Computer museum takes visitors back to the future

The Museum of Computers in Yekaterinburg has over 600 exhibits and features everything from...
The Museum of Computers in Yekaterinburg has over 600 exhibits and features everything from floppy discs to interactive experiences.<br />Courtesy: AP(WTVY News 4)
Published: Sep. 18, 2018 at 4:19 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

A Russian museum featuring retro computers from the 60s, 70s and 80s is taking visitors back to the future.

The Museum of Computers in Yekaterinburg has over 600 exhibits and features everything from floppy discs to interactive experiences.

It looks like any office in the 1990s with a bank of bulky monitors and hard drives.

But this is the Museum of Computers in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg and it's taking visitors back in time.

Here, people can learn about the evolution of computers, get acquainted with old machines and technologies as well as play old games on some of the first machines.

While it may not seem that long ago, for some younger visitors playing games like Super Mario feels nostalgic.

"Impressions are very strange, missed. This game is from my childhood, so I'm feeling nostalgia now," says visitor and computer student Maksim Abramov.

While computers and games are now a part of everyday life, the museum shows how far they have come in the past few decades.

Sergey Martyanov says the complex games of today only came about because of the pioneering work of the first creators, which gave an impetus to developing programming languages.

"The first game was created in 1959 on the old computer with an oscilloscope screen, it was a space game: two spacecrafts flew on a simple oscilloscope screen as a monochrome image and shoot at each other. This was the first computer game, but in order for it to be played on a more modern computer, programmers of that time created not only a new operating system but also a programming language."

He says it is difficult to define the specific date of the start of computer history: there were ancient machines used for calculating thousands of years ago which could also be called computers.

In the USSR, the formal start of computer history is considered to be 1948 when Stalin signed a decree on the establishment of an institution engaged in the development of electronic computers - Institute of Precision Mechanics and Computing.

Contradictory to this, messages about cyber science being pseudoscience were widely promoted, most likely linked to the ideological war between the Soviet Union and the West.

Nevertheless, the first computer created in the USSR was made by professor Sergey Lebedev in the late 1940s.

Like most old computers it was very big in size. There were about 6,000 lamps in the computer, the lamps broke every 7-8 minutes and required a whole team of engineers to identify and fix the problem.

The Museum's collection started in 2013 and now has over 600 exhibits; many of those come from abroad, from USA, Japan, Germany and other European countries.

Many of the first Soviet computers were destroyed, so only parts of them survived, like the display of the first Soviet electronic machine M-1 produced in 1951 which is the oldest exhibit at the Museum.

The plan is now to reconstruct the rest of the machine so that the exhibit can become operational.

The development of computers is closely related to science fiction, according to the museum director Serge Martyanov.

"A lot of fantasies of the sixties and seventies are now normal technology for us: we touched upon the theme of retro-futurism and represented the pictures of Russian science fiction writers of the sixties and seventies and our visitors recognised Skype, Internet and other things. What once seemed fantastic is now common technology."

Visitors are also taught about different data storage facilities of the time.

Before USB sticks, tape was commonly used to store information, followed by floppy discs.

"The exhibition is very interesting. For example, I got acquainted with some exhibits that nowadays are very difficult to find somewhere and touch, such as the tape drive, the disk drive, server racks, they cannot be easily seen anywhere. And here we saw them in real life," says visitor Olga Vesnina.

The exhibition also lets people take a journey back in time to see exactly what an IT specialists work place would be like in the 1970s.

Interactive displays also reflect the interiors of a house from different Soviet periods.

Martyanov says there are still more exciting developments to come in the years ahead in the computing world.

"I think that the most interesting things we will see soon - because computers are now being developed based on entirely different principles of data storage and processing – will include IBM company developments in the field of quantum computer, developments in the field of the use of neural networks of living organisms, memorization of information on the level of body cells."

Nowadays, information technologies are an integral part of life and intertwined in everything from the economy to health, according to Aleksandr Klimov from IT company Sapphire.

It is impossible to make an atomic reactor or a spaceship without a lathe, you cannot make it with a hammer (only). The same refers to the country's economy - it is impossible to compete with the world's top economies without information technologies."