Digital-Den.orgNEW! Exhibit & Launch Party on Sun., Oct. 20th. Check out "Updates" for more info.
Silicon Valley has The Computer History Museum, Minnesota has The Charles Babbage Institute, Washington D.C. has the computer history collections at the Smithsonian, and Seattle has its Living Computing Museum. There are other computer museums around the world too.
What does Boston have?The goal of this campaign is to put the Boston/Cambridge area back on the Computer Museum map!
More specifically, the goal of this campaign is to get enough support to create a non-profit 501(c)3 organization named Digital-Den that will have the dual mission of preserving and exhibiting historic computing systems in their original “living” state. We will preserve computers, operating systems, applications and documentation as well as pioneer’s stories about making them. Of course, there will be a special focus on preserving the unique computing legacy of the Boston/Cambridge area. To support this mission, there will be a Computer Archive for preserving historic systems and a Computer Arcade for exhibiting the most entertaining systems for the public to enjoy first-hand. Digital-Den won’t be as big as a traditional “computer museum” at first, but if there is enough interest and support, it will grow into one in the long term.
Why do this?
A lot of key developments that led to the computer revolution happened in the Boston/Cambridge area, and there's still a lot going on today. Unfortunately, there is no organization specifically charged with collecting, preserving and exhibiting that history. Once upon a time there was a Boston Computer Museum, but it moved to Silicon Valley. Other computer museums have sprung up around the world since then, but not in the Boston/Cambridge area. Since the Boston Computer Museum moved, a lot of historical computers and related materials have been accumulating in offices, basements, garages, storage areas and barns. People know that what they have is historic, so they don’t get rid of it, but they don’t have a local place for it to go where they can trust that it will be saved for posterity. Among other things, Digital Den will be a place where people can turn to help them cope with the massive back-log of historical computing systems and related materials that have been accumulating for years with no place to go.
This Indiegogo campaign is being held to support the next phase of Digital Den’s development, but it isn’t just about getting funds. It is also about finding out if there is enough interest to sustain a non-profit organization dedicated to computer history in the Boston/Cambridge area. It doesn’t make sense to establish an official non-profit organization and continue expending resources to do this if there isn’t wide-spread interest from a lot of other people. A true non-profit organization needs more than a tiny group of enthusiasts to succeed -- there needs to be a broad and enthusiastic audience. The response to this campaign will determine whether there is enough interest and support to sustain Digital Den into the future.
Who are you?
Founder of Digital-Den
I’ve been involved in computing oriented endeavors around the Boston/Cambridge area for more than 20 years, and I have published and presented on a number of topics in the area of computing history. In the mid-1990s, I also owned a popular business named Studio-E in Harvard Square that was one of the first and biggest to offer computing services to the public in the Boston/Cambridge area. For more information, check out this link to an extensive archive of my work: Archive of work...
I am joined by a small, core team of advisors who are each well-recognized experts in their respective computer related fields of endeavor. Not coincidentally, their areas of expertise correspond to some of the strengths of the current collections. You can find out more about them by checking out the links. Watch for more advisors to be added as this campaign progresses!
In alphabetical order…
Lead technical Artist, Giza Project, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization
Research Associate for Visualization Lab, Center for Research Computing
Rus Gant (Harvard Research Computing), Giza 3D
Robert W. Lawler, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Education and Computing
Terrence Masson, MFA
Associate Professor, Film & Director of Animation Program
Terrence Masson (Northeastern U.)
Terrence Masson (Wikipedia)
What’s the plan?
Phase 1 Setup (July – September, 2013)
I've gotten the ball rolling by setting up an initial Computer Archive that is co-located in the iconic Metropolitan Storage next to MIT's main entrance.
There are already more than 20 personal computers capable of running most versions of standard PC and Apple operating systems as well as many applications and extensive content software. There are other people ready and willing to contribute their collections of hardware and software, but we will not accept them unless this Indiegogo campaign is successful.
Digital Den has a collection of innovative, unique and fun computer interfaces (e.g. projected keyboard, video glasses, Leap Motion and MindWave). We plan to expand the collection to include many products from companies with offices in the Boston/Cambridge area. This collection will be the foundation of an exhibit about the evolution of ways that computer interfaces have been used to extend the human senses. The ultimate goal will be demonstrate how to push the boundaries of immersive experiences by pairing high end commercial platforms (e.g. high end photo-realistic VR software and games) with advanced displays (multi-screen, surround video and 3D), surround sound and new motion/haptic technologies to create more powerful computing experiences than are normally available to the general public (or even experts who work with the individual products/projects). This exhibit is a prototype of the Computer Arcade, and it will be the shown at a special event in the fall.
