This Events & Sightings installment covers a range of recent events focusing on the history of computing. Akihiko Yamada recaps the 5th Commemoration: One Step on Electrotechnology (Look Back to the Future) of the Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan (IEEJ), held at the Hiroshima Institute of Technology on 22 March 2012 during the IEEJ annual convention. Dag Spicer also reviews activities and developments at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, over the last year.
IEEJ Commemoration: One Step on Electrotechnology
The 5th Commemoration: One Step on Electrotechnology (Look Back to the Future) of the Institute of Electrical Engineers of Japan (IEEJ) was held at the Hiroshima Institute of Technology on 22 March 2012 during the IEEJ annual convention. IEEJ started this program in 2008 as part of its 120th anniversary celebration to commemorate excellent technical achievement in electrotechnology in four categories: products, places, events, and people.
The following five technical achievements were recognized this year:
• the NE-type phototelegraphic system (facsimile machine) (NEC),
• home television viewing and home video recording (Sony),
• nickel-cadmium rechargeable batteries (Energy Company of Panasonic Group and SANYO Electric),
• PC-9800 Series (NEC Personal Computers), and
• Yosami Radio Transmitting Station and the first radio communication between Japan and Europe (Yosami Radio Transmitting Station Memorial Museum, Kariya, Aichi).
The awardees' names are listed in parentheses following the item.
The NE-type phototelegraphic system was developed by Yasujiro Niwa and Masatsugu Kobayashi of NEC and was successfully used to transmit pictures for a newspaper company on the occasion of Emperor Hirohito's enthronement ceremony held in 1928 (see Figure 1
). Niwa later served as the first president of the Tokyo Denki University. The machine is exhibited at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo.
Figure 1. Yasujiro Niwa and Masatsugu Kobayashi in front of the NE-type phototelegraphic system (facsimile machine) used for picture transmission at Emperor Hirohito enthronement ceremony in 1928. (Courtesy of NEC Corporation.)
The Yosami Radio Transmitting Station was built for the wireless communications between Japan and Europe in 1929. The gigantic antenna system of 250-meter-high steel towers and 1,760-meter antenna and the 500 KW high-power very low frequency (VLF) transmitting facilities were used until 1993. Major facilities are preserved as Yosami Radio Transmitting Station Memorial Museum and have been recognized as IEEE Milestones (see Figure 2
Figure 2. Yosami Radio Transmitting Station Memorial Museum, Kariya, Aichi.
On the same day, a symposium on the cooperation of commemoration and heritage activities was held as a part of the national convention. The IEEJ, IPSJ, Chemical Society of Japan, Japan Society of Mechanical Engineering, Japan Society of Civil Engineering, and National Museum of Science and Nature all reported the current status of their activities. Although their approaches differ, these organizations have many issues in common. It would be useful to get together and discuss these issues to make the activities more effective.
is a principal at the Computer Systems and Media Laboratory, Japan. Contact him at email@example.com.
Computer History Museum Update
It's been a year since our last update and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, has been as busy as ever. As part of its mission to "preserve and present the artifacts and stories of the information age," CHM explores computer history from a diverse set of perspectives. We believe that computer history is for everyone and structure our exhibits and programs with this in mind. Regardless of age or background, there is something at CHM for people as varied as inquisitive fifth graders to post-docs. Let's review some of the new ways CHM has brought computer history to the world over the last year.
Although we think of ourselves as living in a digital age, at a fundamental level the universe is a symphony of vibrations, what we call the analog domain. Harnessing these analog signals for further computer processing is done by people who can combine art, engineering, and intuition into devices that can span and connect both worlds. CHM's exhibit "An Analog Life: Remembering Jim Williams" describes the life and work of Silicon Valley analog design guru Jim Williams. Williams was known the world over in the engineering community as one of the best analog designers of his time, as well as a legendary mentor and artist. The exhibit is based on his perplexing workbench and a companion CHM-produced mini-documentary on Williams' work. The exhibit is open until 15 September 2012 and an online version is available at www.computerhistory.org/highlights/analoglife.
Figure 3. CHM exhibit "An Analog Life: Remembering Jim Williams." The exhibit, based on his workbench, describes the life and work of Silicon Valley analog design guru Jim Williams.
