Videos about computer artifacts, input from experts, and tours of computer installations

Below are video records of places I've been and knowledgeable people I've met on the general subject of Computer History.

In March of 2011 I met Dick Hollerith for the first time. Dick's grandfather was seminal in the history of computing having invented the first punch card computing machines for the 1890 US census. Hear him stand on the porch of his grandfather's "Big House" at Brighton, the family farm on the Chesapeake Bay in Virgina and talk about it. We made A second video extends the story until the camera ran out of battery.

  1. The Museum's third restoration effort is to put an IBM 1401, obtained in Germany, back into operation. A team of ex IBM field Engineers are donating their time under the direction of Robert Garner, currently at IBM Almaden Valley. They volunteer time to come in and work on the machine multiple times a week. Their session by session progress is documented at a web site maintained by one of the participants, Ed Thelen.
  2. My main contribution to this effort was to read more than 350 decks of 80 column cards, programs in Autocoder, RPG, Fortran and more into a PC where we can make or e-mail them as part of the software conservation effort. Bill Worthington is handling the cards on the Documentor Card reader and Ron Mak is documenting the meta information about each deck. Here is a close up secreen shot of the program running on my laptop.

  3. On January 18, 2006 a group of IBM retirees managed to get an IBM 1401 they have been restoring to print with the IBM 1403 600 line per minute printer. There is more to accomplish, but this is a milestone. They are printing the powers of 2 up to the number that fills 132 print positions on the line, e.g. 2 4 8 16 32 64 128 256 512 ...... One value is printed on each line. Also in the video Al Palmer explains how the working IBM 729 Tape Drive operates. Bob Feretich talks about fixing the cards in the central cabinet to get the printer running. Ron Williams and Frank King turn on the printer at the start and end of the video. Bob Erickson is working on the IBM 077 Unit Record equipment. Total running time is about 10 minutes. Ed Thelen, who is walking around in the video wearing a hat, also shot this 17 second segment of the IBM 1403 printing.
  4. With Ron Williams assistance here is a more complete view of that same system running in April 2006 The 1401 CPU is operating, the 1402 reads cards the 729 tape units work mechanically and the 1403 prints.

  5. Bob Erickson is also retuning the IBM026 Key Punch and the IBM 077 Collator back to operation. The amazing aspect of this is we have no documentation a he is doing this from his memory.

  6. This short 2 1/2 minute video of an IBM 650 and and IBM 305 shows a machine still operating in Germany takes you back to the way the world was courtesy of "Haus zur Geschichte der IBM Datenverarbeitung" (HzG) "House of the History of IBM Data Processing" located in Sindelfingen, Germany

  7. The Computer History Museeum restores key older machines. Here are some scenes from resent efforts to get a Digital Equipment PDP 1 back in operation. And more scenes from the restoration process. (Total running time is about 9.5 minutes.) In the early '60s Steve Russell, Peter Samson and others used a PDP 1 at MIT to create what in regarded as the first video game, which now can be played on the restored PDP 1. (Total running time about 2.5 minutes.) In the activites video Peter Samson is the taller white haired individual in a white shirt. Lyle Bickley is at the operator's console loading paper tapes. He is intermittently talking with Mike Cheponis (in the plaid shirt between the console an d the C 30 Display) the project leader. Also in the picture is Rafael Skodlar, Eric Smith, Bob Lash, Ken Sumrall, and Tim Coslet and other members of the team.
  8. Being around the Computer History Museum brings you into contact with many older mathematical devices. An interesting artifact was a set of bicycle chains of different lengths and gears with different numbers of teeth used in the 1920's to find large prime numbers. LaFarr Stuart, a very experienced and long time volunteer at the Computer History Museum describes how they work in this video (13:27 minutes run time) taken in Building 126 of Moffett Field, a prior Museum exhibit location. You can read about how these machines work on a site LaFarr maintains and on a site of Ed Thelen's that includes lots of computer historical documents.

  9. Full tour of the USS Pampanito a World War II US Submarine built in nine months beginning in late 1943. This tour covers most of the available area and includes the special view of the Torpodeo Firing Computer. Much of the video has little audio to accompany it since guests on the USS Pampanito tour are given personal audio playback devices. Guests don't really carry on conversations, but are silent as they walk through the submarine holding the playback audio to their ear. The file is in Windows Media Player format. Total running time is about 1 hour 11 minutes.
  10. Parts of the tour specific to the Sigaba Cypher encryption machine and the Torpedeo Firing Computer in Windows Media Player format. This video stream is just the Sigaba Encryption Machine and the Torpedeo Firing Computer. The order of the clip begins with showing the Sigaba machine at its location in the USS Pampanito, followed by a complete presentation of the Torpedeo Firing Computer, and that is followed by a more lengthy discussion of Sigaba and World War II encryption by the docent, Richard Peckelney. Total running time is just over 50 minutes.

  11. Discussion about the Apollo Guidance computer with Myron Kayton, Deputy Manager of NASA's Apollo Guidance Computer development. Around Valentine's Day in 2003 Myron Kayton, his daughter, and son-in-law came to view the computer artifacts at the Computer History Museum's Building 126. Myron was only to be in the Bay Area a short time and agreed to speak with Museum curators. However it was a vacation weekend and no one was available. We finally agreed for him to come in and let us video tape what turned out to be a 30 minute discussion on how the Apollo Guidance Computer was designed and built. The file is in Windows Media Format. Total running time is just over 30 minutes.

  12. A few random scenes around the Vintage Computer Festival of November 6 and 7, 2004 held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA
  13. A much more complete presentation of the Differential Analyzer occured in January 2005 when Tim Robinson set up and demonstrated his Differential Analyzer to the Computer History Museum volunteers at the monthly Saturday work party. This close to 5 minute presentation follows Tim describing how his machine, one similar in concept to the machines created by Vannevar Bush during the second world war, solves the problem of the motion of the weight on the end of a dampened spring.