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Living Computer Museum Opens To Public In Seattle

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the not-to-be-confused-with-a-laundromat dept.

Hardware 68

New submitter seawall writes "Paul Allen just opened the Living Computer Museum in Seattle. The 'Living' means many of the computers are actually running. There's a Xerox Sigma 9, which was introduced in 1971 and is quite similar to the computer that sent the first signal over Arpanet. There's also Tops-10 on original DEC hardware, an operating TOAD-1 system, and a DEC PDP-7 that's one of only four in the world."

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68 comments

Ah! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781229)

I just took a dump in my silverware drawer.

Re:Ah! (2)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about a year and a half ago | (#41781337)

To be fair, AC could have been talking about a primitive core-dump. All that silverware might have magnetic properties.

Great.. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781237)

..some other idiot who refuses to upgrade his computers but will probably still want customer support.

Cool beans. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781241)

What do they do when they wear & tear them out?

Re:Cool beans. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781425)

Well, the DEC-10 is mainly discrete logic chips and Transistors. Depending upon its exact vintage I expect that there would be lots of 74xxx IC's.

If they had a PDP-11 then I'd think about donating the VS-11 and VT30-D graphics cards I have in my loft.
There is even the Colour lookup unit for the VS-11. I modified the RSX-11 and VMS drivers for the CLU functionality.

I'd like to see a PDP-11/VS-11 running the Luna Lander game. That would bring back a load of memories.

Re:Cool beans. (2)

Guy Harris (3803) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782871)

Well, the DEC-10 is mainly discrete logic chips and Transistors. Depending upon its exact vintage I expect that there would be lots of 74xxx IC's.

There's a KI and a KL. From reading the KI10 schematics [trailing-edge.com] and pages such as the one for the M133 NAND gate module [dustyoldcomputers.com] (the schematics referred to module names such as that), I infer the KI10 had DEC-proprietary ICs. The KL10 was ECL, so it wouldn't use 74xxx's (unless there was an ECL variant).

Re:Cool beans. (1)

bpechter (2885) | about a year and a half ago | (#41783381)

They've got at least one 11/70...
I remember the VT11 on PDP's running Lunar Lander.
I remember VSV11's (qbus connecting to Unibus via an adapter) running on Vax11/780's. Was the VS11 similar to the VSV?

it better be a free museum (2, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | about a year and a half ago | (#41781247)

otherwise it's gonna be like, totally empty.

Re:it better be a free museum (1)

suutar (1860506) | about a year and a half ago | (#41781281)

I dunno, I think this is going on my list of places to check out next time I'm in Seattle to visit my niece.

Re:it better be a free museum (4, Informative)

SB9876 (723368) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782365)

If you're looking for a place to visit in Seattle, I think your time would be better spent here:
http://museumofcommunications.org/ [museumofco...ations.org]

Their hours are really weird but it's the best museum (and one of the best kept secrets) in Seattle. They've got a gigantic collection of old (early 20th century) telephone switching gear that is operational and available for viewing. The oldest is a nearly completely mechanical computer that Babbage would have probably been at home working on.

The best part of the MoC, though is the docents. It's staffed by a bunch of *old* school engineers in their 70-90s that were all Ma Bell lifers. I've had one of them walk me through the use and repair of an old crossbar switching system and the sheer volume of knowledge that those engineers had to have is mind-blowing. The docents are more than happy to spend a few hours one-one one with you and I guarantee you'll get far more out of your time at this place than Paul Allen's museum.

Re:it better be a free museum (2)

idontgno (624372) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782977)

That's all very nice... but the systems in the museum in TFA are a part of my personal history, whereas what you're talking about is of merely academic interest to me.

If I have to choose between talking to someone else about their life experiences, even if they are the coolest old-school EEs in the universe, or actually reliving my own life experiences... gosh, I guess I'm selfish, but I'll actually indulge in personal nostalgia, thanks. I enjoyed my time hacking PDPs and the like, and that takes precedence for me.

However, I would make a point of taking up your suggestion as perhaps the second place to visit. Maybe third.

