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Mountain View on the Move

'A gem in Silicon Valley': Computer History Museum traces tech innovation


Lindsay Ognoskie/Town Crier
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View documents the evolution of technology and its impact on daily living.

In the future, perhaps sooner than expected, you might not be driving your car to work – your car could be driving you.

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View has partnered with Google Inc. to showcase the advances of the self-driving car. Google’s revolutionary car, a detailed history of its development and a list of other autonomous vehicles are on display at the museum through November.

The museum is dedicated to showcasing the past, present and future of technology and its effects on day-to-day living. The museum’s focus on the evolution of high-tech innovation positions it as a leader in the preservation and exploration of computing and technology. The nonprofit museum – home to the largest international collection of computing artifacts in the world – offers exhibits, speakers, guided tours and educational programs, including more than 350 events scheduled in the past year.

The most recent visitor experience is “Fearless Genius: The Digital Revolution in Silicon Valley, 1985-2000.” The exhibit, featuring 50 photographs by Doug Menuez, a documentary photographer, runs through Sept. 7. The pictures tell the story of Menuez’s 15 years behind the scenes at companies such as Apple Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc., and document office life during the computing industry’s transition from analog to digital in Silicon Valley.

Upcoming speakers at the museum include Akamai Technologies Inc. co-founder and CEO Tom Leighton in conversation with museum CEO John Hollar 6 p.m. Aug. 7.

Tracing computer history

Founded in 1979 in Marlborough, Mass., the Computer History Museum is now an asset to the Silicon Valley technological hub after relocating to Mountain View in 1996.

The museum underwent a $19 million renovation in 2010 and reopened to the public in January 2011 to showcase its main exhibit, “Revolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computing.” The refurbishment doubled the exhibit space and added research and education components and a new digital platform.

“The museum is kind of a gem in Silicon Valley,” said Carina Sweet, museum marketing manager.

In its fourth decade providing a comprehensive history of computers and related technological advancements, the museum traces computer history that predates the introduction of the first modern computer via its more than 1,000 displays.

The museum also functions as a research center, making current information available to the public through educational exhibits. Information at its offsite facility is accessible to researchers and students by appointment.

“What we do is beyond the visitor experience,” Sweet said.

Funded largely by individual donors, the museum also accepts corporate donations and grants. Its location in the heart of Silicon Valley encourages corporate partnerships with companies including Google, Intel Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc.

“It is one of the most unique and relevant museums in the world – in fact, USA Today has already anointed us the ‘Valley’s answer to the Smithsonian,’” Sweet said.

The Computer History Museum is located at 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Mountain View. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays and on the Labor Day holiday Sept. 1. General admission is $15, $12 for students, seniors and active military. Children 12 and under are free.

For more information, visit computerhistory.org.

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