Facts and stories about
Antique (lonesome) Computers

Visiting again? Updates


Major subsections

Some Really Old computing machines
First Electronic Computer - er - Calculating Machine
The Atanosoff-Berry Computer, of Iowa State College ( now University )

And Konrad Zuse

First Stored Program Computer

Work begins on hardware to aid Edsac replica recreation

World's Oldest Intact Working Computer

  • The Witch - at the [British] "National Museum of Computing" - from John Pokoski, Nov 21, 2012
  • The Witch [different URL with much more info] was based on Dekatron counting tubes. When I was in England around 1958 I made a clock that was based on the 50 Hz power. It was based on Dekatron counting tubes. I did not know of it [Witch] when I made the clock. (My clock is in [my home at] Clarkston, Utah.) - from LaFarr Stuart. Nov 22, 2012
  • Re-booting the Witch, on YouTube

General Items
Mid 1950s transistors, several dollars each, and not all that swift. The then current circuit card technology - If your cell phone was built this way, it would be way too slow, and fill your house, and more. The glass things are diodes.

Not so general

Items specific to Computer History Museum - CHM in Mountain View, Ca.

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

"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.

"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.

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Updated June 4, 2014
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