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Travel Journal: The Computer History Museum

I share my visit to the Computer History Museum in San Francisco, expressing nostalgia for iconic technologies like the Apple II and reflecting on the impact of Silicon Valley on their design and tech career. I provide tips for designers to explore the museum’s rich design history and draw inspiration from the intersection of design and technology.

Hello again, dear readers! I am delighted to reconnect with you and share another exciting chapter of my recent travels. This time, I explored the captivating world of technology at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Join me on this nostalgic journey as we venture through the corridors of computing history, discovering the roots of innovation and design that have shaped not only the technological landscape, but also my personal and professional journey. From the iconic Apple II that sparked my fascination with computers, to the intricate tapestry of Silicon Valley’s influence, the Computer History Museum chronicles memories and insights that are waiting to be explored.

How I Feel About the Computer History Museum

Visiting the Computer History Museum in Mountain View is like taking a stroll through the corridors of time, with each exhibit evoking a wave of nostalgia that’s both comforting and inspiring. Seeing the Apple II, my inaugural gateway into the world of computing, is a sentimental journey back to where my passion for design and technology first ignited. The nostalgia deepens as I gaze upon the first Google Server, a poignant reminder of my early days as a web designer at Radix, an experience forever altered by the seismic rise of Google.

The history of Photoshop unfolds before me, each version a chapter in my career, from the humble beginnings of version 2.5 in 1997 to my last dance with it in 2016. The museum resonates with personal echoes, connecting the dots of my professional journey with the evolution of these iconic artifacts.

Sights, Colors, and Smells of the Computer History Museum

The Computer History Museum isn’t just a visual feast; it’s a sensory immersion into the roots of computing. The faint aroma of chips triggers memories of my first computer, an Apple II clone, where the tangible scent of opportunity mingled with the excitement of learning BASIC programming. As I encounter relics like the Apple I and punch cards, the colors and textures of computing history come alive, from the sleek Apple designs to the rudimentary yet groundbreaking components of early machines.

The museum unveils the grand tapestry of computing, from the hulking IBM mainframes to the delicate intricacies of valve-based computers. It’s a sensory kaleidoscope, where the sights, colors, and smells converge to create a vivid mosaic of technological evolution.

The Computer History Museum is a sensory voyage, not just through the tangible artifacts but also through pivotal moments that transformed human-computer interaction. Among the highlights is a nod to the Mother of All Demos by Douglas Engelbart, an event that marked a seismic shift in how we perceive and interact with technology, a visionary glimpse into the future that unfolded before our eyes.

As we navigate through the exhibits, the impact of Xerox PARC‘s innovations becomes palpable. The colors of innovation blend seamlessly with the sights of the mouse and the graphical user interface, both born in the crucible of Xerox’s groundbreaking research. The museum becomes a living canvas, displaying the transformation from clunky mainframes to the elegance of graphical interfaces that forever changed the landscape of human-computer interaction.

What I Want to Remember About the Computer History Museum

Beyond the personal nostalgia, what I want to etch into memory is the profound impact of a handful of companies rooted in Silicon Valley. The museum reveals how this small geographical region birthed innovations that shaped not only the technology industry but also my entire career. It’s a testament to the power of creativity, collaboration, and the relentless pursuit of pushing boundaries within a community that thrives on innovation.

Travel Tips for Designers

For designers seeking inspiration beyond tangible artifacts, the Computer History Museum offers a window into design movements influenced by the vibrant culture of Silicon Valley. Immerse yourself in the sleek and intuitive designs of Apple products, a testament to the region’s emphasis on user-centric aesthetics. Explore the evolution of user interfaces, reflecting the valley’s commitment to creating seamless and engaging digital experiences.

Delve into the legacy of Silicon Valley’s design luminaries, such as Susan Kare, the brilliant mind behind the early Macintosh icons. Her work not only shaped the visual language of computing but also set the stage for an era where design became inseparable from user experience. Marvel at the contributions of legendary designers like Paul Rand, whose innovative logos, including the iconic NeXT logo for Steve Jobs, continue to resonate in the design world.

Silicon Valley’s ethos has not only revolutionized technology but also catalyzed design movements that prioritize simplicity, functionality, and a human-centric approach. As you explore the museum, draw inspiration from the intersection of technology and design that defines the Silicon Valley aesthetic, leaving an indelible mark on the evolution of both disciplines.

By Itamar Medeiros

Originally from Brazil, Itamar Medeiros currently lives in Germany, where he works as VP of Design Strategy at SAP and lecturer of Project Management for UX at the M.Sc. Usability Engineering at the Rhein-Waal University of Applied Sciences .

Working in the Information Technology industry since 1998, Itamar has helped truly global companies in multiple continents create great user experience through advocating Design and Innovation principles. During his 7 years in China, he promoted the User Experience Design discipline as User Experience Manager at Autodesk and Local Coordinator of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) in Shanghai.

Itamar holds a MA in Design Practice from Northumbria University (Newcastle, UK), for which he received a Distinction Award for his thesis Creating Innovative Design Software Solutions within Collaborative/Distributed Design Environments.

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