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[Comments] (2) : Yesterday we went to the Computer History Museum. Clearly a lot of money has gone into this museum, but it's fundamentally a county museum where everyone cleaned out their garages and they put it all on display. It's just that since the county is in Silicon Valley the people are very rich and their garages are full of awesome old computers.

So there's a bunch more photos on Flickr, with more to come. New photos start here.

The big draw was the difference engine, which is unfortunate because in a few months Nathan Myhrvold will arrive Mephistophelian at the stroke of midnight and whisk the difference engine away to his living room. And then the Computer History Museum will have a rotating exhibit (currently about chess), an "Innovation in the Valley" exhibit that seems provincial despite having amazing artifacts like Engelbart's mouse and the Apple I, and the big room full of computers. You think it's ridiculous that I'm complaining about free admission to a big room full of computers, but if you've seen the outside of this building it looks like the office-park equivalent of the Guggenheim. You expect more.

Anyway, the difference engine was great, and now I understand how it works. I originally thought the point of it was to find the roots of polynomials and I couldn't imagine how it represented complex roots. But no, it just cranks out the values of polynomials for ever-increasing values of x.

More pictures from the room full of old computers coming eventually. I just wanted to put up enough that I'd get to the Chadwick Magic-Brain Calculator for Susanna and John.

: I've uploaded the rest of my Computer History Museum photos, starting here. Don't miss the Honeywell Kitchen Computer! Contains no more pictures of Kevin flipping the computers off.

PS: I'm gonna go out on a limb and allege that the Kitchen Computer is a sham. It was never intended to sell, it was just a cross-promotional thing to get attention for Honeywell. Someone realized what a catastrophe it was to design a computer with the form factor of a desk in 1969. People in 1969 don't sit at desks and twiddle binary switches on the computer panel, they sit at teletypes and type and don't worry about where the computer is physically. So the paper-shuffling part of the desk was hastily renamed a "cutting board" and you had the Kitchen Computer.

There was probably no recipe software or digitized recipes. If they were serious about selling a Kitchen Computer they'd sell you a teletype as well. If you tried to use the "cutting board" to cut vegetables you'd scratch up an irreplacable part of the computer and probably cause a short circuit. You'd have to be stupid to design a Kitchen Computer that way. But you wouldn't have to be stupid to pass off a failed form factor as a Kitchen Computer for publicity's sake. Look at the ad: "If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute." Not "this computer", "Honeywell". It's a high-concept ad for Honeywell.


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