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The IBM 1620 Restoration Project
July-September 2005 (vol. 27 no. 3)
pp. 33-43
Dag Spicer, Computer History Museum
This article describes the historical restoration of an IBM 1620 Model I computer by a team of volunteers at the Computer History Museum. The technical trajectory of the project is described as are the philosophical and museological issues attendant on the restoration of vintage computers.

1. Swade describes the compound identities of museums as "… temple, warehouse, fairground." See D. Swade, "Computer Conservation and Curatorship" at .
2. See D. Nye, Am. Technological Sublime, MIT Press, 1994, pp. 3-22.
3. Nye, p. 39.
4. Erwin Tomash personal communication (email), 7 Dec. 2002.
5. Roy Strong director, Victoria and Albert Museum, The Listener,25 July 1985.
6. See C. Burton, "Replicating the Manchester Baby— Motives, Methods, and Messages from the Past," elsewhere in this issue.
7. Structural analysis of major portions of the former World Trade Center, for example, were computed on a 1620. See R.E. Taylor, "Computers and the Design of the World Trade Center," J. Structural Division, ASCE, vol. 92, ST-6, Dec. 1966, pp. 75-91.
8. For a detailed summary of this initial and important meeting, see 19981119981129-1.html.
9. The choice of "iRAM" was a deliberate play on the company and product names emerging during the Internet boom (1998–2000) in which many new products or companies seemed to have an"e" or an "i" in front their names, representing the words electronic or Internet, respectively.
10. The term "steeples of excellence" was first coined by Stanford engineering professor Frederick Terman— the father of Silicon Valley— who thought it better for Stanford University to focus on just a few key areas in engineering and be the best possible place for research in these specific knowledge domains. By way of "audiovisual materials," I refer here to a film by Fred Gruenberger made for the Rand Corp. using the 1620 to demonstrate simple arithmetic programs, and even the strange use of 1620 control panels in the campy 1969 Universal Pictures science-fiction film"Colossus: The Forbin Project."For a list of 1620 trivia, see the museum's official IBM 1620 Web site,http:/
1. Though the schema appears elsewhere in Swade's work, my source was a lecture he gave at the Computer History Museum: D. Swade, Computer History Museum Lecture Series, "Collecting and Conserving Computers,"4 Mar. 1999. For a transcript or to order a video recording of this lecture, please see /.
2. See C. Burton, "Replicating the Manchester Baby— Motives, Methods, and Messages from the Past," elsewhere in this issue.
3. See the project Web site: http://www.scl.ameslab.govABC/.
4. One may now order reproductions of most of this machine via the Web: See also M.T. Wright, "A Planetarium Display for the Antikythera Mechanism," Horological J., vol. 144, no. 5, May 2002, pp. 169-173.
5. D. Swade, "Collecting Software: Preserving Information in an Object-Centred Culture," History of Computing: Software Issues, U. Hashagen, R. Keil-Slawik, and A.L. Norberg, eds., Springer, 2002, pp. 227-244. The issue of the evidentiary status of simulations in relation to original artifacts is treated in detail in Swade's "Virtual Objects: The End of the Real?" Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, vol. 28, no. 4, 2003, pp. 273-279.
6. See">http://www"> ibm_1620conserve.pdf.
7. See http:/
8. For discussion, see J. Baudrillard, Simulations, Semiotext(e), 1983, especially his chapter, "The Precession of Simulacra," pp. 23ff.
9. Supnik's simulation language has attracted a wide following. For more information, see: http:/
10. B. Knittel co-founder with N. Aleks, of, personal communication (email) to the author, 18 Dec. 2002.
11. This is perhaps best seen in the vibrant Web-based user communities formed around older computer gaming platforms. See: http:/, http:/, or http:/
1. The pioneering article that addressed the issue of intervention and display, and intervention for display, is P. Mann's "Working Exhibits and the Destruction of Evidence in the Science Museum," The Int'l J. Museum Management and Curatorship, vol. 8, no. 4, Dec. 1989, pp. 369-387.
2. Hippocrates Epidemics, Bk. I, Sect. XI.

Index Terms:
restoration, reconstruction, replication, simulation, preservation, IBM 1620, IBM 1401, DEC PDP-1
Dag Spicer, "The IBM 1620 Restoration Project," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 33-43, July-Sept. 2005, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2005.46
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