Tag Archives: History of Computing

Apple in April at the Living Computer Museum

What was it like to be at the Apple in April event at the Living Computer Museum on Wednesday, April 12th? I’m sure the experience was different for each of us but I can tell you how it was for me.

First came getting there at all. I didn’t know about the meeting until a few days before (Monday, April 10) when HCLE consultant, Tom Trimbath, sent me a copy of a message he had received from Living Computer Museum + Labs marketing coordinator, Lauren Bayer. Tom keeps up on social media while I am sort of a recluse so I really appreciated his heads up.

Lauren’s note was inviting Tom to visit Living Computer’s new exhibit. It read:

“Continuing the momentum, we’re excited to share that LCM+L will be hosting a new, permanent exhibit dedicated to the to the first two decades of Apple! This will include three original Apple I computers, Apple’s first-ever product, including the only operable Apple I in existence available for use by the public and a unique demonstration model that was housed in Steve Jobs’ office until he first left Apple in 1985.
The Apple Exhibit will open to the public on Friday, April 14. We appreciate your support in helping us spread the word within our community. In addition to a few images available for sharing on social channels or in a newsletter, we also crafted sample posts to leverage for your social media channels.
  • Our partner @LivingComputers will open a new exhibit dedicated to the first two decades of Apple Computers on April 14! #ComeInGeekOut
  • Get hands on with the only operable Apple 1 @LivingComputers Apple Exhibit, which opens to the public on April 14! #ComeInGeekOut
  • From a garage start-up to a global leader in computer technology, the @LivingComputers Museum + Labs is opening a new exhibit dedicated to the first two decades of Apple on April 14. Visitors can interact with the only operable Apple 1 available to the public, along with other computers that helped spark Apple’s growth.”

Hmmm…LO*OP Center owns the first-ever Apple 1 off the assembly line and I had visited Living Computers two years ago. Somebody there knew about our machine but staff had changed. I wondered if they were interested in our Apple I so I telephoned Lauren.  She was exceedingly cordial and promised to ask around the organization. I later heard that my call had caused quite a stir.  Within hours an email arrived from Executive Director, Lath Carlson, with an invitation to Wednesday’s invitation-only party. I was thrilled. I didn’t pay any attention to who was going to be there but I wanted in. Luckily I didn’t have any pressing appointments to keep me from hopping on a plane to Seattle and my dog sitter was available!

By Tuesday afternoon I was ready to go and I began worrying about what to wear – evening attire? Cocktails? Business casual? Jeans? Then I realized this was Homebrew. I’ve known some of these people since I was in my 20’s and I’m now over 70. It doesn’t matter what I wear.  I decided to relax and have fun.

Meeting Old Favorites. There were only a few minutes between checking into the hotel and catching our ride to the Museum. Standing in the lobby were magazine editors David Ahl of Recreational Computing and Tom Hogan of Infoworld, neither of whom I had met in the early days of reading what they wrote, but it’s not hard to identify aging geeks swapping stories. Four more new faces were in the limousine that picked us up. Museum staff welcomed us on the first floor. I glanced over the badges still waiting on the front desk. Oh, nice crowd! Haven’t seen him/her in quite a while.

It was hard to tear myself away from the exhibits that have been installed since my previous visit and head upstairs to the party proper. Mike Willegal of the Apple I Registry sought me out, introduced himself and asked for a photo of the jumpers on our Apple I. There was Jim Warren from the West Coast Computer Faire, People’s Computer Company and many of my other old haunts. I hadn’t seen Gordon French from Homebrew since the reunion at the Computer History Museum in 2013. I’ve been working with Lee Felsenstein (designer of the Osbourne 1) recently so we were already up to date on our goings on but  it has been perhaps 10 years since I’ve had a chance to chat with Len Shustak, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the Computer History Museum in Mt. View, California.

I’m actually not a very technical person and I remember struggling to hook up Apples, Pets and Radio Shacks to the Nestar network that Len and Harry Saal put together in the early 1980s. In those days, school kids who wanted to swap computer games really had to learn a lot about operating systems and hardware at a level way beyond scripting with a drag-and-drop interface. Many of the conversations I listened in on at this party were recaps of the hardware and software repartee around personal computers that has now been going on for more than 50 years.

Hobnobbing with the Living Computer Museum Staff. While visiting with the computer aficianados of now and then was pleasant I found I had more to talk about with the young and enthusiastic educators and curators who comprise the staff of this unique museum. I slipped out of the party to chat with Nina Arens, education coordinator, about how to engage kids in coding activities and with Cynde Moya, collections manager and several others. I went back the next day for more and hope this is just one episode in a long, fruitful collaboration.

