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The History of Computing Auctioned at Christie's

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the considerable-subset-anyhow dept.

Software 177

Larry Groebe writes "The most amazing unified collection of books, papers, and similar material on the history of computing is about to go on sale at Christie's auction house. Want a signed copy of 'Rossum's Universal Robots?' Original papers on the Eniac? Alan Turning's original proof of universal computability? Letters from Charles Babbage himself? It's in there, to anyone with (a whole lot of) money. Check out the estimated price on the 1974 journal article by Vinton Cerf describing IP addressing. It's increased in value in the past 30 years...just a bit."

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177 comments

FP (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546515)

for great justice!!!

what? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546516)

eh?

Hey baby (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546519)

Wanna see my authetic Vint Cerf letter from 1974?

The sale's not going well (2, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546532)

Apparently the entire online catalog is Slashdotted.

Re:The sale's not going well (0)

spac3manspiff (839454) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546570)

I for one welcome our auction cheating overloards.

I bet they're thinking "Yeah, slashdotting the place should keep my bid low".

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546811)

Why on earth is this kind of mindless dribble "funny"? How about a Beowulf cluster of Korean old people in Russia, you insensitive clod, too? Jesus people, this is as bad as "at first I though it said..."

Do they have... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546533)

The history of the history of recursion?

Re:Do they have... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546598)

The history of the history of recursion?

yes [slashdot.org]

Re:Do they have... (2, Funny)

stephenisu (580105) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546638)

Stocked in the department of redundancy department.

See the section labeled department of redundancy department.

To find out... (1)

jd (1658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546693)

Go to the reply to the parent post that tells you where to find out.

Historical Documents Deserve A Prominent Place. (5, Insightful)

dabigpaybackski (772131) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546534)

I hope they put these items in a museum where everyone can see them. Considering the ever-growing importance of the computer in the last half-century, I think papers like these should be part of an exhibit making the rounds across the globe. Smithsonian, perhaps?

Re:Historical Documents Deserve A Prominent Place. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546567)

Yeah, it would have to be America. You bunch of cunts.

Re:Historical Documents Deserve A Prominent Place. (1, Flamebait)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546606)

Yes, well, besides the UK and the U.S., who else was involved in creating all that history? Go screw yourself.

Re:Historical Documents Deserve A Prominent Place. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546672)

- These books belong in a museum.
- So do you!

(sorry bad joke)

Re:Historical Documents Deserve A Prominent Place. (2, Interesting)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546689)

Yep,

put them in a museum but how about PDF or PS copies on line. I want to read this stuff but not at the price being asked.

Re:Historical Documents Deserve A Prominent Place. (4, Interesting)

mOoZik (698544) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546736)

I think we need a good computer museum. We have a few, but most of them are just a collection of old, dingy machines for one's drooling-over. We need something that has machines, documents, letters, books, components, video interviews, chip prototypes, interactive sections, and so on and so forth! But these will most likely go to a private collection, though museums often bid in these auctions.

Re:Historical Documents Deserve A Prominent Place. (4, Informative)

Jason Scott (18815) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546831)

Haven't been to the Computer History Museum [computerhistory.org] in Mountain View, California, have you? I reccommend seeing what they have and where they're going with it.

Re:Historical Documents Deserve A Prominent Place. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547099)

Well buy them and donate them or better yet buld the museum yourself.
I hope they go to whoever bids the most that is why they call it an "auction".
Private collectors are usually the best people to assemble and conserve such things-where do you think the libraries and museums get them?

Bill Gates (1, Offtopic)

kaedemichi255 (834073) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546543)

If I were Bill Gates I'd shell out some money for that stuff.

Re:Bill Gates (2, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546607)

If I were Bill Gates I'd shell out some money for that stuff.

And then what? Dig a hole in your back yard and burn everything in it that challenges your vise-like grip on the IT market? Or file it away, with a very Blofeld-ish, "Quaint, quaint."

Re:Bill Gates (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546654)

destroy the documented prior art and file new patents.

Re:Bill Gates (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546918)

If I were Bill Gates I'd shell out some money for that stuff.

Perhaps he will. He purchased Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester at auction for $30 million and founded Corbis, which owns historically significant collections like the Bettmann Achieve.

Computors (4, Funny)

Rares Marian (83629) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546549)

Wow. They really did spell it that way. All the souls I've led astray. No amount of Windows usage can atone for the misgrammaticalous advice I've given.

I will never RTFA again. Who knows what else I'll find out?

KNOWN TERRORIST MICHAEL SIMS NO LONGER AN EDITOR?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546551)

CELEBRATE!!!

I have... (3, Funny)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546552)

I have Charles Babbage's ego in a box somewhere. Should be worth a bit.

Re:I have... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546686)

I would offer you something for it, but the cost of storage for a box that big would probably outweigh its value by a fair bit.

estimated bids are ridiculous (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546556)

The estimated bids for these items are ridiculously inflated. If they get 10% of what they are estimating they will be doing great.

Re:estimated bids are ridiculous (2, Insightful)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546615)

Why do you say that...

Just because you don't have the money doesn't mean quite a few people don't. I would expect historically interesting documents to fetch a decent price. Someone will want them, hopefully for a museum (A tech museum somewhere) - I could see Bill J, Scott M, Bill G, Steve J. putting bids on documents that particularly inspired them.

Re:estimated bids are ridiculous (1)

Hnice (60994) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546712)

sure they are.

god forbid we should trust people who do this -- well -- for a living, when we can trust a guy on slashdot who has an opinion and fingers.

One man's trash... (1)

winkydink (650484) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546649)

Some people have more dollars than sense (say it out loud)

Re:One man's trash... (2, Insightful)

Hnice (60994) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546681)

yeah, either the estimates or stupid, or

and i'm going out on a limb here

christie's employs people with experience in correctly valuing antiques and memorabilia. gee, i wonder who i should trust -- the experts, with years of proven experience in the field, or an anonymous coward?

yawn.

Also featured on Page 3 of the catalog... (4, Funny)

GillBates0 (664202) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546561)

A never before published proof of P=NP from Alan Turing's diary.

Just kidding folks...no need to get your panties all in a bunch.

Re:Also featured on Page 3 of the catalog... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546621)

Extract from Alan Turing's diary:
I think I solved the P=NP problem once and for all. If N=1, P=P unless N=0, but it is just the beginning of a proof.

I'm hungry, I'll get myself an apple...
-- Alan

Re:Also featured on Page 3 of the catalog... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546865)

I'm hungry, I'll get myself an apple...

unfunny.

Worth noting (4, Interesting)

rackhamh (217889) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546575)

Isn't it interesting that in an era when digitization and electronic archival are increasingly important, memorabilia such as this is so highly valued?

Re:Worth noting (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546626)

A connection to the past is an important part of the human condition. I think it speaks highly that people that spend so much time using these wonderful tools value the history behind them so much. It really makes you think about the stereotype of geeks and IT people being so obsessed with the future.

Re:Worth noting (1)

starseeker (141897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546940)

Indeed. In some sense this charts the rise of the internet as the work of human beings, rather than just technical steps.

Implicit in this statement is the (vaild) observation that much human thought which has only ever existed as digital records will not retain the personal, tangible quality physical records have.

Also interesting is the potential that, if our society ever self destructs, a truly staggering body of knowledge will be lost. I know, no one thinks this is likely. They probably thought the same thing at every stage of civilization capable of leaving written records. I would like to see some effort made to preserve the core of our technological knowledge and perhaps our history, although the latter is fraught with political trouble. Time capsules may someday serve the future very well indeed.

Re:Worth noting (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546989)

Also interesting is the potential that, if our society ever self destructs, a truly staggering body of knowledge will be lost.
Are people happier now than they used to be?

