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Computer History 101 Off California’s Highway 101

Visitors won’t find advance prototypes of the next model of Apple’s iPhone or iPad at Mountain View, California’s Computer History Museum. Instead, its Revolution exhibit takes a look back at the first two thousand years of computing. The twenty galleries contain an awe-inspiring display of computer related lore from the early abacus, slide rule and punched cards to programming languages, super computers, robots, and video games to more recent tablets and mobile devices.

As the multimedia collection demonstrates, these inventions were used in nearly every facet of life: by governments during wartime to crack enemy codes, by healthcare companies for breakthroughs such as electronic pacemakers, as well as for automobile dashboards, synthesized music and sneakers with microchip technology. Several reminders of short-lived companies, brands and products are also on hand, namely DEC/Digital Equipment Corporation, and Atari’s Pac-Man game.

Colorful visuals abound for those who are less tech-inclined. Among these are the Google Street Views car with a camera and GPS on top and the Noogler propeller cap given to new Google employees. At the museum’s entrance is a statement about fashion, entrepreneurship and capitalism. It’s a dress covered with red dollar bills, worn by Sandy Lerner, co-founder of Cisco Systems, to celebrate the startup’s IPO in 1990.

An article in Sunday’s New York Times focused on female Silicon Valley executives, including Marissa Mayer of Yahoo! and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, preferring more fashionable work attire than their predecessors. Lerner’s dress was an even more striking commentary about the Silicon Valley lifestyle.

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