January 21 – March 18



The inspiration for this exhibit was a suggestion by Professor John Leadley that we collect the old computer parts from around campus and present a short history of computer use at the Western campus. During the curatorial process for this exhibit, I discovered several computer enthusiasts on this campus who saved numerous parts from their old computers for just such an occasion.

The purpose of this exhibit is to give a brief overview of what has happened in the computer industry over the last three decades and the evolution of computer use on this campus.

The timeline reflects only a few highlights of the computer industry and is not intended to be comprehensive. Numerous websites have compiled comprehensive computer history timelines that cover the abacus through nanobots. I have gathered some of these websites in the web documentation for this exhibit. I invite you to view them.

Most of the artifacts displayed were in use on this campus at one time. However to fill in the blanks where artifacts from this institution were not available, some of the artifacts come from faculty or staff who used them at other institutions.

– Jerrie Lee Parpart, Exhibit Curator


Courtesy of Kathy Alderson

LASER DISC circa late 1970s
Courtesy of Kathy Alderson, Hamersly Library
LD or LaserDisc is the industry-wide term for consumer laser video, also known as LV (LaserVision) and CDV (Compact Disc Video). LD was first demonstrated by Philips and MCA in 1972, and has been on the market since 1978, or about as long as the VCR and six years longer than CD. The LD has a bright and detailed picture, sound that sounds like a CD and is clearer than VHS formats.

PUNCH CARDS circa early 1980s
Courtesy of Dr. John Leadley, Business & Economics Division
and Bud Smith, Retired WOU Educational Media Director

Courtesy of University Archives, Hamersly Library, donated by Bert Kersh

Each line of a computer program had to be entered on a separate card. The cards had to be stacked in the correct order and given to the computer operator. After the program ran, usually within an hour or two, the output would be printed on large sheets and put in a pile to be picked up. If there were any mistakes, including a typo or getting the cards in the wrong order, you would have to correct the error and resubmit the stack of cards.

These cards were created to run TSP, a statistical program. Today, the same operation could be done in Excel by entering a formula into a spreadsheet cell, and the result would appear instantly!

The orange colored punch cards were used for ‘arena style’ registration for classes. Faculty members would sit around the gymnasium and students would pick up a punch card for each class they wanted to attend. The cards were then fed through a computer that would detect time conflicts and verify them as enrolled.

UNISORT ANALYSIS CARD-SORTING SYSTEM circa late 1950s – early 1960s
Courtesy of University Archives, Hamersly Library, donated by Bert Kersh

Card-sorting systems were used prior to computer use to sort data. Each card in this bibliography has citation information. The numbers correspond with the holes around the edge of the card. Specific holes assigned a subject are notched on the card corresponding with the citation information. To pull all cards that pertain to a subject, a rod inserts into the assigned hole on the block of cards. The ones that fall through are the ‘hits’ for that subject.


According to PC History (http://www.pc-history.org/index.html), In January 1975 Popular Electronics magazine introduced the first kit microcomputer. Although not the first available microcomputer, it was the start of the industry. Popular Electronics offered readers a complete Altair 8800 kit for only $397
(a factory-assembled Altair was $498).
Altair kit $397 ($498 assembled)
• a box of parts,
• circuit boards,
• some poorly written instructions,
• 256 bytes memory (no, not “K-bytes”)
• no memory board or input/output board
additional parts:
• 1K memory board in kit form $97 ($135 assembled)
• 2K memory board $145 ($197 assembled)
• giant 4K memory board $264 ($338 assembled)
• a serial interface board $119 ($138 assembled)
• a parallel interface board $92 ($114 assembled)

Initial cost: $586 – $772 ($747 – $1088 assembled)
In 2003 dollars: $2,005 – $2,640 ($2,555 – 3,720 assembled)

In 1975, an IBM mainframe computer that could perform 10,000,000 instructions per second cost around $10,000,000. In 1995 (only twenty years later), a computer video game capable of performing 500,000,000 million instructions per second was available for approximately $500!