Re:it better be a free museum (1)

SB9876 (723368) | about a year and a half ago | (#41784979)

Fair 'nuff, you hadn't mentioned the personal nostalgia angle and that's worth something. However drawing form my experience at another Paul Allen museum (the EMP/Sci-Fi museum), the average Slashdotter is probably going to have a far better and more interesting time at the MoC.

Re:it better be a free museum (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41785501)

Thanks. I live very nearby, and I spent some years at Lucent, where I had an occasion to spend time staring at an old electromechanical switch in the basement. I'd love to know more Bell System stuff.

Re:it better be a free museum (1)

gr8dude (832945) | about a year and a half ago | (#41785775)

Can you provide more recommendations of this kind? I've recently moved here and I would love to expose myself to all the cool things Seattle has to offer.

Thank you!

Re:it better be a free museum (1)

yusing (216625) | about a year and a half ago | (#41792927)

Thanks a lot for the detailed post. I'm sure I'd enjoy a few hours there w/the OT's. Took me a while to find a bus route (#132 gets to 4th Ave & Michigan) and notice that it's near SCCC Georgetown.

Re:it better be a free museum (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781349)

Admissions:
General - $5
Student - $2
Senior - $2
Active Military - $2
Child (under 12) - Free

Re:it better be a free museum (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781693)

Then they'll just move it to The Cloud

Re:it better be a free museum (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782071)

I'd pay to play with a PDP-7. If no one else does, hey that's more computer time for me.

free for 12 and under (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781279)

student & miltary $2, adult $5. Not really expensive but I cannot think of a reason not making it a completely free museum.....

Anyhow, I might just pay a visit today and see if it's any good

Re:free for 12 and under (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41783861)

student & miltary $2, adult $5. Not really expensive but I cannot think of a reason not making it a completely free museum.....

I dunno, maybe they don't have enough room to grow trees? or maybe they do, but they discovered money doesn't grow on trees.

Square footage in a city costs money, and if it doesn't pay for ongoing costs... well, Paul Allen can afford it for now, but it adds uncertainty -- If you had, say, a VAX sitting about, would you be more likely to donate it knowing that Paul Allen could decide to stop paying for the building and electric at any time, and it'd be all over? or knowing that the museum could sustain itself on tickets indefinitely?

Of course if it's free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781315)

One might be disillusioned into thinking that something that has changed the world so profoundly, and a museum championed by one of it's leading lights would have a venue of architectural merit instead of a plain box.

Museum? (3, Funny)

mcmonkey (96054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41781339)

Doesn't the "living" part of Living Computer make it a zoo?

Re:Museum? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41782131)

Yeah, I was thinking that maybe they carved the museum out of the inside of a giant redwood tree.

Figuratively. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41784403)

Doesn't the "living" part of Living Computer make it a zoo?

No, they obviously meant "living" in the "literal" sense (as the word is commonly used).

living : Living Computer Museum :: literally : "I literally died when I heard the news!"

The sad part is that my initial presumption was that this museum was about the female computers [ieeeghn.org] that helped to create Allied ballistic tables in WWII. I was literally sad to see that they meant "living" in the "literal" sense.

Sigma 9 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41781525)

My first computer! Oberlin College basically ran off of one Sigma-9. Doing software support sustained me for 4 years at the college.

Just a matter of time... (3, Funny)

OhSoLaMeow (2536022) | about a year and a half ago | (#41781545)

... before a dialog box pops up on these systems and states that Adobe Flash Reader needs to install a Critical Update.

Re:Just a matter of time... (1)

drkim (1559875) | about a year and a half ago | (#41787113)

... before a dialog box pops up on these systems and states that Adobe Flash Reader needs to install a Critical Update.

...you mean it punches out a card that says Adobe Flash Reader needs to install a Critical Update.

blocked (1)

dotnose (1424451) | about a year and a half ago | (#41781805)

I like how all of the links on the site are blocked by our proxy server at work for "Job Search/Careers"
Also, the first time I clicked on "The Collection" with javascript disabled I got a page full of Lorem Ipsum garbage.

