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New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Microcomputer Exhibit - Development of the PC in Albuquerque


New Mexico Museum of History and Science

New Mexico Museum of History and Science

Courtesy: NMMHS
Updated August 06, 2008
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science (NMMNHS) features a fascinating permanent exhibit aptly named, STARTUP: Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution. STARTUP, which is the first museum exhibit dedicated to the history of the microcomputer and the software and hardware innovations that revolutionized the modern world opened to the public in November 2006, giving visitors of all ages an inspiring, hands-on look at the world of computing and its origins in the great American Southwest.

Paul Allen and Microsoft's Southwest Roots

Born from the desire of philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen to give back to the Albuquerque community where he and Bill Gates spent their early professional years starting Microsoft, STARTUP: Albuquerque and the Personal Computer Revolution at NMMNHS will take visitors through important technological and cultural developments that have transformed science and society - from the development of the Altair (the first microcomputer available to the public) in Albuquerque, to the ubiquitous role that computers play in modern life. A series of exhibit segments, videos and interactive elements will comprise the 4,000 square foot gallery which is located just off the atrium at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science in Albuquerque, 15 minutes from the historic site where Paul Allen and Bill Gates launched Microsoft.

STARTUP - What You Will See

The STARTUP Gallery at NMMNHS will bring to life the sense of possibility and excitement that characterized the early days of the personal computing revolution; will invite visitors to examine what role computers play in their lives, science, and culture; and will encourage them to pursue their own creative breakthroughs and endeavors. Through its exhibits and related educational components, the gallery will interweave historic events with stories of dedication, creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and the entrepreneurial spirit that transformed computers, software and the role of technology in our lives – chronicling the people, places and events that released the exclusive power of computing to a fervent public.

Highlights of the Exhibit

Key highlights in the STARTUP gallery are:

  • Big Beginnings – How early computers were huge, expensive and exclusive to large organizations with limited access.
    Forces of Change – In the late 1960s the concept of a "personal computer" started to take hold and a growing number of hobbyists began tinkering with computers for the sheer fun of it.
  • It Happened in Albuquerque – Paul Allen, Bill Gates and Ed Roberts were ready with the talent, motivation and technological know-how, along with Albuquerque's Altair – opening the door for the computer revolution.
  • A Computer for Everyone - Creativity, youth and courage in problem-solving from a wide variety of sources started to integrate computers into pop culture. Programmers, hackers and computer clubs reflected the shift and people everywhere realized how computers could enhance their everyday lives.
  • Making Computers Friendly: Software and Communication - The role of play and games in innovating and evolving technology, the development of the graphical user interface (GUI), the Internet and the World Wide Web and other software design and input devices that let people control computers and use them as tools.
  • A Future Full of Possibilities – Having learned how computers have made life easier, visitors are asked to share their ideas and speculate on the future evolution of the computer in intervals of 10, 100 and 1,000 years down the road.
The gallery and its exhibits, is being launched and funded primarily by Allen, with a generous $1.5 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

When You Go

Address: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, 1801 Mountain Road NW in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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About Paul G. Allen

Information and article courtesy: New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

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