 20, 2006) that
Judy Strebel is the media archivist at the Museum and in general, handles requests for image usage. strebel@computerhistory.org.

General Motto,

"Don't throw nuthun away!!" -
  • An all too "typical" tale
    In one of my bouts with college, the newspaper mentioned there was a series of classes, for school teachers, to be held in the St. Paul (Minnesota) Library about computers. A "design engineer" would be presenting the ERA/RemingtonRand 1103A.

    Typically, I showed up with out registering, me - a school teacher??, collected a notebook of blue prints of overviews and details - dropping the course when the next meeting was going to be trying your program on the machine - and you had to be registered to do that -

    I kept that notebook until about 1980 when kids were leaving home and we were down sizing.

    If I had known anyone would eventually be interested, or a suitable repository available, such as the later Computer History Museum, I would have kept that "Holy Relic" ;-)) .
    Mike Milgram just reminded me that many (computer) manuals can already be found on repositories such as bitsavers.org which has accessable PDF files for most manufacturers at http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/. Look there to see if your manual(s) are present there.
    1. If present, well, the world has black and white access to them. Potentially you have different dates ...
    2. If not present, read Al Kossow's recommendations and requests on his website.

  • And a "typical" e-mail exchange
    From: L Roth
    To: IBM 604
    Sent: Sunday, February 07, 2010
    Subject: hello, 604 units

    Hello Ed, Very interseting site on the IBM 604. I graduated from an electronics school in Mpls in 1960. Our instruction back than on computers consisted of flip-flop circuits to learn basics. An interesting project was the Overbeck ring and an "electronic roulette wheel" using the 2-xxxx triggers - flip-flops. After I graduated from tech school I ended up in Seattle,WA. What luck, a local scrap yard had an old IBM 604 for sale. My roommate and I rented a trailer and hauled the cpu home and scrapped it out. Really big filament transformers for all those tubes.. I managed to save 1 of the racks full of flip-flops, and's or's etc. The rack still is in my storage shed.... My point... do you have any of the old modules ? Want a couple for your desk, or wall. When I pass I'm sure the kids will get a large dumpster...... I live in Seymour Cray's home town and they have a great Cray museum here. Perhaps this would also be a good home, I donnated a couple of the modules to them already, people there really didn't know what the solid state modules in todays world replaced.. Thanks again Ed... L Roth Chippewa Falls, WI

    and a response from Robert Garner
    L Roth,

    Thanks for your informative note to Ed.

    Turns out that an older colleague of mine (Hans Coufal) at IBM Almaden Research (who's no longer with us), had reportedly collected much of a 604, apparently still in storage somewhere in L.A. Your collection of spare modules could come in handy some day if these 604 components gets donated to the say the Computer History Museum and some volunteers elect to restore it. (There are crazy folks around thinking of restoring a tube machine some day...). So don't throw anything away! There is reportedly a working IBM 604 at the "House of the History of IBM Data Processing" in Sindelfingen, Germany.)

    - Robert

    p.s. Did you see our 1401 restoration project at the CHM?: http://ibm-1401.info/index.html

    p.p.s. I am looking for 700-series style tube socket...

"Let's Not Dumb Down the History of Computer Science" - Professor Emeritus Donald Knuth, Stanford University - May 2014
Stanford has made this May 7, 2014 lecture by Professor Donald Knuth available on-line

"Let's Not Dumb Down the History of Computer Science" - Professor Emeritus Donald Knuth, Stanford University

Electrical Engineering

The 2014 Kailath Lecture

Let's Not Dumb Down the History of Computer Science For many years the history of computer science was presented in a way that was useful to computer scientists. But nowadays almost all technical content is excised; historians are concentrating rather on issues like how computer scientists have been able to get funding for their projects, and/or how much their work has influenced Wall Street. We no longer are told what ideas were actually discovered, nor how they were discovered, nor why they are great ideas. We get only a scorecard.

Similar trends are occurring with respect to other sciences. Historians generally now prefer "external history" to "internal history," so that they can write stories that appeal to readers with almost no expertise.

Historians of mathematics have thankfully been resisting such temptations. In this talk the speaker will explain why he is so grateful for the continued excellence of papers on mathematical history, and he will make a plea for historians of computer science to get back on track.

"In this talk, Professor Donald Knuth explains why he is grateful for the continued excellence of papers on mathematical history, and he makes a plea for historians of computer science to get back on track."