Current computer prices change rapidly. In January 2004 the following could be purchased for approximately $400 available from various stores and online sources. From tHe Gateway computer promotion site:

Intel® Celeron® Processor 2.4GHz with 128K Cache
Microsoft® Windows® XP Home Edition
40GB Ultra ATA100 5400rpm hard drive³
20x min./48x max. CD-ROM drive

Before computers were a part of standard office supplies, other tools assisted with calculations.
ABACUS circa early 1970s
Courtesy of Jim Birken, University Advancement

The world’s first computing system, the abacus was an ingenious invention designed to perform speedy calculations through the movement of beads on a series of rods. The modern Chinese abacus is still widely used in China and other countries, dates from about 1200 A.D. It is possible that it derives from the earlier counting boards used around the Mediterranean as early as 300 B. C. An Aztec version of an abacus, circa 900-1000 A.D., is made from maize (corn) threaded through strings mounted in a wooden frame.

oldstuffsmLONG LOG DUPLEX DECITRIG SLIDE RULE by K&G circa early 1970s. Courtesy of Jim Birken, University Advancement

A slide rule contain scales for multiplying, dividing, and extracting square roots, and some contain scales for calculating trigonometric functions and logarithms. The slide rule remained an essential tool in science and engineering; widely used in business and industry until the portable electronic calculator superseded it late in the 20th century.

Courtesy of Jim Birken, University Advancement

”Your Magic Brain Calculator is a technical instrument that solves you math problems with ease. It requires practice to achieve perfection. Practice Makes Perfect. In a few weeks you will be doing you mathematical calculation as fast as adding machines many times the cost of this instrument.”


HEATH COMPUTER and MANUALS circa mid 1980s
Courtesy of Bud Smith, Retired WOU Educational Media Director

This computer, built from a kit, is still functioning. It is similar to the Apple IIc and
Apple IIe computers used in the computer lab.

Courtesy of Jim Birken, University Advancement

Western purchased a number of these microcomputers with funds from a Department of Education grant. At the time, Digital Equipment Corporation was the second largest computer company in the world, dominating the market for minicomputers (more powerful than a microcomputer but smaller than a mainframe). Their microcomputers, the DEC Rainbow and the DEC One, were not commercially successful.

hardrivecropsmHARD DRIVE from ‘UHRO’ circa 1989 – 1994
Courtesy of Dr. Bob Broeg, Computer Science Division

Each Sequent Balance had twenty-four 264MB hard drives, weighing about 50 lbs. each. The drives were unstable and often failed. Modern hard drives are more than 100 times larger in capacity and weigh about one pound.

WANG TERMINAL circa 1990
Courtesy of Jim Birken, University Advancement

wangcropsmIn the early 1990s University Advancement purchased a used Wang system from the State Fire Marshall’s Office for about $7,000 to store donation records. This was a substantial saving as a new system cost nearly $15,000 at that time.




westalcovesmComputers have taken a high profile role in streamlining processes in higher education. During his twenty plus year tenure in the Oregon Higher Education System, Jim Birken has used over 10 different types of computer systems. Here are a few of the systems he has used and the approximate dates used.

    • HoneyWell mainframe
    • 1981 Apple II PC
    • IBM XT PC 8088
    • 1984 IBM AT PC 80286
    • 1985 Bull Mainframe
    • HoneyWell Bull 386
    • DEC Rainbow PC
    • 1989 NorthStar Dimension 80383 internal network system (Beta test version of Abacus)
    • Zenith 80386
    • Wang minicomputer
    • Wang PC (not compatible with other PC)
    • 1992 Sequent System (Odin and Uhro)
    • Various 386, 486 and Pentium based PCs


MOTHER BOARD, early IBM XT circa 1982 – 1983
Courtesy of Dr. Bob Broeg, Computer Science Division

XT compared to current computers:
Processor speed: 4.77 megahertz (compare to 2+ gigahertz)
Memory: 512 kilobytes (compared to 512+ megabytes)
Storage: 10 megabytes (compared to 100+ gigabytes) [giga = 1,000 mega]

MOTHERBOARD from ‘ODIN’ circa 1989 – 1994
Courtesy of Dr. Bob Broeg, Computer Science Division

In the early 1990’s, the Sequent Corporation, located in Beaverton, Oregon, donated computers to all of the OUS schools. Western received two Sequent Balances, which were named Uhro and Odin. Each machine used 20 microprocessors and had twenty four 264 MB hard drives, weighing about 50 pounds each.

