When I began teaching at City Tech in 2014, one of the first things that I did was bring some of my old computers to campus, because I wanted to share these important artifacts of our digital heritage with my students. As I explain to my students, where we are now in terms of our immersive digital culture is not based on a Whiggish progression in which our technology improves toward some ideal. Instead, market forces, corporate greed and strategizing, patent and copyright law, historical events, visionary leadership, inept leadership, and individual choices–themselves informed and influenced by many things–have led us from the desktop personal computing revolution of the late-1970s to the present day in which we carry powerful computers in our back pockets. Along that trajectory from then to now, there have been tremendous breakthroughs and heartbreaking defeats in terms of technological development and its influence on ourselves and our societies. By studying vintage computers and software, we can learn more about what was gained, what was lost, and what was ignored in our digital history. For the student of science and technology, forgotten innovations of the past might kindle rediscoveries in the present that might further push our digital culture into an unknown future.
Click here to see an inventory of the computing hardware and click here to see an inventory of software held in my retrocomputing archive in Namm 520. Some of these computers belong to me, and others belong to CUNY. If you are interested in working on a retrocomputing project or sharing some of these machines with your students, please stop by Namm 520 or email me at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu.