IT History Society Blog

New Information Age Gallery at the London Science Museum

October 10th, 2014 by Frank Land

Information Age tells the story of how information and communication technologies have transformed our lives over the last 200 years. Through a remarkable display of unique and historic objects, the gallery will illuminate our long history of information networks. But this is not just a gallery of technology, it’s a gallery of astonishing stories and incredible people that shows how we have created, used and been affected by each new wave of change.

Objects at the heart of the gallery

Objects form the heart of Information Age. Over 800 objects, of different shapes, sizes and materiality will be displayed in the gallery. Objects act as illustrations of technological change, but also as markers in history and agents of change, transporting visitors to a time and place of use.

The Networks: Six networks that changed our world

Information Age is divided into six content clusters – called ‘networks’. These are not only technological networks, they are networks that bring people together, unite ideas, connect devices and support organisations. These Networks are:

  • The Cable – telegraphy

Looks at the speed and growth of the electric telegraph network from the 1830s and features stories of pioneering adventures, charismatic characters, dramatic races and discovery.

  • The Exchange – telephony

Brings the power of the human voice to our visitors to illustrate the democratisation of the telephone and its effectiveness as a tool of social change.

  • The Broadcast – radio and television

Reveals how the ability to transmit the same message to millions of people at the same time has transformed news and entertainment.

  • The Constellation – satellite communication

Bridges the mystery and ubiquity of the satellite; making links between the familiarity of the satellite’s services and the – quite literal – remoteness of its operation and orbit.

  • The Web – computer networks

Exposes the quantity of information and data people share, from a point where computers stand alone, to the moment they begin to reveal their networks.

  • The Cell – mobile communications

Looks at the influence mobile phones have had on our lives, from their earliest days as an expensive, showy gadget to today when they form an essential part of many peoples’ daily routine across the world.

The Stories: twenty-one transforming events

Each network contains three or four Transforming Events; discrete historical moments which illustrate the significance of a network to users’ lives. An event could be a major technological development (such as the first patent for a telephone), one with mass impact (such as the first moment that Britain came together to watch television), or reveal major social change (such as the shift from women operating manual exchanges to mechanical devices).

A participatory gallery

A key part to the creation and ongoing development of the gallery is audience and visitor participation. During the gallery build, innovative public participation projects have uncovered the personal stories that will help shape development of the gallery and bring each of the six networks to life.

Gordon Bell: Information on the old The Computer Museum in Boston, MA

October 5th, 2014 by Alan Weissberger

Note:  This blog post was authored by Gordon Bell and edited by Alan J Weissberger.

The Computer Museum website is a place to view all the extensive material of The Computer Museum (which was relocated to Mt. View, CA in 116/97), whereby one can go immediately to an exhibit, event, etc. and 350+ files (10K pages) of computer history.

For the nostalgic visitor or historian, downloading the Museum Reports, 1979-1988 and Annual Reports 1988-1998 describe the events from the opening in 1975 at Digital and in Marlborough MA, though the museum’s move to Boston and eventually to Mountain View’s Moffett Field, CA. It is a work in progress that will continue to evolve and hopefully attract more content. However with all the files and publications, the files are valuable reference. 

The website is a living cyber museum providing accessibility to all aspects of The Computer Museum (c1979-2000) to the extent content was preserved.

Ideally, a visitor can walk along the timeline as a guide  to:

·         View and attend a lecture e.g. the first ones by JV Atanasoff, the inventor of the Atanasoff-Berry Computer

Or hear what the first useful stored program computer was and how it was programmed by Prof. Maurice V. Wilkes, of Cambridge U.  Or listen to Bob Noyce explain the first integrated circuit invention at the opening of TCM, Boston in  xxs, 1984.  Or a talk by me on The Computer Pioneers…

·         Replay or recall  the East-West Computer Bowls over their 10 year history.

View all the book of questions from this 1988-98 era when the web was born.

·         Visit the various exhibits

The large scale walk-through computer can be revisited with a guide Computer Chronicles toured TCM, Marlboro, MA in 1983

·         Marketing Material  is where you can download various press kits about  openings, store catalogs, and especially about 100 posters of pioneer lectures, the Computer Bowl, and Historical/Taxonomic trees.

·         The Museum Catalog (namely what are the museum’s holdings) as a publication.  Ed Thelen scanned the original  A Museum Catalog is itself an artifact of 20th century museums before search. The catalog was eventually published in the Reports (see 400 page compendium of all the reports xxx)

·         View all  the documents that described the Museum in roughly 350 scanned files: Reports, Annual Reports, posters announcing the lectures and pioneers, store catalogs, Timeline Posters and Product Trees, flyers, awards, PR releases, and more.

·         Backroom look at artifacts

·         Back Office working files used for design etc. All the available scanned  files including deliberation and sounds of gnashing of the teeth especially all the correspondence of Gordon Bell asking for support   Note some of the 30+ year ago, 1984 Asks (Begs( include Brook Byers, Ed DeCastro, Bill Gates, Bernie Gordon, Regis McKenna, Heinz Nixdorf Max Palevsky, Tom Perkins, Bill Perry, John Pierce, Ben Rosen, Al Shughart and many more.

·         Governance files of BOD, etc. especially later ones from Gardner Hendrie’s period as Chairman that he had retained.

·         A BLOG (TBD) Participate in a blog e.g. comments by former board members, comments re. particular artifacts, talks, etc.

The timeline is a nice  way to visit the TCM.

Note the 1000 x 15,000 pixels timeline on the site chronicling events and exhibits.

The goals is to be able to traverse it and to see and hear content of those days. You have to look at the items and then use some imagination but eventually all will be hot linked to something interesting to see/hear! We will be experimenting with wider, deeper, and different timelines—this one was events that were rendered from XLSX.

The Computer Museum, Boston on Wikipedia has the story of TCM.  Oliver Strimpel used archived items and made a really complete and compelling story Wikipedia.


A site search is still needed that will reveal the documents if you know a name or phrase. Also crawlers need a way to find it and its content. CHM will post a few links to enable the TCM part of the museum to be found (l think we can say/prove the museum will be 40 years old next year).

The site is beginning to fulfil a view of a Cyber Museum  being a dusty place that you might want to visit because you once visited it in physical space and want to see it again or get an artifact..

The particular joy of this site is that it is an experiment… so if you have something that you believe someone else associated with TCM will want, we’ll host it.


Computer History Museum: Celebrating 35 Years: Sept 26,2014

London Science Museum

October 2nd, 2014 by Jeffery Stein

The London Science Museum is opening its new Information Age Gallery on 24th October  2014 in the presence of  the Queen and Prince Phillip.


Computer History Museum: Celebrating 35 Years: Sept 26,2014

September 30th, 2014 by Alan Weissberger


The Computer History Museum (CHM) marked its 35th birthday on September 24, 2014. Visitors from around the world see an impressive set of exhibits, artifacts and come for the conversations, panel sessions and lectures.   One such panel took place on Sept 26th, with CHM co-founders Gordon Bell (Marlboro, MA 1975) and Len Shustek (Mt View, CA in 1996) presenting the museums history.  The panel was moderated by the indefatigable John Hollar, CHM CEO & President.

The CHM timeline can be viewed here.

Early History in MA by Gordon Bell:

The Museum has come a long way from a coat closet in Massachusetts to the beautiful multi-building permanent facility that today houses engaging exhibits and the largest collection of computing artifacts in the world.  Indeed, the first exhibit was in a converted closet at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) Building 12 in Maynard, MA.

In 1979 it officially became an exhibition site operated by DEC in Marlboro, MA.   It was then called the Digital Computer Museum (DCM).

Gordon’s wife Gwen, compiled the first catalog for the museum in 1981.  It listed all the museums collected artifacts.  Important acquisitions included:  the CDC 6600 mainframe computer, ENIGMA machine (used to encipher and decipher secret messages), pre-computer era artifacts like old giant calculators.  Referring to the catalog, Gordon Bell said,  “there was a collage of stuff we thought was in there (the museum).” He estimated ~ 150 artifacts had been collected at the DCM.

“We had a very good relationship with IBM,” Mr. Bell said.  “They had a lot of collections,” he added.  One of the most impressive ones was core memory, which became the DCMs “symbol.”

in 1982. the DCM incorporated as The Computer Museum (TCM)  which moved to Boston in 1984, located on Museum Wharf.

The museum ran a “Computer Bowl” which was an East-West contest for the best exhibits.  “Sort of like a college football bowl,” Gordon said.  The West won most of those contests- about 10 in all.

The museum published a book on The Best Software for Kids which was very popular.  Over time, the museum evolved into a children or teenager museum for learning about the history of computing.

Gordon showed a museum produced poster chronicling  the first 25 years of the microprocessor evolution.

Author’s Note: That must’ve been in the Fall of 1996, as the first commercially available microprocessor -the Intel 4004- was introduced in Fall of 1971.

Post 1996 History by Len Shustek:

Len vaguely knew of The History Museum in Boston in 1994-95 when he taught a computer class at Stanford (Len has a PhD in Computer Science from Stanford and MS, BS degrees in Physics from Brooklyn PolyTech).  He was surprised to find that computer history had been taken out of the course syllabus.  That was a shame.  He thought at the time:  “There’s a history Computer Science students should know about and appreciate.”

Therefore, Len started writing white papers and began exploring how to start a computer history museum on the west coast, preferably in the SF Bay area where he lived.  After extensive research, he was surprised to find that the only computer museum in the world was the one in Boston, MA.   Len met with Gordon Bell who suggested he be on the Board of Directors of TCM so he could “re-invent it” from a kids museum to one that adults could also appreciate.

During a period that spanned parts of 1996 and 1997,  TCM’s back room collection was relocated to Moffett Field (Mt View, CA).  It was housed in a building provided by NASA that was previously the Naval Base furniture store.  With Gwen’s help, a large number of artifacts were shipped from Boston to Moffet Field where they were stored in dirigible hangers.  Len got a “fork lift drivers license” to move the boxes around, but he never needed to do that.  Thank goodness!

A 1996 catalog only included 25% of the contents of the boxes that had been shipped. The first exhibit was visible storage.  Getting museum visitors was a challenge at Moffet Field.  A SF Examiner article referred to the museum as a “visible storage warehouse.”

Len and others thought that the museum should be housed outside of Moffet Field, even though NASA had planned to give two acres of land for a newly built CHM.  But NASA moved too slow to progress that plan.

In the aftermath of the dotcom bust in 2000-2001, there was lots of silicon valley real estate available at affordable prices, including the Silicon Graphics building where the museum is now located.   The CHM needed to borrow $25M in Oct 2002, hoping that future fund raising would help pay the loan off.  (In fact, most of the $25K has been paid off with interest).

In 2003, CHM opened its new building (previously occupied by Silicon Graphics), at 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd in Mt View, CA.   There’s seven acres of land and lots of parking spaces (although all may be taken for well attended events).

The CHM curators created Visible Storage v2.0 (earlier versions were in TCM in Boston as well as the computer museum at Moffet Field).  It was a great exhibit and talking tool which helped with fund raising.

In 2008, the CHM reinstituted the Fellows award which became quite popular. That same year, the museum ran out of space to hold all its artifacts.  So it bought a warehouse in Milpitas which is used to hold various artifacts, supplies and temporary exhibits.

Author’s Note:

Len didn’t get nearly as much air time as Gordon Bell during the 1 hour talk.  He wasn’t able to explain how he and his colleagues were able to transform the small museum at Moffet Field into the existing CHMs stellar collection of artifacts and world class exhibits as well as the very popular “conversations” and panel sessions.


Opportunity to Learn More:  Oct 9th IEEE meeting in Santa Clara, CA.

IEEE SV History Oct 9th meeting: Origins & History of the Computer History Museum
Given the importance of computers to our civilization, why are there so few museums dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of the Information Age?  The Computer History Museum  (CHM) is the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society.
In 2014 the museum celebrates its 35th anniversary, dated from its roots as The Computer Museum in Boston in 1979. Come hear its two leaders, the Chairman of the Board (Len Shustek) and the President/CEO (John Hollar), describe the joys, frustrations, and ultimate success of that odyssey.  

There are several interesting CHM stories that will be told for the first time, which will surely captivate the audience.  You’ll also get to learn about the professional lives of Len and John along with their passion and motivation for the history of computing.  That should be very interesting, informative and entertaining.

More information including bio’s and registration link is available here.





Ted Hoff: Significant Omissions from Malone’s Intel Trinity Book

September 25th, 2014 by Alan Weissberger

Written by Ted Hoff, PhD and edited by Alan J. Weissberger

Please refer to earlier post on Errors and Corrections to Malone’s book.

General omission:

Malone omits why I was hired at Intel as I was not a chip designer.  The reason was Bob Noyce’s view that LSI circuits were moving in the direction of systems on a chip, and that Intel should have some in-house systems engineering expertise.  Noyce asked Jim Angell, a EE Professor at Stanford who had consulted for Fairchild, to recommend some candidates.  I believe he gave Noyce three names, and I was the only one of those not working for Fairchild.  Noyce then called to invite me to join Intel.



1] 54 Gordon Moore’s reflow patent covered a significant step in making the silicon gate process manufacturable by preventing cracking of the metal layer and thereby improving yield.

2] 55 Malone mentions Max Palevsky, but omits his connection to Scientific Data Systems, of which he was a co-founder in 1961. He sold the company to Xerox in 1969. His opinions were especially valuable, coming from the perspective of a computer company executive.

3] 121 Creative confrontation should be attributed to Andy Grove–and the emphasis should be on “creative.”

4] 128 Andy Grove played a major role in establishing that R&D had to work hand in hand with production. All three men said that at Fairchild, R&D would develop some new process only to have production resist adopting it.

5] 129 Andy Grove instituted “management by objectives,” which required progress reports to include predictions of future developments as well as past accomplishments. In subsequent reports, accomplishments had to be compared with the prior predictions. That discipline helped Intel’s engineers and management become much better at predicting progress and scheduling product development.

6] 134 Why does Malone say that the 3101 semiconductor memory came out in less than 18 months after Intel’s founding when it was approximately one year?

7] 136 Malone’s quote of Gordon Moore’s description of MOS is somewhat garbled. Gordon was talking about Intel’s MOS, which used the silicon gate process, not most other companies’ MOS products, which used metal gate.

8] 138 Malone mentions flash memory, but how was it developed?

9] 138 Malone describes Gordon Moore’s goal for an 1102 DRAM replacement to have no overlap with the Honeywell design, but makes no mention of how that was to be done. See page 156 below for more details.

10] 146 Malone omits the differences between a calculator chip set and a CPU oriented chip set. Consider the typical calculator set using a printer, and including a printer control chip. Should it be desired to use a different printer, a new printer control chip would be required–involving circuit design, a new chip layout, chip manufacturing and testing, as well as circuit board design to use the new printer controller chip. Those steps might take months, and involve tens of thousands of dollars of research and development. With a CPU approach, the new printer would typically require an afternoon of programming, the wiring of a new connection cable and the burning of a new EPROM–all taking less than a day.

11] 149 Malone omits why Intel would consider undertaking a custom chip job–which had the potential of delaying its development of semiconductor memory, Intel’s primary corporate goal. The reason Intel took the custom chip project (from Busicom) was concern about the rate at which semiconductor memory would be adopted by its target customers and to generate needed revenue in the interim. A custom job was expected to generate revenue much more quickly than semiconductor memory components.

12] 149 The details of the Busicom agreement–60,000 kits, price per kit not to exceed $50.00 should be presented at this point in the narration, i.e. at the time of the April, 1969 agreement, not later.