NETWORK CARD – early IBM XT circa 1982 – 1983
Courtesy of Dr. Bob Broeg, Computer Science Division

MEMORY MODULES, early IBM XT circa mid to late 1980s
Courtesy of Dr. Bob Broeg, Computer Science Division

Each memory stick hold 1 kilobyte of data.

appleiism (1)APPLE II disk drive circa late 70’s and early 80’s
Courtesy of Dr. Bob Broeg, Computer Science Division

When it was introduced in 1977, the Apple II computer, like other personal computers of that era, used an ordinary cassette tape player to store programs and data. The Disk II floppy drive, developed in 1978 by Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, was a major factor in the early dominance of the personal computer market by Apple Computer. It originally sold for $495 (with inflation, this is the equivalent of $1,400 in 2003).

mac2smMACINTOSH COMPUTER circa mid 1984
Courtesy of Dr. Hilda Roselli, College of Education Dean

The Macintosh was the successor to the popular Apple II. It was the first successful personal computer to use a graphical user interface (GUI) with a mouse, windows and drop down menus. (The Apple Lisa was the first to use GUI, but was not successful.) The first Mac had 128 kilobytes of memory (1/8 of a megabyte) and one floppy drive. It was the first personal computer to use the 3.5 inch floppy disks, which are still in use today.




WANG PRINTER FONT BANDS circa 1990Courtesy of Jim Birken, University Advancement

The font type on a printout from the Wang printer was altered by changing the band of type in the printer.

Courtesy of Jim Birken, University Advancement

Early LaserJet printers had cartridges of various fonts which could be changed to vary the printout.

A BRIEF TIMELINE: 1975 – 2004

There are numerous timelines available on the Internet which are more comprehensive than the one below. This timeline highlights events which apply to the items in this exhibit.


      • heathcropsmPopular Electronics publishes an article in its January 1975 issue by MITS announcing the Altair 8800 computer for US$397 in kit form, or US$439 assembled. It features a 2-MHz Intel 8080 processor, and 256 bytes of RAM.
      • IBM’s Entry Level Systems unit unveils the IBM 5100 Portable Computer. It is a briefcase-size minicomputer with BASIC, 16 KB RAM expandable to 64 KB, tape storage drive holding 204 KB per tape, keyboard, and built-in 5-inch screen. The code name during development was Project Mercury. It weighed 55 pounds and the price is over US$10,000.
      • The October issue of MITS’ Computer Notes newsletter announces the availability of BASIC 2.0 from Micro Soft for the Altair 8800, in 4K and 8K editions. (This is the earliest known reference to “Micro Soft”.) Also announced was a new Altair 680 based on the Motorola 6800 processor. The price is US$293 as an unassembled kit.
      • By December MITS has sold 2,000 Altair 8800 systems


      • appleiism (1)Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak incorporate the
        Apple Computer Company, on April Fool’s Day. By July the Apple I computer board is sold in kit form, and delivered to stores.
        The price is US$666.66. In December the first prototype for the Apple II was demonstrated at a Homebrew Computer Club meeting.
      • Texas Instruments introduces the TMS9900, the first 16-bit microprocessor. The microprocessor implements the same 16-bit architecture used on the TI 990 minicomputer.
      • Shugart Associates announces its Model SA400 5.25-inch “minifloppy” disk drive for US$390. Disk capacity is 110 KB. The disk size is based on that of a cocktail napkin, which a customer requested, rather than the usual eight-inch format.
      • By December 31, MITS has shipped over 10,000 Altair 8800 kits.


      • Apple is selling its Apple II for $1,195, including 16K of RAM, but no monitor. Most customers use their television as an inexpensive color monitor.
      • PCs from Tandy and Commodore come with build-in monitors and thus require no television hookup.


      • DEC introduces the VAX 11/780, a 32-bit minicomputer that becomes popular for technical and scientific applications


      • The first electronic spreadsheet program, Don Bricklin and Bob Franston’s VisiCalc, is unveiled on May 11 and contributes to the success of the Apple II computer.


      • The Osborne 1 ‘portable’ computer is introduced, weighing 24 pounds and the size of a small suitcase.


      • The open-architecture IBM launched in August, signaling to corporate America that desktop computing is going mainstream.


