The Smithsonian's quest for IT's ruby slippers
Officials must determine what really matters in IT -- and has a good story behind it
Computerworld - Among the artifacts in the National Museum of American History's vast collection is an egg that served as a prop in the 1979 movie Alien.
What makes the egg more important than the iPhone, which has yet to be selected by the caretakers of the museum? The responsibility for answering such questions lies with Peggy Kidwell, the museum's curator of mathematics, and Petrina Foti, manager of its computer collection.
Kidwell and Foti try to stay outside of technology's relentless marketing bubble in their work to determine what's really important in the flow of history. For example, the curators have to be convinced that a technology like the iPhone has enough cultural significance to have landmark status. "We like to have a little perspective," said Kidwell. On the other hand, the Radio Shack TRS-80, also known as the "Trash-80," which was unveiled in 1977, sits in the collection, as does an Apple-1 from 1976, a telegraph from 1844, a 30-ton World War II-era ENIAC computer, and a mouse or two.
Kidwell said the selection process keys on the story behind an object. It's why Evel Knievel's 1977 Harley-Davidson XR-750 is in the collection rather than another Harley. The item has to have near-universal cultural significance, like the ruby slippers from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, she added.
Today, nearly all of the American History Museum's prized technology collection remains in storage, where it was placed when the facility was closed in 2006 for a massive renovation. Before the renovation, the 900 artifacts in the IT collection were displayed in their own 14,000-square-foot space. The museum reopened a year ago without a stand-alone IT collection.
The next IT display will be part of an exhibit that aims to show how technology has fit into American commercial development. The museum is trying to raise $1 million to help fund the exhibit, and it hopes that work on the program is completed in time for the museum's 50th anniversary in 2014.
Since the renovation, only a few glass displays showcasing technology have been set up, including one showing the mobilization of math and science that came after the the former Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite in 1957. The display includes a Digi-Comp toy computer from 1965, the year the Smithsonian completed its first computer display. The Digi-Comp "was about as close as many Americans ever got to a computer in 1965," said Kidwell.
The museum next summer may launch a new exhibit that focuses on Cobol. It would include a binder with typed and handwritten notes from a meeting held in November 1959 to work on the new programming language, which was created because the Pentagon in particular wanted something that could run on any system. Cobol was released in 1960, so the exhibit would mark the language's 50th anniversary.
- 20 Best iPhone/iPad Games of 2013
- Google Chromebook Buyer's Guide
- 10 Signs You're Probably a Techie
- 8 Things Kindle Fire HDX Does That iPad Air Can't
- Slideshow: 5 ways to lock down your mobile device
- Slideshow: 10 mistakes companies make after a data breach
- How to rob a bank: A social engineering walk through
- Which smartphone is the most secure?
Cloud has proven to be a sticky marketing term, even (especially?) among non-technical consumers. There is a growing consensus that “the cloud” promises a quicker and cheaper way of purchasing IT than the traditional, build-it-yourself model. This in turn has led to internal debates between application developers and infrastructure teams on the best approach for implementing “the cloud” within IT organizations. (And of course, IT architects know that when they hear management say, “We want to move to the cloud,” they will be the ones who have to figure out how to do it!)
- IT Certification Study Tips
- Register for this Computerworld Insider Study Tip guide and gain access to hundreds of premium content articles, cheat sheets, product reviews and more.
- Bring Networks and Applications Closer--Cisco ONE
- A series of sweeping trends is placing new requirements on the tried-and-true network model--requiring network infrastructure and applications to communicate. Get the open...
- Lippis Research Reviews the Cisco Catalyst 2960-X
- In this Lippis Report Research Note, Lippis Research reviews the latest edition of the "most popular access switch on the planet" -- the...
- Design Guide--Scaling Up to a Campus-Wide LAN
- Is it time to scale your network environment to a campus wired LAN? Here's the framework you need to set up your LAN...
- Comprehensive Security: Cisco Catalyst 2960 Series
- With a rich and comprehensive set of security features, Cisco Catalyst 2960-X and 2960-XR Series Switches can help you address networking megatrends such...
- Be Energy Efficient--The Cisco Catalyst 2960 Series
- How much energy could be saved if all 230 million Layer 2 and 3 fixed managed switch ports sold in 2012 were as... All Government IT White Papers
- How SIEM Addresses the Challenges of Big Security Data This webcast will help you understand today's big data security challenges and how intelligent and scalable SIEM solutions give IT the tools and...
- BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 In Action Designed for business leaders, IT decision-makers and IT administrators, this webcast features organizations that have migrated to BlackBerry® Enterprise Service 10 - or...
- BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 Implementation Solutions - BlackBerry Technical Services to Make your Deployment Fast, Effective and Robust Find out how BlackBerry® implementation and migration services can help you optimize your Enterprise Mobility Management infrastructure and ease your transition to BlackBerry®...
- BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5 to BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 - Lifting The Hood This webcast takes a close look at the differences between BlackBerry Enterprise® Service 10 and BlackBerry® Enterprise Server 5. Learn how BlackBerry Enterprise...
- BlackBerry 10 Tips and Tricks from the Pros Find out how advanced users do more, faster, with their BlackBerry® 10 devices - with tips and tricks on using the swipe and...
- All Government IT Webcasts
Does your organization offer extensive benefits, cool perks, competitive salaries, opportunities for training and advancement? Then get it recognized!
Nominate your company or another deserving organization for Computerworld's 2014 Best Places to Work in IT list now through Dec. 20, 2013.