August 2, 2010


Thanks to Tom Misa for this link to a story about the PLATO@50 conference at the Computer History Museum. PLATO was an educational computer system created by Don Bitzer at the University of Illinois and commercialized by the Control Data Corporation.

We have two PLATO collections at CBI: one from its time at the University of Illinois and one from the Control Data Corporation Records.

February 25, 2010

ACM History Committee visit

A warm welcome to the members of the ACM History Committee, who will be meeting here in Andersen Library tomorrow. They have a packed agenda, but we will have the time in the afternoon to host them at an exhibit reception for The Machine That Changed the World, which will be open for only one more week.

January 25, 2010

ACM Exhibit Opening Reception FRIDAY

Don't forget to come to the opening reception for The Machine That Changed the World this Friday afternoon (January 29) from 4:00-6:00! It will be held in the Andersen Library atrium and you will have a chance to view the exhibit after hours and chat with CBI staff. Light refreshments will be available. Please email me if you have any questions.

January 8, 2010

The Machine That Changed the World - Opening Monday!

CBI's new exhibit in the Andersen first floor gallery will be opening this coming Monday. Entitled "The Machine That Changed the World: ACM and the History of Computing, 1947-2010," the exhibition chronicles the history of the Association for Computing Machinery and its impact on the computing field. It contains artifacts and materials from the ACM Records and supporting CBI collections. The exhibit is free and will be open to the public from 8:30 to 4:30, Monday through Friday, and 9:00-1:00 on Saturday, and it will be open through March 5. Please come on by! Additionally, there will be an opening reception held on Friday, January 29, from 4:00-6:00 in the Andersen atrium, which will also be open to the public.

December 3, 2009

DARPA Network Challenge

Start looking for big red balloons!

March 3, 2009

First Friday

If you are in the neighborhood, please come this Friday at noon to our department's First Friday lecture in Andersen Library, room 120. This semester, we have been featuring different units' founders, and I will be speaking this month about Adelle and Erwin Tomash and their work with the Charles Babbage Institute. Light refreshments will be served, and we'll also be giving away some CBI freebies! Please contact me or leave a comment if you have any questions.

November 19, 2008

Hidden History TONIGHT

Also, please come to tonight's Hidden History in Computing lecture, at 7:00 pm in 120 Andersen Library, given by Tom Misa. Tonight's talk will be on the Control Data Corporation, an important Minnesota computing company for which we have quite an extensive and exciting collection.

October 28, 2008

Hidden History Report and Update

The Minnesota's Hidden History in Computing lecture series has thus far had a diverse group of attendees, including folks from various retiree groups in the area (Lockheed Martin, Control Data Corporation, and Honeywell) as well as some faculty and staff from University of Minnesota departments. Such a varied group has occasioned some interesting dialogue, to go along with the fascinating subject matter. The next talk will be on November 19 from 7-8 pm and will cover "Lives and Legends at Control Data Corporation." Please come!

October 2, 2008


You may be interested in the following call for papers, for which computing history topics are very relevant.

The Center for Cryptologic History announces a call for papers for its biennial Symposium on Cryptologic History. The Symposium will occur on 15-16 October 2009 in Laurel, Maryland, at the Johns-Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory located in the Baltimore-Washington corridor. We will consider all proposals relating to any aspect of cryptologic history, including topics relating to the history of computer technology development. The deadline for submission of proposals, to include a minimum two-page topic prospectus, a brief source list, and a biography, is 10 January 2009. Selected presenters will receive notification by 1 March 2009. For further information, contact Dr. Kent Sieg, Symposium coordinator, at 301-688-2336 or

September 23, 2008

Minnesota's Hidden History in Computing

The second talk in our series on Minnesota's Hidden History in Computing will be held on Wednesday, October 8th at 7pm. See below for more details.

