The Wonder of the PC Museum

In a 50-year career working around computers, Claremont Graduate University Professor of Computer Science Paul Gray managed to pick up many machines dating back to the early years of personal computers. When Gray retired from CGU in 2001, he took about 10 computers from his personal collection and used them as the basis for a PC Museum at the university.

“I’m the kind of person who doesn’t throw those things away,” said Gray, 77. The museum now boasts a collection of more than 100 computers, about 25 printers, and 40 monitors. PC Magazine recently named the 50 greatest PC models of all time—Gray’s museum houses 40 of those computers.

“Personal computers are something that everyone has, but very few people are familiar with the history of the thing,” Gray said.

After Gray got the go-ahead from a dean at the university to start the museum, he solicited computers from friends, alumni, and others. The museum received contributions from all over the country, Gray said.

“It’s amazing what people had in their attics,” said Gray.

The oldest model in the museum is an Altair model from 1975. Gray said he is in the process of acquiring a 1971 computer, which is the oldest known personal computer. Other models are from long-defunct manufacturers that have been largely forgotten. “(Personal computers) have only been around really since 1980, 1978, which is really only about 30 years.” Gray said. “And yet these things disappear pretty quickly because everyone buys a new computer every two to three years.”

The museum’s collection is housed in display cases scattered throughout the university’s Academic Computing Building, at 130 E. 9th Street.

“For people who come to the university, it’s one of the first things they’re shown,” Gray said.

Daily Bulletin – May 15, 2008