Reflecting on the Experience. I won’t bore you with more name dropping but there were lots of other old acquaintances to say hello to. I was honored to be in the company of these pioneers of the computer industry but I was also aware that my own trajectory has always been a tangent to theirs. My passion is how people learn and how we can facilitate that learning more effectively, not bits, bytes, electrons and gates. I’m fascinated by how people think, especially people who think differently from the way I do. I love watching them solve problems but I don’t have much to say to them. It was fun to observe the renewal of long-term friendships and to hear the exchange of stories, of appreciation and of genuine concern. At the same time I realized that I did not form firm connections with those who were so instrumental to my career. I felt welcomed but still an outsider. Maybe it’s that reclusive aspect of my personality or maybe I’m just so oppositional that I’m always heading upstream when everyone else is floating down with the current. That’s what I was thinking about when I looked up and saw that the group picture was being taken from the side of the crowd where I was standing. I had thought I was in the back and instead I ended up in the front, near Paul Allen, co-founder of MicroSoft and the man behind this wonderful museum — whom I had not even met.

Thank you, Paul, for hosting such an interesting party. Next time I’ll make a point of saying hello.

Apple Group with Labels V3
photo courtesy of Living Computers Museum + Labs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HCLE Catalog Progress – The Three Cs

One of the most important parts of our Virtual Museum is the catalog, the place where everything will have its place, and from which we will build exhibits and connect items in the collection to related people, institutions and topics. Rather than wait until it is done, we’ve decided to share our progress. The three C’s: Collections, Constituency, Content.

The following is mostly written by Liza Loop. This page, like all pages on the wiki, is a work in progress. Want to help?

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Introduction

Here’s the challenge. We have a collection of physical items – books, papers, letters, videos, audios, software on all media, urls, program listings, course syllabi, etc. Most of this “stuff” is on paper. I expect to have at least 10,000 items and grow from there. In addition we have hundreds of web links to digital items other people and organizations have posted on the web. By combining these items in many different ways we can tell the story of how computing was learned and became a tool for learning in general. We need a comprehensive catalog to help us find these items.

We have three types of information to be managed — three C’s. Physical paper needs to be scanned to create digital images readable online. Computers, robot toys and ephemera need to be photographed. Then both physical and digital items need to be cataloged. All of this stuff is the “collection” and should be described in the Collection Catalog (first C). We also need some kind of constituency relationship management software (CRM) to keep track of members, donors, potential funders, authors, staff, volunteers — all the people and institutions that are related to a museum or library or archive. This will probably start with about 3,000 entries and grow. “Constituency” is the second C. I want to relate the people with the items catalog without having to double enter any of the data. For example, the volunteer who enters a piece of software into the catalog should have a record in the CRM and an identifying field (element) in the catalog. The third C is Content, specifically, the content of the web site we are building as a Virtual Museum. So our Collections Management System has to talk to our Constituency Management System and both have to work with our (Web) Content Management System. What are the best (most functional and easiest to maintain) open source tools to use for this? Simple, eh?

A Few Terms, Tools and Standards

2014 is a banner year for museums, libraries, archives and private collections to go digital. If each of us invents a different way of describing what we have to the world of web users most of our valued items will not be found. Hence the need for a common vocabulary (or “ontology”) and global standards. These indexing systems are not handed down from on high by some higher-than-human authority, they are created by groups of humans. The process comprises holding a series of meetings (who attends such meeting is a whole other issue), proposing a list of terms with descriptions, publicizing this list among potential users, trying it out over several years and eventually converging on a single “core” list with idiosyncratic additions (extensions) needed by differing communities of practice (say, automobile parts dealers and 4th grade school teachers). The builders of HCLE wish to be as compatible as possible with global standard as they emerge. The commentary in this section is aimed at exploring the major standards now being developed for describing the kind of “stuff” in our collection.

Digital Resource Locators

As our collection grows, more of our digital items are being hosted (stored on a computer connected to the Internet) by other institutions, (e.g. Stanford University Libraries Special Collections and Internet Archive) and not necessarily in HCLE’s own digital repository. To make these items show up on a museum visitor’s screen requires each one must have its own internet address. There are several competing methods for identifying online resources and HCLE is working on choosing which one to use. For those of you interested in this issue here’s an excellent explanation: About Persistent Identifiers.

Metadata and Ontologies (Specific HCLE details at HCLE Metadata discussions)

The question of how to describe different kinds of objects (items) online is being hotly debated today. Books are fairly straight forward since librarians have been exploring this issue for thousands of years. Other media, such as software, or complex content, such as a programmed teaching workbook, may require more description. HCLE needs a volunteer specialist who can advise us as we proceed down the metadata path. So far we have identified the following resources:

Metadata Agencies and Standards Committees

Some examples of metadata schemes

HCLE Tools

So far I’ve explored MS Access, MySQL, Omeka and I want to look at CiviCRM. One of our volunteer consultants has suggested that we should think of the task as implementing CiviCRM and extending it to include the catalog. I prefer to have the catalog be a single, simple, flat table rather than a complicated relational structure. I’m collecting opinions on this from advisers who have experience in this. I will either have to be dependent on volunteers or raise the money for paid consultants.

Stay tuned.

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There is plenty of work to do, and much of it is industry-wide. If you want to do more than just “Stay tuned”, then let’s talk about how we all can work on this together.