Living Museum of Dead Computers

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Below are sections for each of the displays in the Living Museum of Dead Computers with the goal of writing a concise statement suitable for museum signage.

Slate Tablet*

Inscribed by its contributor with the statement "Your new information technology may become obsolete". According to Wikipedia, the use of writing slates dates back to the 14th century, but became the primary tool in the classroom for students in the 1800s century and remained so until the 1930s, when pencil and paper became more common.

Contributed by: Rodger Gwiazdowski

Leroy Lettering Guide*

Before computer printers, many scientists turned to Leroy Lettering Guides to label axes and figures.

Contributed by: John Roberts

Slide Rule*

Before integrated circuits made pocket calculators affordable in the 1970s, students in science and engineering learned to use a slide rule to perform mathematical calculations.

On Loan from: Chris Hoogendyk

Mechanical Calculator*

The Monroe Calculator Company, founded in 1912, started out making mechanical adding machines. Electromechanical calculators, like this one, were produced through the 1960s and 1970s. This one is probably from the late 1950s and cost $595 when new. It was probably used by ecologists to calculate life tables.

HP Programmable Calculator

Contributed by: George Drake

Model 15 Teletype*

The Model 15 teletype came into service in the 1930s and was the mainstay for electronic communications during World War II. It remained in service in press agencies until the 1970s.

Contributed by: Al Woodhull


Digital Equipment Corporation was an important, early Massachusetts computer company. This computer, manufactured in 1974, this computer was still in service in the 1990's with a small paper sign taped to it saying "Please God, Keep it Running".

Contributed by: Steven D. Brewer

Compaq Portable III*

This 20 lb "luggable" was the closest thing to a laptop in 1987. It cost $5,000 ($10,545 in 2014 dollars) with a 20 MB hard disk. 12 MHz 80286 CPU, 640 to 2048 Kilobytes RAM. 5 and 1/4 inch floppy disk, 1.2 MB. Salmon-colored gas plasma display, 640 x 400 pixels or 25 lines by 80 characters text. Operating system: text based MS-DOS 3.31 (no GUI).

Contributed by: Eric Martz

Amstrad PCW8256*

Amstrad computers claimed a substantial part of the computer market in the UK, but were never common in the US. This model was sold as a personal word processor through Sears, but came with CP/M, BASIC, and Logo.

Contributed by: Steven D. Brewer


The IBM PC is perhaps the most iconic computer of all time, symbolizing the transformation from when computers moved from the backroom and office to the home. Purchased in 1983 for $4500, this computer had an 8088 processor (around 5 Mhz), 640K of RAM, and 2 160kb floppy drives.

Contributed by: William E. Bemis

Powerbook 100*

The first modern laptop computer, which set the design characteristics that would define the industry, the Powerbook 100 has been recognized as the one of the most transformative computers of all time.

Contributed by: Steven D. Brewer

TRS-80 Model 100*

The Model 100 version of the classic TRS-80 set the standard for mobile computing for a generation. It was still in service -- and in demand -- 20 years later for journalists and scientists working in remote areas due to its ability to use retail batteries (D-cells) and communicate reliably through simple telephony. The Microsoft BASIC interpreter is reputed to be the last code that Bill Gates personally worked on.

Contributed by: Steven D. Brewer

NeXT Cube*

After Steve Jobs left Apple, he started NeXT to build high-end workstations. Early models had neither a floppy nor a hard-drive and, instead, used an odd magneto-optical disk. NeXT was ultimately purchased by Apple and its operating system formed the basis of MacOS X. Sir Timothy Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wild Web, used a NeXT computer which became the first web server.

Contributed by: Brett Longworth

Original George*

Before desktop computers were available on the mass market, George Drake created computers for word processing in the Biology Department. Although the computers have all been lost to time, this one keyboard remains.

Contributed by: George Drake

Raspberry Pi*

The Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation with the intention of promoting the teaching of basic computer science in schools. (Statement from Wikipedia). They're widely used here for digital signage.

Contributed by: Biology Department

Apple II C*

Released shortly after the Macintosh computer, this fourth revision of the Apple II computer was intended to be compact and portable. Aimed at novice computer users, it was less expandable than previous models, but simpler to set up and operate.

