This Thursday was the August Free First Thursday and I used it to take a trip to the Living Computer Museum. This museum is located in SODO, and while it isn't very large it has a lot to enjoy. The gallery explores the history of computing from the 60s to today.
Monday - Wednesday Closed
Thursday - Sunday 10am - 5pm
Children under 12 Free
Visitors enter to the ground floor lobby, then take the elevator to the second floor gallery space. A loud hum abruptly becomes evident upon exiting the elevator and persists in all areas of the room. One may expect this to be a deterrent, but that isn't the case. The low whir adds to the ambiance of the space as opposed to detracting from the experience. There is some loose organization to the space, freeing visitors to focus on topics they find interesting. Housed in an old warehouse, the interior space closely resembles an office, which appropriately aligns with the material. While the overabundance of grey and pale blue can be a little overwhelming the gallery has a cohesive design and intelligent information panels.
The central loop of exhibits focuses on a linear discussion of computer development through the decades. Beginning in the 60s with the earliest minicomputers and terminating with the Apple Mackintosh, there is a lot of information available. Towards the end of the gallery circuit there is a Microsoft Exhibit, showcasing the company's history and products. The 80s and 90s are especially well represented in this area. Included are early resumes for Bill Gates and Paul Allen, co-founders of Microsoft.
One thing of particular interest to me was a discussion of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center's Alto computer. The first computer with Graphical User Interface was never marketed, but it greatly influenced the early pioneers of the field. Nearly decade later, Apple Mackintosh debuted the world's first personal computer with GUI.
There are a series of wall infographics which illustrate various histories in computing. With titles like History of Mainframes and History of Languages, these panels are easy to interpret and provide an incredible amount of information. They are especially useful for visitors who may not have a strong grasp of the order in which many of these advancements took place.
The computers have been restored to working order by the museum staff and are available for the public to use. Visitors are encouraged to try using a 60s teletype, attempt coding in BASIC, or possibly play a vintage game. Most of the machines are fully functional. The IBM 082 Card Sorter was out-of-order during my visit, but it was the rare exception to the rule. This museum approaches the discussion of computers from a truly interactive perspective.
This museum was introduced to me by a friend who vaguely remembered driving past it one day. I looked it up online and decided to give it a shot. I'm glad I did. Little known, but with lots to offer; the Living Computer Museum is terrific!
If you're looking for an inexpensive educational experience or just really love computers, this is the place for you.