MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — To be selected as a first-string exhibit at the newly revamped Computer History Museum, you have to have a pretty significant technology to show off.
Only about 2 percent of the hundreds of thousands of historic IT artifacts in the CHM collection are actually on display in exhibits. Computer-related treasures fill up 19 new galleries, to be exact, and it can take a couple of hours for a visitor to absorb it all — or most of it, anyway.
The 11-year-old museum, housed at the former SGI executive briefing center near the expansive Google campus on the San Francisco Bay, has spent 10 years raising funds and planning the grand new, $19 million refurbishment that had its official debut Jan. 13.
Media members and invited guests gathered for a preview Jan. 11 that included some true pioneers of the computing industry. Those who met with media folks included Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, IBM Fellow Frances Allen (the first woman to earn that title for her work with compilers), PONG inventor Al Alcorn, Stanford University computer science professor Don Knuth and Spacewar creator Steve Russell, among others.
The museum’s first new exhibit, called “Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing,” records the gamut of computing, from the abacus to the smartphone. It includes such new items as the first PONG machine, one of the original IBM 360 mainframes, one of the first portable laptop computers and a World War II bombsight.
Remember, only 2 percent of the museum’s entire collection is on display, so the quality of the artifacts is high.
Eventually, the CHM Web site will show about 75 percent of the entire collection.
Several alcoves with seating are available to watch archival film on 16 flat-panel video displays of such pioneers at David Packard and Bill Hewlett, Seymour Cray, Thomas Edison, John Mauchly and others.
Quick Facts on the CHM’s New Exhibit
–Located on Shoreline Blvd. at Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.
-120,000 sq/ft building
-25,000 sq/ft of exhibition space
-12,000 sq/ft Grand Hall used for lectures and public programs
Regular visitor hours are Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For grand re-opening week, the CHM will be open Monday, Jan. 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Martin Luther King Day holiday.
General admission is $15. Seniors 65 and older, students with ID, and active military staff with ID, $12. CHM members and children 12 and under, free.