Phase 2 Start-up (October – December, 2013)
This Indiegogo campaign is being held to support Phase 2 of Digital Den’s development. If it is successful then Phase 2 will begin in October of 2013.
These are the main things we plan to accomplish...
Incorporate as Non-Profit 501(c)3
The first and most important thing that will take place will be filing to become a Non-Profit that will allow Digital Den to accept tax deductible donations.
Expand the Computer Archive
A key activity during Phase 2 will be identifying other people’s interests and collections, prioritize the order in which collections will be accepted, then calculate the amount of funding required to sustain those collections in the long term. There have already been enough offers to expand the archive to more than 50 computers that would also include Sun, DEC and Wang workstations.
Establish the Computer Arcade
Digital Den’s collection for the exhibit about the evolution of computer interfaces, which will serve as a prototype for the Computer Arcade, will definitely be shown at least one event in the fall. There will be an active search for locations interested in displaying the collection on a rotating basis. For example, there are a number of programs in local universities that would benefit from having short-term access to the collection. Finally, there will be an attempt to find a permanent location to house exhibits that will be able to be open during evening and weekend hours.
Here are some other potential exhibits...
Classic Game Gallery This exhibit will revive a wide range of personal computers that will be loaded with hundreds of original software titles, but the displays and sound systems will be modern.
The Children’s Machine This exhibit will demonstrate the evolution of the ways in which personal computers have been used to support children’s development.
Before the Web was Born This exhibit will resuscitate key pre-Web hypertext systems in order to demonstrate the diverse and powerful features that existed in the systems made by some of the earliest computing pioneers.
What's the BIG vision?
Funding from the Indiegogo campaign will sustain Digital Den while it pursues further support to grow into a more traditional museum. It will become a large scale celebration of more than 50 years of computing history and include everything from vintage systems from the 1970s to brand new releases and prototypes of future products. There will be hundreds of computers running thousands of software titles, and it will become the largest computing history organization in the Northeast. Finally, and most importantly, it will be a local resource available for researchers, students and the general public to experience and enjoy firsthand.
The goal is to have the following things as soon as possible:
Permanent exhibit space
Full time staff
Regular operating hours
Wider examples of computers
Multiple, rotating exhibits
How will you use the funds?
If the campaign is successful, then this is a rough distribution of how the funds for Phase 2 will be used:
What happens if you don’t reach your goal?
We will review the funding level that is achieved and do what is possible with what is available. Specifics about how the funds will be used will be sent in a final update at the end of the campaign, whether or not the goal is reached. No matter what, we plan to honor all of the perks offered for this campaign.
Ok, so what do I do?
Please donate today if you would like to support this initiative to create a new non-profit organization dedicated to finding, preserving and exhibiting computing history in the Boston/Cambridge area.
What are the perks?
So, besides contributing to the greater good of preserving computing history and all that rot, what do I get?
The framework for the perks is based on typical rewards for supporting museums, such as admission to exhibits, but these range all the way from simply joining the email list to actually "joining the club" so to speak!
In between, you can choose to attend a private reception for Digital Den's first exhibit or attend the more intimate launch party complete with a special "goodie bag" at the door :-)
Of course, all of the perks include free visits to the current Computer Archive.
Here are the Computer Archive's public hours over Labor Day Weekend:
11 am - 3 pm Thursday, August 29th through Sunday, September 1st
You can also contact Digital Den for an appointment at other times.
Access to the Computer Archive is free, although please remember that it is a functioning archive rather than a museum gallery, so expect to see the “project of the moment” rather than any specific system or exhibit. There is no guarantee which computers or artifacts will be “on deck” on any given day, but there’s often something interesting going on.
Note More info. about 1st exhibit will be posted during this campaign as details are finalized.
I’m a computer history buff, but I’m flat broke, what can I do?
Simple! Besides visiting the computer archive for free, you can help get the word out. Tell all of your computer history buff friends about this – the Idiegogo share tools can help (hint hint ;-)
How can I find out more about Digital Den?
Please visit our site to find out a lot more about Digital Den!