Re:blocked (1)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about a year and a half ago | (#41791039)

I like how all of the links on the site are blocked by our proxy server at work for "Job Search/Careers"

Wow. I simply cannot wrap my head around the notion of working for any organization that would implement such a measure. To me, it would be like a slap in the face. It would force me to understand that, at some point in my history of life choices, I made at least one terrible mistake, possibly several, and that I'd better turn things around before it's too late.

At the very least, I'd make sure that the day a web search was blocked by a filter for being related to "Job Search/Careers" would be my very last one at that company.

IT job from hell? (1)

Vermonter (2683811) | about a year and a half ago | (#41781891)

I would not want to be the IT guy who gets to fix 40 year old computers.

Re:IT job from hell? (5, Insightful)

Sparticus789 (2625955) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782037)

Good, because I would LOVE to be the IT guy who gets to fix these computers. You have to know your roots!

Re:IT job from hell? (1)

starfishsystems (834319) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782323)

True enough. My research lab used to have a Symbolics 2650 Lisp Machine, an expensive and exotic item definitely worthy of the history books. Ours eventually fell into disuse, though I did my very best to maintain it for historical reasons.

Then the disk drive failed. Although it was easy enough to find a supply of replacement SMD drives, the software to format them was closely held by Symbolics. And so, for want of a nail...

Re:IT job from hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41782425)

Funny thing is the guy that does get to fix these things probably gets few (if any) roots.

Re:IT job from hell? (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year and a half ago | (#41785251)

+1 here

I used to get all happy when some old shitty 386 connected to a industrial machine at work breaks ... but I fixed them all =(

Re:IT job from hell? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41782137)

I would not want to be the IT guy who gets to fix 40 year old computers.

Then you are one of the masses who are in it for the money, not because s/he loves computing.

If you were, you would jump at the chance to do it for free.

Re:IT job from hell? (1)

axl917 (1542205) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782205)

I'd rather work on 40 yr old treasures there than windows98-era clunkers that we STILL have lying around here.

Re:IT job from hell? (1)

bpechter (2885) | about a year and a half ago | (#41783325)

I used to be the guy who fixed this stuff.
TU77 tape drives, RP06 disk drives, VAX11/780's.

I'd kill to have a job doing that today. Much more fun than Unix Sysadmin.
Now the techs just do parts delivery -- if that. Now it's mostly customer swap with manufacturer sending the stuff via FedEX/UPS or courier.

Adjusting the TU45's on those PDP10's was a real PITA.

Returning Videotapes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41782057)

I think I had lunch with this guy Paul Allen last week in London.

Great museum for any computing history buff (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41782257)

I went here a year or so ago, back when it was appointment only. They have a ton of old hardware, most of it still booted up and working. If you're a fan of computing history (or maybe you lived it), I highly recommend going to see this. At the time, the guy who gave us our tour was extremely knowledgeable and immersed in his role as a historian and archivist (plus, he wore a kilt, which equals bonus points). The museum was housed in an old warehouse, which gave it a gritty industrial feel that supplemented the sense of history. I don't know what it looks like now, but I hope they haven't shined it up or modernized it too much.

Anyway, if you're in Seattle, this is totally worth a visit.

no Amiga 1000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41782289)

I was surprised to see they don't have an Amiga 1000, the first true multimedia PC that out of the box could handle digital sound, animation, preemptive multitasking, and text to speech synthesis. It was based on a Motorola 68000, and was considered a decade or so ahead of the "IBM Compatibles" at the time.

Sigma gear (2)

NikeHerc (694644) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782295)

The Xerox Sigma 5 was the second machine I worked on. It was replaced by a Sigma 9. Of all the machines I've used since then, none were as elegant as the Sigma series of machines. Xerox provided the source code to the operating system, compilers, assemblers, and every other piece of software on the machine. It was an absolute treasure trove of knowledge!

I hope the museum's Sigma gear lives on for many more years.

US computer history (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41782427)

Thing is, it will be heavily biased towards the US version of history. It will miss out on all the important contributions that the UK and Europe made.