Paul McJones writes:
By the way, much of the source code that Knuth mentions in his last slide is available online at the Computer History Museum:
  1. Dijkstra’s T.H.E. operating system for the Electrologica X8, the innovative compilers developed at Burroughs (Balgol 220 and others), Computer Sciences Corporation (LARC Scientific Compiler) and Digitek (FORTRAN Compiler for the Daystrom 636; also class notes by Robert W. Floyd on the data structures used for Digitek’s FORTRAN IV compiler for the SDS 910-920-930-940) are all part of the Knuth Digital Archive project — listings and papers belonging to Don Knuth and scanned by Randall Neff:

  2. As Knuth mentions, Bill Atkinson’s MacPaint and QuickDraw source code are available at CHM:
    MacPaint and QuickDraw Source Code
    Len Shustek
    MacPaint oral history with Bill Atkinson and Andy Hertzfeld
    Grady Booch, interviewer
  3. ... CHM also has the source code to IBM’s System R database management system. It’s not online, because of a restrictive license imposed by IBM. It is CHM Lot # X4095.2007, which consists of System R source code, manuals, and a set of videos of System R developers doing code walk-throughs in December 1979. If someone at IBM could renegotiate a more flexible license (such as Xerox PARC did for the Alto source code), that would be wonderful.

Doug Engelbart's Original Mouse - July 26, 2014
Alan Kay says name should be "the Engelbart-English mouse"
      - Wife Karen has it - for the moment
      - Hurry if Computer History Museum wants it
      - Images of Doug's original mouse from Bob
      - LaFarr Stuart's visit to SRI
      - The Mother of All Demos (YouTube), mostly software but shows 3 button mouse at 5:50 & 31:05

Alan Kay says name should be "the Engelbart-English mouse"
e-mail from Alan Kay - Oct 16, 2016
Technically, it should be called the Engelbart-English mouse (Bill English was the co-inventor and both of their names are on the patent).

The "single-hero" theory is a pet peeve of mine, especially in engineering where something has to be successfully built and tested to validate the ideas. This almost always requires a team of some size that can synergize different talents to manifest a vision into reality.

I actually tried to get the ACM to do an award for the "complementary particle", and wanted to name it after Bill English. For example, my "complementary particle" was Dan Ingalls, and he should have gotten a major award for what he brought to the process.

In a sense, both of them did: by winning separate "ACM Software Systems Award"s. I like this award better than the Turing because it is very often awarded to a group who collaborated to make something. Still, I think the ACM process leaves a lot to be desired.



Wife Karen has it - for the moment
Douglas C. Engelbart is credited with inventing and popularizing the computer mouse while working for the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). He was involved with a host of other graphical user interface, interactive, computer to computer links, and other activities. He died July 2, 2013.

Apparently SRI permited his widow, Karen Engelbart, to retain some of Doug's interesting artifacts for 1 year.

On June 30, 2014 I received an urgent call from Bob Wallace who had just visited Karen Engelbart. I hastily provided the following information to the Computer History Museum.

Hurry if Computer History Museum wants it
An old hiking friend, Bob Wallace, provided this info -
Doug Engelbart and Bob Wallace were in the same dance club
    long ago when both were single -

Karen Engelbart, Doug's widow,
is supposed to turn "Doug's original mouse" to SRI
    on or before July 2
  (SRI has a legal claim on it)
Karen is friendly towards SRI, that is no problem
   but SRI is rumored to be donating the mouse 
       to the Smithsonian -

Potentially CHM might wish to short circuit that donation
   "redirecting" it to CHM.

Karen is currently selling her house in Atherton,
   last known phone # ...-...-....
    (the answering machine comes up with Doug's voice ;-))

-Ed Thelen


Evidently something worked :-))
The Computer History Museum now (April 2018) shows

Images of Doug's original mouse from Bob
who had photographed it in Doug and Karen's home.

Bob w mouse

Bob is well into his 90s, and no longer scrambling up peaks :-((
     Well - OK - neither am I :-((

     LaFarr Stuart's visit to SRI
LaFarr was hired into Control Data Corp (CDC) (Sunnyvale CA operation) to aid with its documentation effort (Fortran and other manuals).

In the fall of 1969 a demo of Doug Engelbart's mouse and editing was offered by Stanford Research Institute (old name) (SRI). LaFarr went to SRI in Menlo Park, CA (about 10 miles away) to see the latest.

LaFarr remembers a CRT in a 19 inch rack, a one button mouse constructed from 3/8 plywood with sharp corners, and a mouse controlled movable marker (cursor) on the CRT. The mouse seemed narrower than the one shown above. It was not very impressive and seemed a very remote solution to the then current Control Data editing proplems.

