Photos: A time capsule of computing
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What’s this pile of Legos? It’s the first storage system ever used by Google. Co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin built it themselves. Hard drives at the time maxed out at 4GB, and they piled 10 into this Lego motel. Google took it offline in 1999 and gave it to Stanford University.
rnGates Hall at Stanford, one of the central buildings for the school’s department of Computer Science, houses a collection chronicling 80 years of computing machines. This Google storage system is part of the display.
A side view of the Google storage unit. Sergey, you’ve got to work on the roof. It’s sinking. Conspiracy theorists might think there is something odd in the fact that this historical storage unit is located in the basement of a hall named after Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. It’s right near the coke machine and some lockers. But putting it anywhere else would screw up the chronology of the collection.
Behold the Lego gods. These two female figures sit atop the Google storage units, guarding it against evil spirits.
A Commodore Pet. It sold for $595 back in the 1970s.
The TRS, or “Trash,” 80 from Tandy. It cost $600, came with a Z80 CPU (central processing unit) and 4K of RAM (random access memory).
The Apple II. At $1,298 it cost double the Tandy or Commodore, but came with 16K of RAM.
The Williams Tube, designed by professor F.C. Williams at Manchester University in the 1950s, was the first random access memory.
A tube panel from Whirlwind was the first real-time computer. It was designed by Jay Forrester, who remains a professor emeritus at MIT.
A stylish slide rule from Germany’s Aristo, 1956. The collection also houses adding machines from the 1920s and 1930s.
A panel from an IBM 360, the mainframe line introduced 41 years ago by Big Blue. The 360 line eventually brought IBM a hefty helping of revenue.
The Fortran game. The side of the box says that three computer programs are printed out to become exciting computer games. It was a great way to pick up women too, some claim.
The Acoustic Coupled Data Modem from Livermore Data Systems, circa 1968. Before 1971, you couldn’t hook computers directly to phone lines. So researchers would call the computer’s phone, pictured here. To cut down on interference, the lid closed.
The Carterphone, a direct modem. By 1976, these things cooked at 1,200 baud and cost under $1,000. Imagine that.
The 333rd workstation ever shipped by Sun Microsystems, which got started at Stanford. (Sun’s first manufacturing line was actually in a basement in a campus building.) Originally called the 1U workstation, Sun changed the name to the Sun 100. The university also has the company security badges of Sun co-founders Vinod Khosla and Scott McNealy on display.
A collection of handhelds. Included is a U.S. Robotics Pilot, which became the Palm.
The Go Pad. This 8-by-11.5-inch machine was highly touted in 1987 but failed miserably in the market. Many who worked on it, however, such as tech innovators Jerry Kaplan and Mike Homer, went on to make millions on other projects.
The EO from 1993. Some say this killed the Go, but it died soon after too.
Mobi, a mobile robot concocted and run at Stanford between 1985 and 1988. It was cobbled together, “Gilligan’s Island” style, with many parts that were meant for other purposes. The brain inside Mobi was a Tandy laptop, and the camera obviously was for a hobby photographer.