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Exhibits Overview

The Living Computer Museum collection presents the meaningful milestones in the evolution of computers and how people use them. The collection was assembled by Microsoft cofounder Paul G. Allen as a way to preserve the history that put him and Bill Gates on the path to founding the company. Unlike many museums, the LCM collection includes computers and equipment that are painstakingly restored and in fully useable condition. These systems live – they respond to you in ways that foreshadow the digital miracles often taken for granted today.

The collection demonstrates the evolution and growth of computing: increasing capabilities coupled with decreasing size and cost. It is a story of easier access to information, as machines once reserved for governments, corporations and universities gave way to computers we now call "personal" and beyond, to the tablet and smartphone that now dominate the information landscape.

Nearly all the computers in the LCM collection are interactive and conversational. Some were intended to serve one user at a time, while others provided a shared resource for dozens or even hundreds of concurrent users. But they all share one characteristic: They answer a question as soon as you ask it.

Computers were always intended to be our helpers, despite their sometimes foreboding presence in science fiction. In 1960 J.C.R. Licklider wrote a paper titled "Man-Computer Symbiosis" in which he envisioned an extension of human thinking power in the same way the lever and the wheel extend our physical power. His prophetic work anticipated how far we've come. But it also suggests that, despite the computer revolution represented at LCM, we have yet to achieve all that was envisioned by Licklider and other computing innovators.