VB : Computer History Museum

Video Broadcast : #147
December 22, 2020


At an ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) meeting in the Silicon Valley, I met Gwen Bell (spouse of Gordon Bell, VAX architect), who founded BCM (Boston Computer Museum).

Gordon brought back artifacts that he had collected while co-authoring the book “Computer Structures” with Alan Newell (known for his contributions to Multi-disciplinary research) during his sabbatical at CMU (Carnegie Mellon University). Gwen developed an exhibit at the DEC office in Boston, Massachusetts. It became known as BCM.


Gwen introduced me to Karen, then Vice President of CHM (Computer History Museum).

I volunteered to be a Docent.

When Microsoft bought the division of DEC (where Gordon & his team worked), Gwen had to think fast. Only a limited number of artifacts were accepted for display at the Science Museum. The rest of the artifacts were air-freighted to Moffett Field in Mountain View, California with the hope that the “Computer Museum” will be revived.

For several years, the artifacts were displayed at the makeshift Museum in Moffett Field. A group of enthusiasts bought a building on Shoreline Boulevard, Mountain View that was owned by Silicon Graphics Incorporated (SGI), which under-estimated the challenge of reasonably priced GPUs (Graphical Processing Units) and went under. The former SGI building was offered it to be a permanent home for CHM.

Early Days

In the early days, only ten per cent or so of the artifacts could be displayed at a given time for public viewing. The display items had to be moved back from the Visible Storage to the storage house.

As a Docent, I had to show the visitors and explain about the artifacts displayed in Visible Storage. In those days, only ten percent (or so) could be displayed for a period before rolling them out.


Thanks in part to the “Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation”, CHM could now exhibit 20 sections (from pre-computer era to the Internet age). In addition, there are special exhibits (e.g. Autonomous vehicles, Computer chess, Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine)

Retired engineers from IBM, and DEC worked on the “Restoration of Computers” Project. They restored three old computers using the original specifications and genuine parts (as much as possible). They are on display in working order.


  • Lectures and Panel Discussions
    Recorded and re-broadcast by Public Television
  • Section of the History of Software
  • CHM Fellow Awards
  • Oral History

Categories: Notes

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