The Living Computer Museum has undergone a transformation. The gallery space has more than doubled and the exhibits are better than ever. More than anything, their mission to "maintain running computer systems of historical importance" is highlighted through their expansion into contemporary computing.
Upstairs is largely the same, showcasing the history of early computing. The displays have been reorganized and updated, but the general material remains. While preservation is at the heart of all museum collections, the Living Computer Museum emphasizes the restoration of historic computers to functional use. Many of their displays are fully functional and visitors are encouraged to sit down and explore. Their dedication to interactivity is not only fun, but crucial to fully appreciating the evolution of computing technology.
I've found that computing history showcases interesting generational variances. The early years of punch cards and mainframes bring to mind stories my parents like to tell about their high school and college years.
The early days of the internet and PC's are right in my nostalgic wheelhouse. The Apple Macintosh, in particular, has a special place in my heart. As a child, my sister received a Macintosh and it blew my tiny mind. Not only did she have her own computer in her room, but it came with its own printer! A few years later I inherited that computer from her. What does a 6 year old need with a computer? Nothing, but it was a novel distraction.
Downstairs focuses on the present and future of computing. Self-driving cars, robotics, art and music, augmented reality, and more. This era of computing is a little more outside of my comfort zone, but LCM makes everything very approachable.
The Mezzanine and Lower Floor of the museum are full of engaging and innovative displays. Part of the fun for me was watching as other guests delighted in the exhibits. Delighted exclamations ring out as people discover new and interesting things.
On several occasions, I was also caught up in the wonder of these new innovations. In particular, there was one life-sized humanoid robot manipulating small toys to run along a track. Watching a machine complete such simple tasks, with graceful and purposeful movements, blew me away. Call me a fool, but I had never considered the idea that a machine could be so enthralling to watch.
On temporary exhibit is "Barbie Gets with the Program". It explores the way gender and technology interact, especially for children. It was interesting to see how the character of Barbie and the technology she uses change over time. Toward the end of the small exhibit space, there is some discussion of the current state of gender dynamics in the tech industry. They highlight the importance of representation and positive role models for younger generations of women coders. Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code are held up as examples of groups working to address the representation imbalance in computing.
The display in on view until September 3rd, 2017.