13] 151 In the early days of Intel, Bob Noyce frequently discussed many concepts–various aspects of computers, possible ways to implement bipolar ROM (one led to a patent), and other new and useful ways to use semiconductor technology. Those discussions had nothing to do with microprocessor chip set definition, design or development.

14] 153 Malone claims Bob Noyce had gone renegade–but omits what Bob should have done regarding the Busicom agreement and its problems. Should he have abandoned the agreement and walked away from a multi-million dollar order that Intel needed, or should he have just gone ahead and risked bankrupting the company trying to fulfill the Busicom agreement?

15] 153 Malone is incorrect in stating I felt I lacked skill in software. He omits that Intel’s MOS design team used a simulation program I had written in much of their design work. That program, initially run on an outside time-sharing service, was used so much that eventually Intel purchased a PDP-10 computer system primarily to run that simulation program. I have a copy of a memo I had written in 1975, discussing the merits of some proposed changes to the program. That proves the program was still being used seven years after Intel started operations.

16] 153 Malone omits the series of steps proposed in an effort to simplify the Busicom chip set. They ultimately led to the 4004 architecture (which was not a copy of a minicomputer as Malone claims). Those steps included breaking down the floating point arithmetic into digit by digit steps by making greater use of ROM; then noting that BCD arithmetic could be done by combining a binary step with BCD correction, thereby allowing the underlying processor to be a binary device (simpler than BCD); replacing shift-register memory with DRAM, which would allow simplifying the memory control logic while speeding up operations and reducing transistors per bit from six to theree; and noting that a simple binary processor with ROM could perform many of the operations being implemented by separate chips.

Also omitted is a definition of a CPU as used at Intel: a CPU has two major sections: one performs program sequence control with instruction fetching and interpretation; the second performs data manipulation as specified by each fetched and interpreted instruction. Bit slice chips only performed a portion of the latter function.

17] 153 Malone mentions that the Intel concept developed by Stan Mazor and myself would be a 4-chip design, but omits that it was an alternate to Busicom’s 10 to 12 chip design yet would still perform all the functions provided by the Busicom set.

18] 154 Malone describes Bob Graham’s letter to Busicom of September 16, 1969, as a “note.” He omits that it included price quotes for kits based on Busicom’s chip set and for Intel’s proposed chip set. It also included specifications for Intel’s chip set as well as the proposed instruction set for what would become the 4004 CPU chip.

19] 154 In saying that the Intel approach would involve a lot of sofware yet to be written, Malone omits that the Busicom chip set also needed extensive software. It was expected that the routines replacing floating point arithmetic and the I/O chips would be written once, coded into one or more ROMs, and then that standard ROM set would be used in the various calculator models.

20] 156 Malone mentions the 1102 1K DRAM problems and erroneously states the 1103 1K DRAM would be based on the 1102 core. Les Vadasz had told me of the difficulty caused by the 1102s need for an intermediate voltage generator. That generator was required because the 1102 used a single word line that required three different operating levels: unselected, read selected and write selected. Generating the read selected level was the problem, so I suggested to Les that by using 2 word lines, i.e. separate read and write, the intermediate level could be eliminated, but at the cost of a somewhat larger memory cell. Les liked the idea and urged me to file for a patent on that approach. The patent issued may have been Intel’s first. It soon became known that certain types of coupling on the 1103 DRAM chip could cause memory loss due to induced bipolar transistor action–solved by adding substrate bias and using an 18-lead package. I understand my patent was the only one disclosing a 3-transistor DRAM cell for which substrate bias could be applied.

21] 166 In discussing some events of 1970, Malone omits that in January, 1970 Bob Graham and I predicted that semiconductor memory would replace magnetic core menory in an Electronic Products magazine article. This article states that semiconductor memory would be priced below a penny per bit by 1972, at which point magnetic core memory could not be able to compete (despite its advantage of inherent non volatility).

22] 179 Malone mentions using established programming languages to make microprocessors work, but omits how that was accomplished. Intel found various ways to develop support for them–including Gary Kildall’s development of PL/M.