Being able to travel major parts of the world without leaving your armchair is a potentially transformative technology. From checking an intriguing vacation spot to plotting a terrorist attack, Google Street View brings ground truth, for good or evil, to the desktop. "Going Places: A History of Google Maps with Street View" is CHM's latest exhibit. It tells the history of automated video map making. The origins might surprise you. See the online version at www.computerhistory.org/highlights/goingplaces.
For scholars of semiconductor history, CHM has recently acquired what is probably the single most important donation in the field's history. The original Fairchild patent notebooks, which cover the origin and development of the integrated circuit (IC), now form part of CHM's permanent collection. The roughly 1,200 notebooks cover the painstaking work of scientists and engineers at Fairchild Semiconductor as they perfected the technology that forms the basis of all modern electronic systems. The notebooks of Andrew Grove, Gordon Moore, Jay Last, and Robert Noyce are some of the highlights. Processing is expected to take 18 to 24 months, after which an online finding aid will be available.
Figure 4. The original Fairchild Semiconductor patent notebooks, including those of Andrew Grove, Gordon Moore, Jay Last, and Robert Noyce, are now part of the CHM's permanent collection.
Continuing in the semiconductor history vein, original Intel 4004 designer Stan Mazor donated his engineering notebook from the project to CHM. Introduced in 1971, the 4004 was the world's first commercial microprocessor available as a component. This complemented another recent donation of the original Intel 4004 marketing film, which is available now on CHM's YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPKZSuXAVMU&feature=plcp.
This past year, CHM Storage SIG moderator Jim Porter passed away and bequeathed to the museum his entire collection of historical materials on the computer storage industry. Porter wrote the seminal industry trade report DISK/TREND for more than 20 years and amassed a one-of-a-kind collection of documents, marketing data, brochures, data sheets, and industry reports. For anyone undertaking research on disk drives (hard, floppy, or optical), this archive is a goldmine of hard-to-find historical information. Processing is expected to be complete in 2014, after which an online finding aid will be available.
For those interested in software, we are proud to announce the Herbert Stoyan LISP Collection, an archive of 105 linear feet describing the origin and evolution of the LISP programming language. Stoyan worked in both East and West Germany, and his collection spans the years 1955 to 1991. The Stoyan collection is likely the world's single largest and most comprehensive institutional archive of LISP-related materials. See the online finding aid at www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt038nf156/admin.
Alumni of the Memorex Corporation held a 50th anniversary reunion at CHM on 15 October 2011. Several hundred people attended, and thanks to a well-planned event, CHM was able to accept hundreds of historical items for its archive, including internal company newsletters, product photographs, ephemera, and products. The Memorex collection is slated for processing in the second half of 2013.
CHM's premier event of the year is our Fellows program. This year, we were delighted to induct
• Edward Feigenbaum, for work in expert systems;
• Fernando Corbató, for work in timesharing; and
• Steve Furber and Sophie Wilson, for work on the BBC Micro and ARM architecture.
Watch the 2012 CHM Fellow Awards ceremony at www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVRoRu1fZXA&feature=plcp.
We were also saddened to say goodbye to four previous CHM Fellows who passed away this past year: Jean Bartik, John McCarthy, Dennis Ritchie, and Kenneth Olsen.
CHM is one of the most energetic institutions undertaking oral histories of computer pioneers. Over the past year, some 50 new oral histories have been completed, including a special series on computer industrial design and another on the Soviet semiconductor industry (currently undergoing translation). Browse CHM's oral histories at www.computerhistory.org/collections/oralhistories.
CHM's lecture program continues to attract diverse audiences interested in computing and how it has shaped, and continues to shape, contemporary culture. Since space here is short, please see the CHM YouTube channel for lecture summaries and videos: www.youtube.com/user/computerhistory?feature=results_main.
Finally, looking ahead, CHM is developing a new 4,000 square foot exhibit on software titled "Make Software: Change the World!" Opening in Fall 2014, this $4 million exhibit will explore what software is, how it is made, and through hands-on interactive stations, how it can do amazing things. Stay tuned!
is the senior curator at the Computer History Museum. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.