Re:Worth noting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547100)

Also interesting is the potential that, if our society ever self destructs, a truly staggering body of knowledge will be lost.
Are people happier now than they used to be?

What's the relevance of that? Happiness is not the only important thing. The knowledge our society possesses represents thousands of years. Setting back development by thousands of years could make the difference between the human race discovering how to get off this planet before the inevitable end of the world or not. Happiness is going to become rather academic at some point in the future - and scientific knowledge will determine how soon that comes. I'd say it's important to hang on to it.

Dang! (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546591)

Where's that old C64 when I need a few hundred thousand... man, what people will pay for outdated tech!

Re:Dang! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547198)

Except that your C64 is outdated tech, whereas this stuff is fundamental, and will be used as important reference material for new designs 500 years from now, much like Modus Tolens as an important logical construction (in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning) came from Socrates, passed onto Plato, and then Aristotle. That's the difference between technology and science. Technology is flavor of the month. Science is flavor for all time.

MICHAEL SIMS' REIGN OF TERROR IS OVER? REJOICE!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546597)

THE MOST CENSORSHIP-HAPPY, ANTI-SPEECH IDIOT SLASHDOT EDITOR HAS BEEN CAST AWAY FROM THIS RETARDED WEBSITE? IF THIS IS REALLY TRUE, THEN SCORE ONE FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN ***TRUE*** FREE SPEECH! MICHAEL SIMS WAS SLASHDOT'S EQUIVALENT OF ITS HEMORRHOID, CONTINUALLY MAKING THE PASSING OF SHIT PAINFUL! BUT IF HE'S GONE, THEN ONE FUCKING RETARD IS GONE, TO LEAVE A GAP IN THE REMAINING RANKS OF THE SLASHDOT "EDITARD" GROUP! FUCK YOU MICHAEL SIMS, I HOPE YOU FUCKING ROT IN HELL FOR YOUR SINS!

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What about (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546600)

What about the Pink Shirt book; the Devil book; the Dragon book; or the Red book, otherwise known as the ugly Red Book that won't fit on a shelf... Will these books also be auctioned off?

Signed,
Joey

Sold! (0, Offtopic)

partiallyhydrogenate (855561) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546609)

Imagine it.

In this corner, hailing from the great state of Washington, weighing in at 160 lbs, the richest human being to ever walk the face of the planet, the man who could buy and sell my ass with his couch change, "Dollar" Bill Gates!

And in this corner, the dark horse challenger hailing from parts unknown, weighing in at a whopping 13 stone, sporting a dapper "Villain on a traintrack with a rope and damsel" beard, "BulletProof (TM)" Larry Ellison.

Of course, Bill bought the judges after the damn promoters ruined the sport....

255 lots? (3, Funny)

Mononoke (88668) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546623)

In an auction of the history of cyberspace, shouldn't there really be 256?

Re:255 lots? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546671)

Actually no. The count starts at zero. :-)

No, 255 is correct. (4, Funny)

jd (1658) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546678)

Remember, 0 is NULL.

Re:No, 255 is correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546762)

Nope, 2^8 is 256 therefor you can store 256 different values in 1 byte. And an unisgned data type (i.e. char) can store 256 different values. 0 != NULL in this case and you have to count it in with the other 255 possibillities.

Re:No, 255 is correct. (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546844)

Nope, 2^8 is 256 therefor you can store 256 different values in 1 byte. And an unisgned data type (i.e. char) can store 256 different values. 0 != NULL in this case and you have to count it in with the other 255 possibillities.

0 isn't NULL, but it *is*.... zero.

Are we to assume that Christies are never out of stock and we can use the '0' to represent something else?

Re:No, 255 is correct. (1)

mrbuttboy (460308) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546939)

oh for the love of mod points.......it is the same fuzzy thinking that confuses kilobyte with 2^10 bytes.....

i certainly hope you get modded up at least one more.....

Re:No, 255 is correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547087)

You are correct, 0 is zero. But it _still_ represents something (a 0). i.e. if you have 256 items represented from 0 to 255 (as in this case), 0 represents one item, just like any other number. When you're out of stock you have nothing to represent that. Simple as that.

hint: to represent nothing, you don't have to represent it with something.

Re:No, 255 is correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547097)

SELECT 0 as Number WHERE Number IS NULL
0 rows returned

0 != NULL

Re:No, 255 is correct. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547122)

And an unisgned [sic] data type (i.e. char) can store 256 different values.

What's that supposed to mean? "Unsigned" cannot be identified with "char". Not all chars are unsigned, and not all unsigned values are chars. In fact, it isn't even guaranteed that a char is 8 bits (we say "octet" when we want to be unambiguous about that).

Re:255 lots? (4, Funny)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546820)

In an auction of the history of cyberspace, shouldn't there really be 256?

If they slap in another lot, it'll roll round to 0. Damn those legacy systems!

OMG It's TEH ULTIMATE COR_NERD_COPIA!!1ONE1!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546635)

Truly a bonanza...damn if only my job hadn't been outsourced, I could bid!

Intrigued, but annoyed (4, Insightful)

geekwench (644364) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546667)

Wow, I am simply amazed at the collection of Geek History 101 on display. (The copy of R.U.R is enough to make me want to smash the piggy bank.) All of this stuff is, apparently, one person's collected library on the origins of cyberspace. (See here [historyofscience.com] for further information.)

...Which brings me to the annoyance factor. This collection is going to be scattered to the four winds. Looking at some of the pre-auction estimates, no one person, and very few institutions, will have the scratch that it would take to keep the collection together. Taken seperately, each of these items has a historical context, but taken together, they chart the idealistic, scientific, and technological foundations of the Internet.

Auctioning the library off in such a piecemeal fashion just seems wrong, IMNSHO.

Re:Intrigued, but annoyed (2, Insightful)

MerlynEmrys67 (583469) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546716)

Looking at some of the pre-auction estimates,
no one person, and very few institutions, will have the scratch that it would take to keep the collection together

What do you mean - I know people that this would be chump change for (ever go on a drinking spree with someone with more money than sense and get a sip of whiskey out of a multi-thousand dollar bottle ?)

Bill G easily has this kind of money - heck the brothers google do as well.

I could see Andy B from Sun, Steve Jobs from Apple, and maybe the Woz kicking out this kind of money if it were important enough to them.

Now I agree, I would like to see a collection like this kept together - however the owners of the property in question, value its worth much more than the collection as a whole... and frankly selling it off piecemeal like this will probably raise the price (a LOT of people would pay 2000-3000 for their favorite historical book - not many people could pay 1/2M for the whole thing). Frankly they own it and have the right to do what ever they want with it.

Re:Intrigued, but annoyed (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546815)

It is probably true that this collection won't be bought by one individual. But many institutions do buy this sort of material in extremely large quantities, or they are bought by individuals to be later donated to such institutions.

Furthermore, there are Rare Book Libraries all over the place who already have a lot of this kind of material (i happen to work in one of them). That means if the material does get scattered to a certain extent, the material is going to be added to these kind of collections that already exist. This is not the whole history of computing for auctioned at Christies as the title suggests but merely one small piece of it.

Re:Intrigued, but annoyed (1)

birukun (145245) | more than 9 years ago | (#11547038)

What if the newer Google millionaires want this stuff? They have interests like us, and probably read Slashdot, too. Hard to have a passion for this stuff without wanting that collection.....

Then, we can Google [museum:Turing] :-)

My first thought was, which dotcommer put his estate up for sale?

I am annoyed as well (1)

Adrian Lopez (2615) | more than 9 years ago | (#11547025)

I agree it's a shame this material will become scattered all around, but the thing that bothers me the most is that much of this stuff will end up in a bunch of different private collections. Stuff like this should be kept together in a safe place after making digital copies and publishing them on the internet to be shared with everybody.

