Computer History in a Box

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History, like most subjects, is understood best through interactive experiences, such as exposing students to real historical artifacts that they can touch and analyze first-hand. To achieve this objective, I’m attempting to assemble a "Computer History in a Box," a box of real pieces of computer and media hardware from decades past. Students will be able to use these artifacts in various ITEC classes to improve their understanding of the progress of computer and media technology over the last 100 years.

Unfortunately, old technology is not as readily accessible as one might think. Obsolete hardware is quickly thrown out once a new model comes along, as it has no long-term value beyond historical preservation. This is where you come in. I need your help finding computer and media artifacts that meet the following criteria:

  1. It is at least 10 years old.
  2. It is portable (i.e. not too bulky or heavy).
  3. It is aesthetically different from anything you might encounter on the market today. (For example, on the surface, hard drives 15 years ago look just like the ones you see in desktop computers today, so I don’t need those. Hard drives from 30 years ago, however, were much bigger.)
  4. It is not listed under the “Things I Don’t Need” heading below. (Check this page often, as it’s likely to change as I acquire more computer artifacts.)
  5. It is not internal hardware (exceptions listed below, such as vacuum tubes and really old hard drives).

For my students, more information about the extra credit attached to this project will be available in class.

Examples of Things I Need

If you have any of the following, please don't hesitate to contact me (jcuneo at ggc). However, please don't feel like you're limited to these examples. If you have another idea that you think will be appropriate for this project, please let me know. I will remove items from this list as I acquire them.

  • Vacuum tubes
  • External phone modems
  • Old portable phones (such as “the brick”)
  • Really old hard drives
  • Pieces of old desktops and laptops (such as the Apple II, the early Macintosh models and the early IBM PCs)
  • Slide rules
  • Really old microprocessors
  • Computer punch cards
  • Any game console or portable game unit from the 1980s or 1990s
  • Betamax tapes
  • Old cell phones (such as the ones with extendable antennae)
  • 7" LP records
  • 12" LP records
  • 8-track tapes

If you have something bigger but really cool—like a 20-year-old laptop or a 25-year-old desktop—please e-mail me, and we’ll work something out.

Things I Don't Need

This is a list of items that fit the criteria above but which I already have or can collect easily. I will add items to this list as I acquire them:

  • 3 1/2" floppy disks
  • 3 1/2" floppy disk drives
  • 5 1/4" floppy disks
  • Compact cassette tapes
  • VHS tapes
  • PS/2 cables and devices
  • Color CRT monitors
  • Computer cables
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