Minnesota's Hidden History in Computing: Origins in the Engineering Research Associates

October 8th, 7-8 pm
Andersen Library 120 (West Bank)

Did a Minnesota start-up company create the country's first stored-program computer? This informal evening talk, the second in a year-long series of public lectures given by staff at the Charles Babbage Institute, examines the pioneering Engineering Research Associates. Organized in 1946, this St. Paul company was a seed-bed of innovative technologies and computer designs. ERA also helped create the modern computer industry, evolving into the Univac Division of Sperry-Rand as well as spinning off the notable Control Data Corporation. This talk surveys ERA's accomplishments and discusses its legacy in shaping modern computing.

Each of these monthly lectures, on Wednesday evenings, will explore a specific topic or company. We invite members of the public and university community to attend and learn more about Minnesota's "hidden history" in computing. This evening, free reprint copies of the landmark ERA volume, High-Speed Computing Devices (1950), will be available.

Future talks will be on the third Wednesday of each month from 7-8 pm.
Nov 19: Control Data Corp.
Dec 17: Univac . . . to . . . Unisys
Jan 21: Honeywell

Spring topics will include: IBM-Rochester, GOPHER, biomedical, IBM’s Blue Gene

For more information: or 612-624-5050

September 4, 2008

Minnesota's Hidden Computing History

CBI will be starting a new, exciting evening lecture series this semester, on Minnesota's hidden computing history. They will generally be held every month on a Wednesday from 7-8 pm, in Andersen Library, room 120. The first one will be Wednesday, September 17 (two weeks from yesterday). Anyone is welcome to attend!

Here are some more details about the first lecture:

"Minnesota's Hidden History in Computing: Why Not Silicon Valley?"
September 17th, 7-8 pm
Andersen Library 120 (West Bank)

Charles Babbage Institute
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis MN 55455

What made California's Silicon Valley into a world-famous center for computing, and could Minnesota have claimed this title? This informal evening talk, the first in a year-long series of public lectures given by staff at the Charles Babbage Institute, surveys the hidden history of computing in the Twin Cities and across the state. Minnesota's pioneering computer companies -- the Engineering Research Associates, Sperry-Univac, Control Data, Honeywell, Unisys, IBM-Rochester and others -- were second to none in innovative technology, people, and markets. The University made important advances in the early World Wide Web. This is a history that certainly needs to be better known.

Each of the monthly lectures, on Wednesday evenings, will explore a specific topic or company. We invite members of the public and university community to attend and learn more about Minnesota's "hidden history" in computing.

For more information: or 612-624-5050

August 22, 2008

Cortada Talk

If you are in the Champaign-Urbana (or is it Urbana-Champaign?) area, you might be interested in the following talk by Jim Cortada, whose papers we have here at CBI and who has been instrumental in the development of the Institute.

James Cortada: “How Demand-Side Computing Shaped the History of Digitization?

Monday, September 8, 2008

4:00-5:30 pm

LISB 126

Lecture Abstract: Normally the history of computing is told from the perspective of the engineers, firms, and the industries that invented, manufactured, and sold computers. It is also told largely as a US centric story. However, we are increasingly realizing that users were not passive players in this process; rather they used computers when it made sense to them and worked with vendors to develop what they needed. They also developed patterns of adoption that spread around the world. This talk will discuss how whole industries embraced computing and, in the process, changed how they performed their daily work.

Speaker Biography: Dr. James W. Cortada received his Ph.D. in Modern European History from Florida State University, and is the author of two dozen books on the history and management of information technology. His most recent project has been the 3-volume The Digital Hand, which surveys the use of computing in 36 industries over the past six decades. He leads research teams at the IBM Institute for Business Value that monitor use of computing around the world.

August 19, 2008

RENCI Lecture - Women ENIAC Programmers

Pioneering female computer scientists to be topic of next RENCI Distinguished Lecture

This talk at Duke University on September 25 will be about the women ENIAC programmers, including Betty Holberton, whose papers we have here at CBI. I look forward to hearing about it - please leave a comment if you attend!