LaFarr's bias was towards leaving the hands free for the keyboard - a chair with "load cells" was discussed so that shifting one's weight about would move the cursor - with maybe one or several special keys for buttons.

There were internal CDC discussions about using a CDC 1700 (basicly a 16 bit mini) to support the mouse and provide the required 7 or 8 bit characters to support upper & lower case alphas, numerics, punctuation, and special characters. Nothing came of those discussions. CDC continued paying for 2741 terminals, telephone lines, and ASCII editing support ( and APL/360 ) from Propriety Computer Systems in Los Angeles.

Professor Ron Mak's CHM Tour Quizes
Here it is for next Saturday’s visit by my students. It’s hard to word the questions so that students can’t simply Google for the answers. For example, if you Google “Steven Spielberg’s father”, “first spam message”, or “Tiger Electronics”, you’ll get the answer without a museum visit. I hope the other questions are harder.

Anyway, it should be a fun treasure hunt for most throughout Revolution. Improve your midterm score! How many can you get right?

A collection of all seven quizes .pdf file
contains: Fall 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2014 EFREI, Spring 2015, Fall 2015, Spring 2016

Character Set Documents
Here is some documentation about computer character sets

Thank You Len Shustek for your leadership, financial and intellectual contributions to the Computer History Museum
From an e-mail distributed to volunteers of the Computer History Museum - January 23, 2020
From: Len Shustek
Sent: Thursday, January 23, 2020 1:08 PM
To: trustees; Staff
Subject: My changing role at CHM

For those of you who weren't there, I'd like to summarize what I said at this morning's board meeting about a change in my role at CHM.

A couple of weeks after our last board meeting in October, we passed an anniversary that probably only I observed: November 12 was the date when we first established an independent board for what became the Computer History Museum. The year was 1999, and that was when I became chair of the board.

That was now 20 years ago! If you include the 3 years before, when I was unofficially chair of the west coast subsidiary of The Computer Museum in Boston, building on Gordon and Gwen Bell's work, it's been 23 years.
If you go back to the first white paper I wrote in 1995 about wanting to start a museum of computing in Silicon Valley, it's been 25 years.

Amazing. That must be some kind of record for what is now a large-scale museum. (We rank in the top 10% of US museums on any number of metrics.)

I have decided that 25 years is a good run for me, and it is enough.
This will be my last board meeting, and I won't stand for reelection at the annual meeting of the board in April.

The institution is now more mature, so it's also time to redefine the role of the board chair. It shouldn't come with membership in 12 committees and a commitment for decades of service! It should be, as it is for most non-profits, a 3-5 year rotating position. Over the next few months the Nominating Committee, chaired by Tom Friel, will help redefine the job and nominate a suitable candidate for election by the board in April.

I am immensely proud of what we have built here, and I thank you all for the roles you have played. I am very optimistic about the future of CHM.
I am enthusiastic about the expansion of our mission to include more about what is happening now, the possibilities for the future, and the impact on society. We can absolutely do that without abandoning our traditional responsibility to preserve and present history for the benefit of humanity now and in 100 years. There is no other institution in the world better positioned for this important and impactful dual mission.

As for me, I am not disappearing. I will "retire" to become a non-board volunteer, primarily for the content-oriented activities I love: collections, oral histories, source code recovery, blog articles, and the like. Heck, I like giving tours, so maybe I'll apply to be a docent.
I will continue to contribute to the museum financially, will proselytize new supporters, and be an all-around dedicated booster.

I look forward to the CHM of the future. Let's all help make it happen!

Len Shustek

Some personal references - My naďve first white paper from 1995:
- Two articles I wrote in 2014 about TCM/CHM history:
and https://d1yx3ys82bpsa0.cloudfront.net/atchm/documents/Personal_Reflections_on_the_History_of_the_Computer_History_Museum_09-26-14.pdf
- My one-page essay in response to Gordon Bell's challenge last year to envision the future of CHM:

I sent to Len Shustek probably the most thankful, flattering e-mail I have ever written.
with CC to Gordon Bell (a founder of the Computer Museum in Boston and a trustee of CHM)

Gordon Bell promptly replied to both as follows:

CHM most likely would not have existed without Len!

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Updated January 24, 2020
If you have comments or suggestions, Send e-mail to Ed Thelen. Some flattering pictures of Ed,
Gleanings, conversion of documents to digital format (digital library)
Private stash - PowerMac, Disk Storage