The Computer Museum of America recently reopened after a pandemic hiatus, showcases technology of our past, present and near future. It’s part history museum, part art exhibition, and part tech convention, with a healthy dose of nostalgia for computer lovers.
Rena Youngblood, the museum’s executive director, recently brought City Lights contributing producer Shelley Kenneavy on a tour of the museum. “You’re not going to find this in the Southeast. We don’t have too many attractions like this, which is really fun for the metro Atlanta area to have, especially with the growing tech sector,” said Youngblood. “When people come to the Computer Museum of America, there’s a bit of nostalgia, because this history does not go back too, too far. So a lot of people have used a punch-card machine. They’re like me, they remember getting their bag phone.”
The interactive element of a visit to the Computer Museum sets it apart from most encounters with historical artifacts. “People would not reach out and touch things in other history museums. They would not reach out and touch that Picasso that’s at the museum, they just wouldn’t. But here, computers – people do reach out. Some of them remember working on them.”
The museum’s historical timeline covers all the way from the year 1500 to the present. It’s surprising to think that the concepts underlying computer technology date so far back, but the museum shows us real-life examples of these crucial precursor innovations, including punch-card technology and the Jacquard Loom, a mechanical loom invented in 1804 used to create complex woven textiles.
For those nostalgic for bygone eras a bit more recent, there’s a “retro gaming corner,” featuring original consoles from the earliest years of video gaming. “People can sit down here and play Pac-Man on a 1981 Atari,” said Youngblood.
According to Youngblood, the goal of the museum goes beyond just showcasing interesting achievements throughout computer history; there’s a human element that needs to be remembered. “We’re starting to lose the people who can tell us the stories, and we’ve got to capture that, and we need to preserve it, because we truly, truly believe that by preserving this past, we’re going to create people who are going to innovate more in the future,” she said.
An event for those aged 21 and up, “Bytes and Brews,” takes place Sept. 23 and features live music and a conversation with writer Jan Slimming about her book, “Codebreaker Girls: A Secret Life at Bletchley Park.” The book tells the true story of the author’s mother, Daisy Lawrence, who worked at the secretive British codebreaking center during World War II.
The Computer Museum of America is located in Roswell. It’s open to all ages on Fridays and Saturdays. More information including COVID safety protocols and entry pricing are available at www.computermuseumofamerica.org.