Earliest Computers

Earliest Computers Exhibit, New Media Museum made with Unity 3D


The history of computational devices is much longer than the history of modern computers, and the New Media Museum includes an exhibit about this history.

There is a poster of the Antikythera Mechanism at the entrance to the exhibit.

Antikythera mechanism is an ancient Greek mechanical device used to calculate and display information about astronomical phenomena. The remains of this ancient “computer,” now on display in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, were recovered in 1901 from the wreck of a trading ship that sank in the first half of the 1st century BCE near the island of Antikythera in the Mediterranean Sea. Its manufacture is currently dated to 100 BCE, give or take 30 years. — Encyclopædia Britannica

Antikythera Mechanism Fragment

Slide Rule

Of course, before modern digital computers, there was the beloved slide rule!

The New Media Museum has a few special slide rules to display, and there are also a number of less valuable slide rules and instructional materials about them available for visitors to use.

Slide Rule from MIT CSAIL celebration.

Interactive Slide Rule

Related sites
Simulated Pickett N525-ES StatRule Slide Rule
Derek’s Virtual Slide Rule Gallery (Derek Ross)
Virtual Slide Rules (Derek Ross)
Slide Rule History (HP Museum)
International Slide Rule Museum (Mike Konshak, Louisville, Colorado)


The Story of the Enigma
The Story of the Enigma (CD ) from Enigma Museum

Enigma Museum (Tom Perera, Ph.D.)

Pioneers Posters & Videos

The Computer Museum Pioneers Speaker Series Posters
The Computer Museum Pioneers Speaker Series Posters

The video of Grace Hopper’s lecture included above was just one among many lectures in wonderful series that explored the invention of the computer in great depth. The Computer Museum hosted a historic series entitled Computer Pioneers, and a series of posters were created as advertisements for that series. The actual physical posters were donated to the New Media Museum by Brian Silverman, and they hang on the walls of the New Computer Museum and serve as links to the corresponding videos of the lectures on YouTube. There is also a page on The Computer Museum’s site that describes the lecture series and links to the videos. The Computer Museum: Videos

Bletchley Park Book


Video of Mark I Working!

The IBM Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator (ASCC), which was dubbed Mark I by Harvard University’s staff, was a general purpose electro-mechanical computer that was used in the war effort during the last part of World War II. It now sits in a relatively public space in the Science Center at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA.

Here is a video in which Professor Harry Lewis takes the class CS50 on a tour and explains a bit of the anatomy and history of the Mark I.

The Mark I received a major renovations, and the public was invited to attend a special ceremony in which it was turned on April 3, 2014. Mary Hopper attended and captured pictures and videos of that event.

This video of the Mark I running was shot by Mary Hopper and narrated by Alan Wu.

Best of all, The Computer Museum held a series of lectures and videotaped them back in the 1980s, and now they are posted on YouTube, so you can hear the story of the Mark I from Grace Hopper herself!

Related posts
Mark I Turned on and working! (April 2014)
Winter fun! (Walter Isaacson’s visit to Harvard, December 2014)

Related sites
Harvard Mark I exhibit gets an upgrade (Alvin Powell, Harvard Gazette)
Here’s looking at you, kid! (The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard University)
Grace Hopper, computing pioneer (Walter Isaacson, Harvard Gazette, December 3, 2014)

Howard Aiken (Computer History Museum)
Harvard Mark I (Columbia University)
Harvard Mark I (Britannica)
Harvard Mark I (Wikipedia)

Computer History Books

Computer history books in the New Media Museum’s collection.

Great Ideas in Computer Science

Harvard University CSCI S-1: Great Ideas in Computer Science with Java
Henry H. Leitner and Dimitri Kountourogianni

Related sites
Revolution: The first 2000 Years of Computing (Computer History Museum) Topics & Timeline
Birth of the Computer (Computer History Museum)
Memory & Storage (Computer History Museum)
Inventing the Computer (Engineering and Technology History Wiki)
The History of Early Computing Machines, from Ancient Times to 1981 (Vincze Miklós)