Contributions that the UK and Europe made. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41784093)

Call out the waaaabulance. Lets see how many US systems are in China's computer musuems in 2050

I spend most of my time getting rid of old junk... (1)

NinjaTekNeeks (817385) | about a year and a half ago | (#41782603)

As someone who draws immense joy from replacing old clunky equipment like servers and networking equipment this place just looks like a junkyard to me. Hopefully others will enjoy it as it probably took a few hundred admins to get this stuff working again.....

Instead of free wifi do they offer a connection to their token ring?

"this place just looks like a junkyard to me" (2)

Al Kossow (460144) | about a year and a half ago | (#41784067)

You and everyone else. That is why almost none of these machines still exist.

Re:"this place just looks like a junkyard to me" (1)

vandamme (1893204) | about a year and a half ago | (#41812245)

My buddy who just died had a couple SWTP machines and at least one HP 1000, the ones where you used toggle switches to load code. His sister is getting a 30 yard dumpster.

Sad, that there's this value versus time curve that goes to zero, and that's when things start to appreciate. But who has 50 years to wait?

It's sad (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about a year and a half ago | (#41783027)

It's really sad to think that most of these systems can be emulated on your cell phone nowadays, and will also run faster than the original.

Bad capacitors (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about a year and a half ago | (#41783251)

So there's probably no computers from the early 2000's especially the Dell Optiplex. The motherboards have all failed by now with leaking capacitors.

On a completely unrelated note in computer history, I went to a yard sale recently and bought 6 Pentium II's, still in their shrink-wrapped boxes, for $2 total. If I keep them for 10 years they might be worth something!

Re:Bad capacitors (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41785527)

Fortunately, that was a particularly unmemorable era in IT.

Living computers museum in Italia too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41783323)

don't forget also the Museo dell Informatica Funzionante" de Palazzolo Accreide in Sicilia http://museo.freaknet.org/en/ were all computers are running ...

Website (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year and a half ago | (#41783345)

Remove the facebook & twitter links and you have a very 90s looking website complete with inline CSS & jscript :)

Nice, but this museum isn't the only one. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41783395)

I run the MARCH computer museum, based at the InfoAge Science Center, in Wall, New Jersey. I personally know and can vouch for the awesome work done by Allen's technical staff. I applaud them for opening their museum to the public, where so many systems -- especially DEC minicomputers -- are frequently up and running. Meanwhile, /. people in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast can visit our museum here in NJ to see similar things -- all manner of 8-bitters, S-100, minis, and of course the Apple 1 reproduction that we displayed at HOPE (as recently featured [slashdot.org] here on /.)

Access? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41783533)

Computers got interesting because people hacked on them.

I can understand why a museum wouldn't want that, but without it you've taken the real life out of the machines. "Working" in that case would simply mean "light show" and be as meaningless to the onlookers.

Great opportunity for an Ask Slashdot here: What makes a Science/Tech/Computer museum _work_?

(Disclaimer: I played tic-tac-toe against a PDP-11. I really liked that science museum. Way better than any theme park.)

Re:Access? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41784253)

Computers got interesting because people hacked on them.

I can understand why a museum wouldn't want that, but without it you've taken the real life out of the machines. "Working" in that case would simply mean "light show"

Not strictly true. [catb.org]

Very cool, but Bletchley beat them to it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41784375)

The National Museum of Computing (http://www.tnmoc.org/) has stacks of working machines you can play with or just oggle at. Everything from huge mainframe stuff, through 80s PCs to modern machines. And when I was there the volunteers were actively restoring even more cool stuff like the dekatron-based WITCH. If your visiting England then I can't recommend it highly enough.

Mind you, this has given me new impetus to visit Seattle.

Bletchley beat them to it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41785521)

big deal. This is bankrolled by a billionare.

CP/M (1)

Ultracrepidarian (576183) | about a year and a half ago | (#41784393)

Any CP/M systems?

Re:CP/M (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41785555)

An Altair, an Imsai 8080, and an Osbourne executive (my not the far more representative Osbourne 1?). The early ones might be standalone, but the Osbourne is a solidly CP/m box. There may be others, I forget.

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