Communications and Information Technology
50 artifacts in this set
This hand-operated printing press is one of the oldest remaining in the United States. America's premier press maker, Adam Ramage, made it in Philadelphia in about 1809. He was the first American to improve printing presses and began a tradition of American innovations in printing press design. With this press, two journeymen printers printed about 250 one-sided sheets per hour.
This peripatetic press was used to print newspapers in the 19th-century American West. Washington hand presses were rugged and extremely popular; this one crossed the Isthmus of Panama on its way from New Orleans to California's gold fields. In 1851, the press' owner, John Judson Ames, started San Diego's first newspaper. The press also printed newspapers in San Bernardino and Independence, California and Aurora, Nevada.
Developed by Christopher Glidden in the 1860s and manufactured by the Remington arms company beginning in 1873, the Sholes & Glidden was the first commercially successful typewriter. Its adoption by large corporations kickstarted the typewriter industry and contributed to the speedup of American work life. The innovations of the Sholes & Glidden, particularly its keyboard layout, were widely adopted. This typewriter is why your computer...
Thomas Edison's electric pen, an ancestor of both the mimeograph and the tattoo needle, was a successful product in the mid-1870s. Users would write normally with the pen, which, instead of a nib, had a needle powered by an electric motor. The needle poked holes into a stencil, which was then used to copy the document. Many businesses found document duplication an attractive possibility.
Invented by Ottmar Mergenthaler in 1886, the Linotype machine revolutionized the printing industry. Instead of setting individual pieces of type by hand, printers operated the Linotype's keyboard to assemble a mould of an entire line of type. The machine then cast the entire line in type metal and printers assembled individual lines of type into full pages.
The Xerox 914 was the first commercially successful automatic office copier. Using Chester Carlson's xerography process, documents were produced electrostatically, using powdered toner. This copier weighed 650 pounds and made one copy every 26 seconds on paper up to 9 x 14 inches. The 914 also came with a "scorch eliminator" -- a small fire extinguisher for taming fires caused by overheating.
Edwin H. Armstrong was a pioneer of radio engineering, credited as the inventor of FM radio. In 1918 he filed a patent for the superheterodyne radio circuit. This technology increased the sensitivity and selectivity of radio receivers. The radio depicted is the first portable superheterodyne radio receiver ever made. Armstrong gave it to his wife, Marion, on their 1923 honeymoon.
The first baby monitor was created by Zenith president, Eugene McDonald, Jr. Concerned for his daughter's safety following the 1932 Lindbergh baby kidnapping, McDonald's device allowed monitoring of children after bedtime. The "Guardian Ear" transmitter was installed in a child's bedroom while the "Radio Nurse" receiver was placed near parents. Sculptor Isamu Noguchi created the receiver's aesthetic, which looked like an abstracted image of a...
Hamid (Charlie) Durmisevich, call sign W6DQZ, connected to the world from his ham radio station in Los Angeles. Amateur radio operators use two-way radios to talk to global networks of other "hams" about technology, weather, emergency preparedness and daily life. This ham, who emigrated from Eastern Europe in 1920, was active in amateur radio communities from the 1930s to 1990s.
This AM/FM pocket radio is a popular audio player, used in US prisons. Its transparent case and headphones are designed to prevent the storage of contraband, making routine cellblock checks more efficient. Owning a radio in prison allows inmates to gain a sense of privacy, comfort, and personal agency, allowing them to follow news and entertainment from the outside world.
Thomas Edison invented entire industries. By the 1890s, this included the phonograph, to record and play sound, and the kinetoscope, to display moving images. In the 1910s, he was able to synchronize projecting kinetoscopes with "kinetophone" phonographs, marrying the new film industry with the already robust phonograph industry. The kinetophone played huge "concert" cylinder records. This setup would have been used in a theater, though...
Television innovator Charles Frances Jenkins developed mechanical television projectors and receivers like this one as early as the 1920s. Mechanical television works by scanning images with a spinning disk and sending the data via radio waves; the spinning disks of the projectors and receivers must be synchronized. This kit receiver was marketed to radio amateurs; at its height, Jenkins' station in Washington DC broadcasted to several hundred...
By the early 1980s the reduced price and scale of video recording and playback technology had helped create a lucrative and competitive home video market. JVC's VHS and Sony's Betamax--two incompatible video formats--rose to prominence. Despite Beta's superior picture quality, VHS's longer recording capability--ideally suited for recording broadcast television for later viewing--established it as the standard.
In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, a machine for recording and playing back sound that was based on earlier work with telegraphs and telephones. This phonograph, which recorded recitation or music onto strips of tin foil, was manufactured for Edison by Sigmund Bergmann, a former employee. This "Concert" sized phonograph was meant for demonstrations of the astonishing new possibilities of recorded sound.