Re:I am annoyed as well (3, Interesting)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 9 years ago | (#11547183)

I agree it's a shame this material will become scattered all around, but the thing that bothers me the most is that much of this stuff will end up in a bunch of different private collections. Stuff like this should be kept together in a safe place after making digital copies and publishing them on the internet to be shared with everybody.
Why? Most of these lots are just first edition printings of academic papers. There's nothing especially unique about the content of these copies, and in most cases the text is already available on the net. It's not like these are the only copies of the works.

For those gloating over the latest Slashdotting... (1)

geekwench (644364) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546688)

Don't grab the marshmallows to toast over their flaming servers just yet; the traffic isn't doing a damn thing.

Christie's site always runs more slowly than molasses in a North Dakota winter.

I wouldn't pay a dime... (3, Interesting)

HungSoLow (809760) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546721)

for "Alan Turning's original proof of universal computability"

On the other hand, if they had Turing's, I would definitly fork over the cash.

Oops. (1)

game kid (805301) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546731)

Alan Turning's original proof of universal computability?

I read that as compatibility. That would have helped my programming and explained his homosexuality [lambda.net] all at once! (Not that I have anything against that.)

MICHAEL CANNED? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546747)

Keep your chin up, Michael - with your /. experience, a professorship in journalism is only a matter of time.

How about a benefactor? (5, Insightful)

xbytor (215790) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546759)

Why doesn't Paul Allen or Bill Gates cough up some $$$ to buy the entire collection and donate it to the Smithsonian? Somebody in the biz with the bucks needs to step up to the plate here..

ciao,
-X

Re:How about a benefactor? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11546911)

Bill Gates would never buy this stuff, unless it was to destroy the proof that Microsoft didn't invent computers and the internet.

This is where Bill Gates should step in (1)

kbahey (102895) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546837)

This is where Bill Gates should step in and buy these things, thus preserving them for posterity.

It would be a shame if this collection is to be fragmented (although it is not by one author or decade) and sold to different people, and perhaps different countries.

Who else would be in the computer industry and have the money to buy all this. Unless it is Larry Ellison tried to one up Gates that is...

Cerf article (0, Flamebait)

mackman (19286) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546849)

Check out the estimated price on the 1974 journal article by Vinton Cerf describing IP adressing.

Once again Gore is buying up evidence that disproves he invented the internet.

Where's Gibson? (0)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 9 years ago | (#11546967)

As he pointed out in his blog, there's nothing by Gibson in the entire catalog. Although not a "historical" document, it certainly is important when it comes to the history of computing as a major literary work. Sigh... like I could afford a first-edition signed Gollancz anyway ;)

Re:Where's Gibson? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547148)

The Ace PB original is still first.

Those papers... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547060)

...belong in a museum! *cracks Indy whip*

Giant Brains (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547062)

I've actually got a copy of this book floating around. It gives quite detailed descriptions of how many of the early machines worked. A very interesting read. I also have a copy of Coleridge's "Treatise on Method", which in a roundabout way was part of what inspired hypertext, or so I've read.

Gates Money (1)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 9 years ago | (#11547096)

I can't believe how many people ahve mentioned that Bill Gates should step up and buy the whole lot. Not that I think this would be a bad thing, but It is great how many people think they know how he should spend his cash.

Re:Gates Money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11547191)

Yeah and how many people are opposed to the consignor's descision to offer the material at auction."Scatter to the winds....Should be made public....etc".Scary how everyone wants to decide what others do with their private property.

Intrestingly Enough (1)

umrgregg (192838) | more than 9 years ago | (#11547152)

My undergraduate university is in possesion of the journal article's listed for sale--in their original journals of course. I wonder what other expensive articles I can go in and mark up with my highlighter ;)
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