August 8, 2008

Olympics Exhibit

Slight deviation from the history of computing, but I just wanted to recommend to all of you in the Cities the new Andersen Library exhibit. It's entitled Reaching for Gold: The YMCA and the Olympic Movement in China from 1895 to 1920, put on by the Kautz Family YMCA Archives. They've also got a live feed from the Beijing Olympics, so stop on by.

June 30, 2008

RBMS Report

I got back today from last week's RBMS (Rare Books and Manuscripts Section) preconference, and, though I've been busy catching up with things here in the office, I thought I'd take a few minutes to report on RBMS and particularly on the Blog Boot Camp seminar panel that I was a part of. We heard some pretty interesting and thought-provoking plenary talks about digitization of archives and special collections materials, which was the theme of the preconference. I particularly enjoyed hearing Rich Szary (from my alma mater) and Jackie Dooley, both of whom explained why we should "learn from the archivists" in terms of minimal processing and why we should be digitizing "with abandon," a great phrase.

The Blog Boot Camp seminar itself was a smashing success, if I do say so myself. We had an overflow crowd (about 30 people had to be turned away, unfortunately) and got a great discussion going. Over the following couple of days, a number of archivists and special collections librarians came up to me to tell me how inspiring the seminar was and how they plan to start blogs for their own institutions. Jackie Dooley, in the final plenary, mentioned how happy she was to see a blogging seminar here at RBMS. The whole thing was a great experience (and inspiring for me, too).

June 20, 2008

Blog Boot Camp

Next Thursday (June 26), I will be on a seminar panel at the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section preconference, talking about this blog. The seminar is entitled "Blog Boot Camp: A Primer for Special Collections Staff." The chair of the seminar set up a blog about our panel, located here.

Leave a comment if you have any more questions. It should be a great experience. I'll be sure to post about it when I return from Los Angeles.

May 29, 2008

Friday, May 30

CBI will be closed for research tomorrow, May 30, for the first day of the History | Gender | Computing conference. If you come for the conference, we'll be down in Andersen Library room 120. Hope to see you there!

May 28, 2008

Exhibit Open!

Gendered Bits is now open in the first-floor gallery of Andersen Library. It looks great - come visit! Here's the description from the Libraries' publicity:

It's open through July 23 of this year.

May 8, 2008


I'd like to put in a plug for the following event in Walter Library on Friday afternoon:

Lisa Johnston, science and engineering librarian, created a poster for the event containing historic robot images from our Edmund Berkeley collection. I'll be there, too, with some CBI brochures! It should be a good time.

May 5, 2008

History | Gender | Computing

I don't think I've posted anything recently about History | Gender | Computing, the conference hosted by CBI coming up at the end of the month. Please come if you're in the area! Registration is free and it should be a really interesting event. Please email if you have any questions.

April 7, 2008

Junto Report

This past weekend, I attended the 2008 Midwest Junto for the History of Science, a conference geared primarily towards graduate students in the history of science, technology, and medicine. This year's meeting was located in Minneapolis, so it was a good opportunity for me to learn a bit about the field and do a little networking on behalf of CBI. I was impressed with the caliber of many of the graduate student presentations that I saw, particularly those from the University of Minnesota program (no bias) and the University of Oklahoma. The atmosphere was friendly, convivial, and informal; and I became an official Junto member by paying $2 in dues and signing my name in a registration book.

So far, check out the University of Minnesota HSTM blog for a review; more reviews to come, I'm sure. If you're in the Midwest, definitely consider attending next year's Junto at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City.

March 31, 2008

Midwest Junto

The Midwest Junto for the History of Science is being hosted this weekend by the University of Minnesota. Although the name does not indicate it, this conference will include presentations on the history of medicine and technology, too. It promises to be an informative couple of days. The conference will begin on Friday, April 4 with a reception at the Bell Museum on campus, and it will end on Sunday afternoon. It also includes a banquet at the beautiful Bakken Library and Museum on Saturday night.