Introduced in Japan in 1979 and in the US the following year, the Walkman allowed users to enjoy music while walking, exercising, or using public transport. It changed the way people enjoy music--providing a private experience in the midst of everyday life--encouraging a trend that escalated with the development of the iPod and other digital music players.
After seven years tabulating the 1880 census, the US Census Bureau ran a contest for a quicker method. Herman Hollerith won, and his "computer" was used for the 1890 census. Data was transferred to punched cards, which were pressed under a plate with pins in it. The pins went through punched holes into mercury-filled wells, completing a circuit and registering the data on the machine's dials.
Mechanical adding machines were indispensable office equipment used before the computer era. These devices were perfected by the American Arithmometer Company in 1886, spurred on by William Seward Burrough's desire to reduce drudgery in clerical arithmetic work. Transistors and electronic desktop calculators displaced adding machines in the 1950s; by the 1970s, microchips reduced calculators to the size of a shirt pocket.
In 1971, William Hewlett challenged his engineers to miniaturize the company's 9100A Desktop Calculator--a forty-pound machine--into a device small enough to fit into his shirt pocket. The result--the HP-35--was the world's first handheld scientific calculator. It was expensive, but its powerful processing capabilities made it a rapid success, causing the swift abandonment of the slide rule.
Laying telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean in the 1860s was a huge undertaking. This massive cable stranding machine was used in Greenwich, England to wind together the different elements of the cable: iron for strength, copper for conductivity, gutta-percha rubber for insulation, and tarred hemp for durability. Following several failed attempts, the heavy, flexible cable was laid successfully by the SS Great Eastern in 1866.
Galvanometer Used to Receive Queen Victoria's Message to President James Buchanan Over the First Transatlantic Cable, 1858
A galvanometer is an instrument that detects and measures electric current. On August 16, 1858, this device was used by President James Buchanan to receive the first public message sent across the transatlantic cable. The message was sent by Queen Victoria to celebrate "a link between nations." It was 98 words long--and took 16.5 hours to transmit.
The Walking Office Wearable Computer is a prototype model created by the design group Salotto Dinamico. This proposed device subverted where (and when) the office could be, turning the human body into a mobile workstation. A keyboard, display arc, and cassette recorder became personal adornment--also capable of pairing with an acoustic modem to exchange data through telephone lines.
Motorola's StarTAC was the first flip phone. It was released in 1996, and its small, portable size and light weight (less than 4 ounces) helped make it popular among consumers for several years. The StarTAC's popularity helped everyday Americans develop a familiarity and comfort with cellphones.
The iPhone was the apotheosis of the cellphone as pocket computer--powerful technology in a sleek package. This handheld is a music player, a mobile phone, and an internet-enabled device in one, with a trendsetting touchscreen interface. The iPhone's release in 2007 was a well-choreographed media event, with potential buyers waiting in lines for hours at Apple stores across the country.
Transistors may be small, but they carry massive historical impact--they are the key building block of the electronic age. These semiconductors function as transmitters and resistors, replacing bulky vacuum tubes and affecting the scale of radios, computers--even hearing aids. Transistors were first successfully demonstrated at Bell Laboratories in 1947; this plaque commemorates the company's technological milestones.
These core memory samples were used in UNIVAC 490 computers. NASA's Mission Control in Houston used six 490s to monitor spacecraft, control data screens, and for real-time communications during the Apollo missions. Other large companies that owned these expensive machines included US and Bethlehem Steel, GM, and Westinghouse. Notably, the UNIVAC 490 was designed by supercomputer architect, Seymour Cray.
"Computer Day at Midvale" Panel Designed by the Eames Office for the IBM Pavilion, 1964-65 New York World's Fair
This hand-painted panel, produced by the Eames Office, was displayed in the IBM Pavilion at the 1964 New York World's Fair. The panel advertises a mechanical puppet show called "Computer Day at Midvale," which told a story about the fictional town's first computer. The IBM Pavilion tried to humanize computers--the Eameses' playful, refined communication and design skills provided the solution.
In 1936, Alan Turing wrote about a theoretical universal computer now referred to as a "Turing Machine." In 1972, Washington University professors Wesley Clark and Bob Arnzen likely made the first physical version of Turing's machine. Clark used the TOWTMTEWP ("The Only Working Turing Machine There Ever Was Probably") as an educational tool, demonstrating basic computer theory for his students.
IMSAI 8080 Microcomputer, Used with Home Built Interface and IBM Selectric Typewriter, Assembled in 1977
The IMSAI 8080 was a clone of the Altair 8800, the first mass marketed personal computer. It was a popular "kit computer," requiring assembly and programming. With no keyboard, toggle switches allowed input and LED lights signaled output. This could be modified using an IBM I/O typewriter. The donor, O.S. Narayanaswami, was a mechanical engineer interested in the educative power of computers.