Contributed by: Joe Kunkel

Toshiba T1100*

Manufactured in 1986, Toshiba described this computer as "the world's first mass-market laptop computer". It was used for word processing for many years in the Biology Department.

Contributed by: Steven D. Brewer

Original Macintosh*

Released in 1984, the original Apple Macintosh broke new boundaries in Desktop computing as the first mass-market computer with a graphical user operating system.

Contributed by: Tom Hoogendyk

G4 Macintosh*

This BCRC computer was purchased in 2002 and was preserved, after the others like it were discarded, to be the last computer with OS 10.4 installed, which could also run the old Classic (MacOS 9) environment. It has been used several times (most recently in 2014) to run old applications and recover data.

Indigo iMac*

Another groundbreaking Apple computer, the iMac set a new aesthetic standard for computers, did away with proprietary connectors -- and the floppy drive. It had an atrocious -- and hated mouse termed the "hockey puck", which people found ways to work around.

Contributed by: Biology Department

Computer Memory*

Three generations of computer working memory (what we call RAM today) are displayed here. An early form was made with little ferrite donuts wrapped in wire called "core memory". Core memory arrays was very highly labor-intensive since the wires were threaded through the core by hand. To the right, the single board was the starting point for the manufacture of thin-film magnetic memory. For comparison, in the front, is a Single-Inline Memory Module (SIMM).


Microprocessors are complex integrated circuits manufactured in bulk on wafers of silicon using photolithography. This wafer of 386 processors (used in early PCs) is contrasted with a single 386 as it would have been installed.

Contributed by: Chris Woodcock

Tape Storage*

Tape storage, used principally for backup, migrated from reel-to-reel tapes to cassettes. Digital tapes were almost unknown for personal computing due to fears of the music industry that people would use them to share music which slowed adoption of the technology until it became almost irrelevant.

Hard Drives*

Mass storage has both decreased in size and increased in capacity — and shows no signs of slowing. Early drives used a magnetic drum, but quickly spinning platters were used with tiny electronic heads that float above the surface of the spinning drive, reading and writing data in a magnetic medium coating the surface.

Floppy Disks*

Floppy disks, initially as 8-inch (200 mm) media and later in 5¼-inch (133 mm) and 3½-inch (90 mm) sizes, were a ubiquitous form of data storage and exchange from the mid-1970s well into the 2000s. (From Wikipedia)

EZ 135 and Zip Drive*

As portable storage needs outgrew floppies, two companies fought for dominance in the removable storage market. Ultimately, the Iomega Zip Drive won over the Syquest EZ 135 but, in the end, flash storage (thumbdrives and cards) has displaced all of these technologies.

Contributed by: Steven D. Brewer

Computer Networking*

Behind the scenes, networking hardware quietly hums away exchanging packets and providing connectivity. Morrill has had four generations of networking: thick wire, thin wire, twisted pair, and fiber. Elsewhere on campus, a Terminal Access Unit (TAU) gave dialup speeds over the Ericsson telecom network. Also featured, an Airport Base Station and 14.4k Modem.

Palm Pilot*

The Palm Pilot was a Personal Digital Assistant. It used a stylus and a specialized alphabet, Graffiti, where most characters could be rendered using a single stroke. Initially popular with geeks, the company struggled to develop a coherent strategy and product line, and ultimately failed to compete as smartphones took their place.

Apple Newton

The Newton was Apple's pioneering first attempt at a Personal Digital Assistant. It used a stylus and offered real handwriting recognition which, after the earliest versions, were surprisingly capable. It proved too expensive, didn't capture a wide popular market, and was discontinued after only a couple of versions.

iPod, iPod Touch, iPhone*

Apple brought digital convergence to reality with the pivot to first the iPod, then the iPod Touch, and then the iPhone. (I'll put my iPhone here as soon as I'm done using it.)


Do you remember the CueCat? It was a bar-code reader that tried to be what QR codes were a generation later. Don't remember it? It was a really big deal for … about a month.


Linux went through a brief period when it was overhyped and attracted vast venture capital as many companies tried to create a desktop OS to capture the new market. The local Western Mass Linux/Unix Users received many sample copies of distributions and linux swag. RedHat still exists today but Caldera, renamed SCO, became a patent troll pursuing legal claims against other linux companies. Applixware, renamed Vistasource, still sells development tools.