The Computer Museum Moved and I Didn’t Notice

In the early 1990s I was working as a programmer for the Free Software Foundation, mostly remotely from Maryland but I’d go up to Cambridge, MA for a week every so often to work face to face with people. One highlight from those trips was visiting the Computer Museum. Besides the exhibits, one thing I enjoyed was in a side room they had a Sun workstation you could see through a window. I’m not sure what it did, either helped run exhibits or provide networking for the staff. When I was there, the screen was in text mode scrolling, I think, “le0: No carrier”. So I felt right at home; it was just like at the University of Maryland.

Around the middle of the museum was the exhibit on computers of the 1980s, which had an endless loop of part of MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” playing through a speaker to set the mood. If you started to get disoriented in the exhibits, you could just head toward the rap music to find your bearings.

In October, 2006 I went back to the Boston area for my brother’s wedding, and found that the Computer Museum doesn’t exist any more. Some of its exhibits are in the Boston Museum of Science next to the Hall of Electricity. That includes parts of a huge mock-up PC. My wife took my picture standing in front of a giant Adaptec AHA-2940 SCSI controller card on the wall. I still had a couple of those cards then; one was in a Linux PC driving a Plextor CD-ROM which I used for digital audio extraction until I switched mainly to a Mac in January, 2006.

Then I stumbled on a video of an hour-long talk of recollections by Woz:

It was posted by the Computer History Museum, and the introducer, Len Shustick, says “I’m always surprised at the number of people who knew about the Computer Museum in Boston… and who don’t know that it no longer exists…. We are its reincarnation, and starting in 1996 we filled up tractor trailers and moved them west….” I provide anecdotal support for that comment!

It’s interesting that they reopened in Mountain View, CA, where I worked the next summer in 1993 at Cygnus after my time with the FSF.

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