PCs

Top 10 computer history Web sites

If you're a computer history buff -- or you just want to revisit the tech of your youth -- check out these museum sites featuring articles, pictures, forums, and even the first TV commercials for PCs.

I love visiting computer history sites and watching computer history shows. Why? When I visit these sites, I gain a perspective on a part of my life that I did not have at the time I was passing through it. For example, when I first started programming in Applesoft on an Apple II computer, I thought it would be a great business language. Ha!

Rather than bore you with my old tech guy memories, perhaps a short list of some of my favorite computer history sites might be helpful if you are interested in learning more about the history of the personal computer. But be careful: If you have any work to get done today, this trip down memory lane will seriously sidetrack you.

Note: This list is based on the article Old tech guys are slowly fading away. It's also available as a PDF download.

1: The Computer History Museum

This is the online home of the museum on Shoreline drive in Mountain View. Go to the Exhibits section. You can spend hours viewing the collection of marketing brochures. I especially love their timelines.

2: Apple Computers

Because a big part of my early career involved Apple II computers, I like to include Steven Weyhrich's site on Apple II History. You can find other sites, like Apple-History.com, but it hasn't changed much lately. The Apple Museum is a better site and the Wikipedia article is great. Where is the "official" Apple history site?

3: Old-Computers.com

One of my favorites. There are nearly a thousand computers in their museum. Use the index on the left-hand sidebar. The articles in the history section are great, the forums are active, and the site offers something I haven't seen anywhere else: a major list of collectors from all over. Great if you have an old computer to buy or sell.

4: Computer Science Lab

John Kopplin put together a four-part pictorial of computer history through the early 80s. Some of the photos are rare, and I haven't seen them elsewhere. The accompanying descriptions could be taken from a college lecture on the history of computers. The lecture ends as the PC was getting started but is well worth a visit.

5: Computer Chronicles

Who can forget this great TV series from Stewart Cheifet? It aired from 1981 to 2002. Well, you may have never heard of it. You can watch many of the episodes online at the Internet archive. I highly recommend the episode Apple II forever, one of my favorites.

6: Old Computer Museum

Although you can find this site from the Old Computers club (#3 above), it is worth mentioning as one of the best organized and presented. This collection by Boris Serebrennikov is outstanding. If you have an old Lisa or even an Amiga (still a popular retro machine), he is interested in hearing from you.

7: The Computer Collector

This is a fairly complete list, useful to those who have old machines to buy, sell, or trade. It is also an enormously wealthy site for computer history buffs. Many of those who buy and sell computers have great historical information about the computers they worked on. Lots of great personal history stories can be found here.

8: IBM PC Official History

It still amazes me how many people believe that the IBM PC was the first microcomputer. We used to laugh at those who thought our industry was "legitimized" when IBM finally made its entry in 1981, easily five years after Altair, IMSAI, Cromemco, Apple, Commodore, Radio Shack, Atari, Altos, and Vector Graphic.

9: Personal Computer in TV commercials

The download squad has put together a collection of TV commercials for personal computers, some of them going back to the early 1980s. What a hoot!

10: Old Computers.net

This list could go on and on (and it does, if you Google it). But this one needs to be included in my top 10 list of sites to visit. An extremely popular site, it is billed as the "Obsolete Technology Website" and includes great links not found on any of the above sites, including the Intel museum. Thank you, Steven Stengel.

UPDATE: TR member Janek Kaliczak suggested this addition to the list: DigiBarn, " ...essentially a huge barn with everything you would want to see including the FIRST CRAY."

What else?

What other sites would you add to the list? Join the discussion and share your favorites with fellow TechRepublic members.

2 comments
mr_bandit
mr_bandit

http://ed-thelen.org/ Ed is a docent at the Computer History Museum, and he goes back to the early days, including at GE, where my father (Sherbie) did operating systems. Good set of pictures and stories.