The Bo'sun Whistle was a prize included in Cap'n Crunch cereal boxes in the late-1960s. The cereal company didn't realize the whistles emitted a 2600hz tone--a sound that could trick telephone routing equipment into giving people free long-distance telephone calls. "Phone phreakers"--a group of pranksters that repurposed technology to infiltrate and test telephone system limits--prized these whistles.
Blue boxes allowed people to make free, illegal, long-distance phone calls. They mimicked the same 2600hz "switching" tone used by telephone operators to connect people, tricking automated systems. In the 1960s, notorious "phone phreakers" infiltrated the telephone network; their actions were comparable to modern-day hackers. Built by Steve Wozniak, this box predates Apple Computer Inc. by four years.
This is one of the first 50 Apple 1 computers. Apple 1s were the first pre-assembled personal computers; Steve Wozniak assembled this one in Steve Jobs's family home. Before the release of the Apple 1, owning a personal computer meant building it yourself. Wozniak's refined engineering skills, coupled with Jobs's bold marketing abilities, led to a revolutionary and affordable product--as well as a successful company.
The Osborne 1 is the first mass-produced portable computer--a suitcase-sized "luggable" system weighing 23.5 pounds. It was one of the first bundled systems, with an inclusive package of hardware and software including word processing, spreadsheet, and BASIC programs. Despite initial success, when Osborne declared bankruptcy in 1983, it became the prototype victim of sudden, devastating, technological crashes in high-tech economies.
Pixar is celebrated for its animation--but the company's origins began with computer hardware. In 1984, they created the Pixar Imaging Computer (PIC)--a groundbreaking device aimed towards high-end graphics and animation. The PIC was used within medical and scientific industries--and for the iconic ballroom scene in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. This improved PII was released in 1987.
The iMac G3 was "the computer that saved Apple." This highly successful computer was optimized for education and web-surfing. Steve Jobs declared it married "the excitement of the Internet with the simplicity of a Macintosh." Available in 13 colors, Jonathan Ive designed its distinctive translucent case. Ive's design challenged the notion that computers had to be encased in opaque beige boxes.
This is a section of the original Ethernet, developed by Bob Metcalfe and David Boggs at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) in 1973. PARC was a center of innovation; this pioneering internetworking architecture was developed to connect (PARC-developed) personal computers to (PARC-developed) laser printers. Ethernet has changed business and home computing and has reigned for thirty years as a global standard.
Before the Internet was accessible to the nontechnical public, consumers subscribed to networking services like Prodigy. Along with competitors like CompuServe and America Online, Prodigy promoted the Internet as a tool for information, shopping, and fun. This startup kit included a modem, software, and a free month of access to "a world of continually expanding and updated information and services."
Pets.com was a web-based pet supply retailer and one of the most public victims of the "dot-com bubble burst" among Internet companies in the 1999-2001 period. Their popular mascot--a sock puppet dog--was created by TBWA Worldwide and voiced by comedian Michael Ian Black. It made appearances on talk shows, commercials, and as a float in Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.
This stylized mask of Guy Fawkes is associated with the hacktivist group, "Anonymous." Founded on 4chan in 2003, their most famous cyberprotests have targeted large corporations, political figures, and governments, using DDoS attacks, phishing, doxing, document leaks, and website shutdowns. Anonymous adopted the Fawkes mask in 2008 to protect member's identities while exposing controversies within the Church of Scientology.
Video Game, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," Recovered from Landfill, Alamogordo, New Mexico, April 26, 2014, Site of the Atari Video Game Burial of 1983
In 1983, rumors circulated: Atari was bankrupt, and was dumping truckloads of games into a New Mexico landfill. Victim to the "Video Game Crash," the company buried 700,000 cartridges in the desert. The story became an obscure pop culture legend -- until "The Atari Tomb" was unearthed in 2014. This recovered cartridge is evidence of the world's first video game excavation.
The Nintendo Entertainment System catalyzed the revival of home video game consoles in the United States. While the US was recovering from the "Video Game Crash of 1983," the acclaimed "Famicom" system was released in Japan. When adapted for North American markets as the NES in 1985, sales skyrocketed. Nintendo reinvigorated gaming, establishing rigorous quality standards, game testing, and debugging.
When Andrew "bunnie" Huang used a screwdriver to open his Microsoft Xbox, he willingly opened a legal Pandora's box. Marketed as a simple gaming system, the Xbox was actually a powerful computer with locked down features. Huang's modifications unlocked the system's full potential--and challenged copyright law. His book, "Hacking the Xbox," is a controversial guidebook for the "mod-chipping" movement.
This video game controller was the first controller to be designed from the ground-up--by and for--gamers with disabilities and mobility challenges. Oversized buttons and triggers can be remapped to adapt to physical needs. Screw mounts on the bottom are used for attachment to wheelchairs. Output jacks allow further customization with foot switches, one-handed and mouth-controlled joysticks.