My tech-loving son has set an ambitious goal for his sixth-grade “passion project” at school: to build his own PC. While he tries to get creative with sourcing parts on an 11-year-old’s budget, we decided to visit the Living Computer Museum in Sodo for an educational tour of the history of computers.
What makes the exhibits “living” is that all the museum’s machines are fully functional. Much to my son’s enjoyment, you can just plop down and use them. We made punch cards on an IBM machine from the 1950s, played Pac-Man on an Atari 400, which was introduced in 1979, and typed on a vintage Apple Macintosh just like the one I wrote papers on in college.
The friendly museum staff gives regularly scheduled tours. Matt Miguel, our guide, knew how to put things in a context that kids would understand. “All of this machine fits in the size of an Oreo cookie today,” Miguel said, waving to an old computer that was as big as a room. “Imagine how computers will be 50 years from now.”
For information about the museum’s collection and hours, you may visit www.livingcomputermuseum.org.
This illustrated column was originally published in The Seattle Times on Feb. 27, 2015.