23] 179 In discussing marketing for the microprocessors, Malone cannot seem to understand that there were markets other than replacing mainframe computers or minicomputers. Within Intel, we were developing a story to tell to a new class of customers. Faggin and I had discovered that the MCS-4 chip set was fantastic for solving logic design problems, e.g. Faggin had to build testers, and I had to build programmers for PROMs and EPROMs. We concluded that, if we as engineers find microprocessors so useful, there will be many more engineers out there that would feel the same way.

24] 182 Bob Graham’s “Intel Delivers” campaign included a policy of not talking about a product until it was on distributor’s shelves. Until that happened, many LSI products from other companies were touted, but were not (or never became) available.

25] 187 Malone, in discussing the goal of increasing the clock speed for an upgrade to the 8008, fails to adequately cover the role of Intel’s newly developed n-channel silicon gate process–inherently faster than the previous p-channel technology and the primary reason that clock rates could be increased.

26] 188 Malone mentions Intel’s board having objections to the microprocessor as diverting focus from semiconductor memory product development. One reason for the board’s concern was that entering the computer business could be perceived by memory customers as competition for their business. Those of us who wanted the microprocessor announced argued that we could avoid that impression if we did not tout microprocessors as replacing our computer customer’s systems. It soon became evident that even big computer vendors needed little controllers throughout their systems. Many had such processors on their drawing boards at the time Intel came out with its microprocessors. Those computer customers quickly adopted Intel microprocessor devices to meet their needs. Consider that even the IBM PC used a microcontroller just to communicate with its keyboard. If one purchased IBMs dot matrix printer with an IBM PC, that printer also contained a microcontroller. Thus an IBM PC with that printer would have two embedded controllers compared to one PC type microprocessor.

27] 191 Malone argues that marketing produced endless manuals, etc. The error in that statement was addressed in the previous blog post on “errors and corrections.” However, Malone omits that the user guide for the 4004 was written by Stan and myself.

28] 192 Malone expresses amazement that the EPROM was non-volatile, but omits what was really unique about it. All ROMs were non-volatile, but the EPROM was “field programmable” and could be reused after erasure. MOS ROMs were only available from a semiconductor manufacturer and were “mask programmed.” Bipolar PROMs were only programmable once. Therefore, the EROM was much more flexible for the user as it could be reprogrammed in the field and didn’t have to be discarded if there were changes to be made or programming errors (bugs) detected. Please see next omission on pg 192.

29] 192 Malone fails to understand the benefit of the EPROM. Before it, MOS ROMs had to be ordered from the semiconductor manufacturer–a process which could take weeks. The customer had to send his firmware to the factory which would make a mask containing that firmware, then wafers would be processed using that mask. Those wafers would be sorted, separated into chips, packaged and then tested again. Intel charged $600 for the first three units, then subsequent orders had a 50 piece minimum quantity at $25.50 per unit. With the EPROM a customer could debug his code and reprogram on the spot, a process taking less than a day, rather than weeks. The C1702 quartz-lid EPROM sold for $81 in single unit quantity (prices as of September 1972).

30] 192 Before Intel offered the Intellec development tools, it offered SIM boards which had been developed by my group. They appear in the Sept. 1972 price list. Marketing had originally wanted to give them away, but I argued that we should sell them because customers would need such a device for their microprocessor development and it would cost them more to develop it themselves than what we could sell them for while still making a tidy profit. If we didn’t charge for development aids, we would ultimately see them as a burden on profits and discontinue them.

31] 192 Malone’s comment that Intel’s microprocessor development systems would have outsold personal computers neglects the cost difference. To compete in the PC market, Intel would have had to reduce prices by an order of magnitude from what they could charge for a development system, which was sold in small quantities (often just one) to each customer developing microprocessor applications.

32] 192 Intel’s 1972 annual report stated that its 1103 DRAM was the largest selling semiconductor memory in the world.

33] 193 From the time the 8008 microprocessor came out, its sales volume grew exponentially over time. We had expected those sales to drop away rapidly after the 8080 microprocessor was announced (and shipped to customers), but instead 8008 sales just stopped rising–they continued at a steady rate for quite some time.