You can email Jole Shackelford at if you are interested in registering. I hope to see you there!

March 27, 2008

Colloquium in Maryland

I just wanted to call your attention to the fact that our very own current Tomash Fellow, Corinna Schlombs, will be giving a talk next Thursday, April 3, at the University of Maryland:

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Speaker: Corinna Schlombs, University of Pennsylvania

“American Corporations in European Computer Markets: IBM and Remington Rand?

About the Speaker: Corinna Schlombs is PhD candidate in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation in the international history of computing investigates the transfer of computing technology and culture between the US and Western European countries from the end of WWII to the late 1960s. The current Tomash Fellow in the History of Information Processing, Schlombs also received an NSF Dissertation Improvement Grant and pursued part of her doctoral research as a Scholar-in-Residence at the Deutsches Museum in Munich.


University of Maryland, Francis Scott Key Hall 2120 (Merrill Room) Refreshments from 4-4.30 p.m.; paper and discussion from 4.30-6 p.m.

Discussion will be based on a pre-circulated paper. Please email David Kirsch, dkirsch[at]umd[dot]edu for a copy.

-from the SHOT blog

March 5, 2008

First Friday

Come hear Tom and Arvid speak on the topic "Computers Once Were Women - Why Did This Change?" this Friday, March 7, at noon in 120 Andersen! Light refreshments will be served. Here's a brief description:

Through the 1940s, the term "computer" referred to people, often young women, who labored over lengthy hand computations. Throughout the early years of computing history, women played a prominent role, but in recent years, the field has become increasingly male-dominated. The Charles Babbage Institute sheds some light on these changes.

January 30, 2008

History of Technology Colloquium

If any of you are in the DC area, you might be interested in the following colloquium at the University of Maryland:

Hyungsub Choi, Chemical Heritage Foundation, “Technology Importation, Corporate Strategies, and the Emergence of the Japanese Semiconductor Industry?

Commentator: David Sicilia, Department of History, University of Maryland

About the Speaker: Hyungsub Choi is the Manager for Electronics, Innovation and Emerging Technologies Programs at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia. He earned a Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in the history of science and technology. Previously, he earned an M.S. in history of technology at Georgia Institute of Technology and a B.S. in engineering from Seoul National University. He has been a Fellow at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, and in 2003, he receieved the Robinson Prize from the Society for the History of Technology for his paper, “Rationalizing the ‘Guerilla State’: North Korean Factory Management Reform in the 1960s? (subsequently published in _History and Technology_).

Location: University of Maryland, Francis Scott Key Hall 2120 (Merrill Room) Refreshments from 4-4.30 p.m.; paper and discussion from 4.30-6 p.m.

Discussion will be based on a pre-circulated paper. Email David Kirsch, dkirsch[at]umd[dot]edu, to obtain a copy.

January 18, 2008

Junto in Minneapolis!

A call for papers has been posted for the Midwest Junto for the History of Science (and technology and medicine), which this year will be hosted by the University of Minnesota from April 4-6. Junto particularly welcomes graduate student paper presentations. See this site for more information.

January 9, 2008

SOFT-EU Workshop in Grenoble

Please see for information about an upcoming workshop entitled "ALGOL, IBM and Software Crisis, the state of historiography in transnational interpretations." It's taking place in Grenoble, France from January 21-24.

December 14, 2007

SHOT Call for Papers

SHOT has sent out a call for papers for the 2008 conference in Lisbon! See for more information.

December 12, 2007

Information Literacy

This morning I attended the first of a five-part University of Minnesota Libraries series on information literacy. The whole point of the series is to help us rethink our methods for helping students become information literate, based on new thinking and scholarship about the structure of higher education. The goal for the university as a whole is to become more learning-focused, rather than instruction-focused. They've recently adopted 7 "Student Learning Outcomes," which can (and eventually will) be adopted by instructors with the goal of all students by the end of their undergraduate careers having gained proficiency in all of the areas.

Librarians, specifically, are charged with helping to integrate information literacy into the curriculum as a whole (rather than being focused exclusively on providing one-time in-person instruction sessions to classes, for instance). It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in the next couple of years, and how CBI, and archives and special collections in general, will be able to participate.

December 11, 2007

Zotero Program Online

An announcement I saw on Beyond the Job, a librarian blog, about a free online introduction to Zotero taking place in a month or so:

"Wednesday, January 23, 2008 beginning at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 1:00 Central, noon Mountain, 11:00 a.m. Pacific, and 7:00 p.m. GMT/UTC/Zulu:

The Mark of Zotero: Two-Clicks to Citation Management

Zotero, designed by the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, is a free citation manager that works as part of the Firefox web browser. It allows researchers to keep track of bibliographies, notes, even copies of articles and pictures-- all within the browser window. It integrates with several word processors to make creating a reference or a bibliography a two-click process. Chris Strauber, Reference and Web Services Librarian at Wofford College, will demonstrate the program and discuss it as a possible replacement for products like Procite and Refworks.

Hosts: South Carolina State Library and PASCAL (Partnership Among South Carolina Academic Libraries)"

and scroll down to find the link to the event room.

December 4, 2007

Libraries Events Blog

Those at the University of Minnesota might be interested in following this blog, which details upcoming events hosted by the University of Minnesota Libraries.

November 30, 2007

Colloquium Canceled

Unfortunately, the HSTM colloquium that I mentioned in my November 26 post has been canceled. It was emphasized, though, that if you would like to mingle with members of the department, they will still be having a coffee and cookie reception at 3:15!

November 27, 2007

Southern HSTM Conference Call for Papers

From the H-Grad listserv:

CFP Deadline Extended:

Georgia Tech and Emory University invite you to the second Southern Conference in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine. Combining the traditions of other regional conferences, Southern HoST provides a welcoming environment for outstanding graduate student presentations as well as a collegial venue for more established scholars to try out new material. This annual traveling conference is geared toward a variety of fields which last year included agriculture, psychiatry, space exploration, and the music industry.

Through such an array of topics, HoST seeks to cultivate a regional sense of community among institutions located in the South that specialize in the history of science, technology, or medicine. Persons interested in presenting are invited to submit a 150-200 word proposal and CV electronically by Wednesday December 5th.

Georgia Tech will host the opening banquet on Friday evening and Emory will provide facilities for all academic presentations. Details regarding registration and itinerary will be announced at

November 26, 2007

HST Colloquium this Friday

Hope you had a nice holiday weekend! Some of you may be interested in the following colloquium that will take place on the U of M campus this Friday afternoon:

Friday, November 30
Room 131, Tate Lab of Physics
3:35 p.m. (refreshments at 3:15 in Room 216)

Evelynn Hammonds
Holyoke Center
Harvard University

"The Marginalization of Experience"

ABSTRACT: This talk addresses the problem of the underrepresentation of women of color in STEM fields from a historical perspective.

For further information about the Colloquium, please contact Barbara Eastwold at (612) 624-7069 or For updates and changes check the web at

November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving! And Tom's Talk

Happy Thanksgiving! CBI will be closed for the holiday weekend this Thursday and Friday, so after today, chat reference won't be available either here or on the main CBI home page until Monday, November 26.

As a post-Thanksgiving activity, U of M readers, think about attending a talk by CBI's very own Tom Misa on December 11, entitled "Moore's Law: Dynamics of a technical revolution." Professor Andrew Odlyzko will also be speaking. See for more details.

See you on the other side of the holiday!

