Silicon City, the New York Historical Society’s Gift to the Geek in Us

Gadget Paradise Lost: Parade of Early PC Inventions Made Here in New York

How Computer History was Made First in Silicon Alley

This beautiful monster console and light array is the SSEC which operated in the heart of Manhattan in mid last century, one of the magnificent and rather beautiful and sometimes huge or minute artifacts of 20th Century built in New York City and proof that here was the throbbing heart of computer invention then, not Seattle. Twelve thousand five hundred tubes and over twenty one thousand relays stood at the core of IBM’s Selective Sequence Electronic Calculator. Developed by astronomer Wallace Eckert of Columbia University the calculator was installed in IBM’s headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue and was operated from 1948 to 1952. The SSEC is known to have calculated the position of the moon and the planets, the first computer to store data, as well as being the last electromechanical calculator ever built.

From Saturday Nov 13 to Apr 17, the New-York Historical Society stages an exhibition to delight every gadget enthusiast in America, a parade of magnificent engineering from mechanical to electronic showing off an under celebrated truth of history, New York’s central role in the digital revolution.

“Highlighting the pioneering work and technological innovations developed in the city that have transformed daily life. Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York, on view November 13, 2015 – April 17, 2016, presents New York as a technological hub where the intersection of commerce and innovation gave birth to the first computers and tech companies.

Featuring nearly 300 artifacts, including early computers and telecommunications hardware, archival materials, photographs, digital artworks, and interactive experiences that immerse visitors in the evolution of technology, Silicon City presents computer-related milestones in the New York region from the late-1800s to the 1980s. The exhibition was curated by New-York Historical’s Chief Curator Stephen Edidin, with assistance from Research Associate Christian Panaite.”

One of the IBM 700 series, the company’s first commercial main frames, formed with vacuum tubes, integrated input and output, and memory, this one being an IBM 702 Arithmetical and Logical CPU Unit, from 1954.

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