November 13, 2007


Several calls for papers for conferences related to the history of technology have come across the wire recently:

The Culture of Print in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medicine (STEM)

The International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC)

November 12, 2007

Library of Congress Talk

Some of you at the University of Minnesota or in the Twin Cities area might be interested in this event coming up in December:

FORGED IN FIRE: Reconstructing Thomas Jefferson's Library
A lecture featuring Mark Dimunation, U.S. Library of Congress

SAVE THE DATE: Monday, December 10, 2007 -- 7:30 p.m.
Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey Center,
301 19th Av. S., Minneapolis
University of Minnesota West Bank campus

Please save the date for a special lecture featuring Mark Dimunation,
chief of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of
Congress. He'll speak about Congress's purchase of Thomas Jefferson's
personal library in 1815 to replace the congressional library
destroyed when the British burned Washington the previous year. When
Jefferson's books arrived in Washington, the Library of Congress
found its center and its impetus.

Free and open to the public. Advance reservations are recommended.
Please RSVP to (612) 624-9339 or

November 9, 2007


For interested graduate students:

From: "MEPHISTOS 2008" [From the H-Sci-Med-Tech listserv]-

We are pleased to announce the 26th annual MEPHISTOS graduate student
conference devoted to the History, Philosophy, Sociology and
Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Medicine. It will take place
April 4-6, 2008, at the University of Texas at Austin.

For more information, please see our website:

November 7, 2007

Military History conference panel

I saw a call for papers on a listserv for a panel presentation on military technology. Here's the link, from H-Net, for anyone who might be interested:

October 30, 2007


This afternoon, Arvid and I will be attending the Twin Cities Archives Round Table Symposium. Unfortunately, this means that we will be unavailable on the chat service from about 12:30 CDT through the end of the day. However, we should be able to report back about issues important to archivists - and researchers - everywhere. Scheduled sessions relate to current legal and technological issues in archives.

We will be listening to presenters from the Minnesota Historical Society, Cargill Corporation, Target Corporation, the Minnesota Public Library, various University of Minnesota archives and special collections units, and the Minnesota State University-Mankato. We will be sure to let you know what we've learned.

October 26, 2007

CBI Call for Papers

CBI is pleased to announce that we will be hosting a workshop and conference on History Gender and Computing on May 30-31st 2008. The details of the workshop and conference will be forthcoming but for now please check out the Call for Papers here. Proposals for papers and posters are due by December 1, 2007.

October 18, 2007

Crossing Borders

From the H-Sci-Med-Tech listserv - the International Committee for the History of Technology put out a call for papers for its 2008 symposium, entitled "Crossing Borders in the History of Technology." It looks like graduate students are encouraged to submit papers, as well as experienced historians.

Speaking of listservs, if you're interested in history (not just the history of computing), you should investigate H-Net. You can join any number of listservs on just about any historical topic imaginable. I'm personally on the listservs for H-Sci-Med-Tech (the history of science, medicine, and technology, obviously), H-Grad (for graduate students in all historical disciplines), and H-Info (the history of libraries and information). If you go to and click on "Discussion Networks" at the top, you can view the entire list of possible networks to join.

October 16, 2007

American Archives Month

October is American Archives Month! If you're new to historical research, you might wonder just what it is that we do. Well, the Society of American Archivists (, not or you'll get the archaeologists instead) put together a brochure for students, and others new to the field, entitled "What is an Archives?" Check it out.


SHOT, the Society for the History of Technology, is holding its annual meeting this coming weekend. It's also the beginning of SHOT's 50th anniversary celebration, an exciting milestone. As you might imagine, SHOT has a strong CBI connection. Jeff and Tom will both be in Washington, DC for the weekend, playing an active role in the conference, as will several historians from other institutions who have used CBI for recent or past research.

October 8, 2007

Control Data Corporation 50th Anniversary

The Control Data Corporation, a computer manufacturing company established in 1957, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week. Former CDC employees were here at CBI last month doing research in their company records, which CBI holds. The research that they did will be used in an exhibit and a slideshow for the anniversary celebration.

The CDC Records are one of the largest and most heavily used collections that we have. The records document many aspects of the history of the U.S. computer manufacturing industry from the 1950s through the 1990s. The collection includes a large number of photographs, a database of which will be online and available for use through the CBI web site by next summer.