      • Autodesk is founded and ships the first version of AutoCAD.
      • Time magazine names the computer as its ‘Man of the Year.’
      • In November, Compaq unveils an IBM-compatible portable PC.


      • By including graphics such as pie charts and bar graphs, Lotus 1-2-3 does for the IBM PC what VisiCalc did for the Apple II.
      • Completion of the TCP/IP switchover marks the creation of the global Internet.
      • Though not destined for commercial success, Apple’s Lisa, launched in May, demonstrates what could be done with a mouse, icons, and pull down menus.


      • In January, the Macintosh is unveiled with a publicity campaign that includes an Orwellian-themed ad during the Super Bowl.
      • MIDI (Musical Instrumental Digital Interface) standards developed for interfacing computers and digital music synthesizers.
      • The CD-ROM, introduced by Sony & Philips, provides significantly greater storage capacity for digital data.
      • Beginning in August, Intel’s 16-bit 80286 chip, installed in IBM’s new PCAT, expands desktop computer capabilities.


      • mac2smSupercomputer speeds teach 1 billion operations per second with the release of the Cray 2 and Thinking Machines’ parallel-processor Connection Machine.
      • With the development of Windows 1.0, Microsoft brings Macintosh-like features to DOS-compatible computers.
      • In October, Intel introd
        uces the 80386 chip with 32-bit processing and on-chip memory management.
      • Paul Brainard’s PageMaker is the first desktop publishing program for PCs and is widely used, first on the Macintosh then later on IBM compatibles.


      • The four-processor Cray XP performs 713 milling floating-point operations per second.


      • motherboard3cropsm Experimental 4- and 16 Mbit memory chips are introduced.


      • Motorola’s 32-bit 88000 series of RISC microprocessors offer processing speeds of up to 17 million instructions per second.


      • Intel’s 80486 chip with 1.2 million transistors is introduced in April.


      • >Microsoft introduces Windows 3.0 in May, intensifying its legal dispute with Apple over the software’s ‘look and feel’ resemblance to the Macintosh operating system.
      • Hewlet-Packard and IBM both announce RISC-based computers.
      • Intel’s i486 and iPSC/860, and Morotola’s 68040 become available.
      • Berners-Lee writes the initial prototype for the World Wide Wed, which uses his other creations; URLs, HTML, and HTTP.
      • Arpanet, the progenitor to the Internet, is officially decommissioned.


      • In March, the first M-bone audio multicast, is transmitted on the Net.


      • DEC introduces its 64-bit RISC (reduced instruction set computer,) Alpha architecture, a kind of computer architecture that has a relatively small set of computer instructions that it can perform.


      • Apple releases the Newton, the first popular personal digital assistant. It uses a stylus pen, but the first generation suffers from poor handwriting recognition.
      • Intel introduces the Pentium processor in March.
      • Students and staff at the University of Illinois’ National Center of Supercomputing Applications create a graphical user interface for Internet navigation called NCSA Mosaic.


      • In April, Jim Clark and Marc Andreesen found Netscape Communications (originally Mosaic Communications).
      • Netscape’s first browser becomes available in September and creates a rapidly growing body of Web surfers.


      • Toy Story is the first full-length feature movie completely computer generated.
      • JAVA programming language, unveiled in May, enables platform independent application development. “Duke” is the first applet.
      • Windows 95 is launched on August 24 with great fanfare.


      • compshell2smThe Intel Pentium Pro is announced.
      • Netscape Navigator 2.0 is released and is the first browser to support JavaScript.
      • Windows ’95 OSR2 (OEM System Release 2) is released – partly to fix bugs found in release 1 – but only to computer retailers for sale with new systems.
        There are actually two separate releases of Windows 95 OSR2 before the introduction of Windows ’98, the second of which contains both USB and FAT32 support – the main selling points of Windows ’98. FAT32 is a new filing system that provides support for disk partitions bigger than 2.1GB and is better at coping with large disks (especially in terms of wasted space).
      • Intel releases the 200 Mhz version of the Pentium Processor.


      • Intel Release their Pentium II processor (233, 266 and 300 Mhz versions) featuring an increased instruction set and a much larger on-chip cache.


      • Intel releases of 333 MHz Pentium II processor. Code-named Deschutes, these processors use the new 0.25 micron manufacturing process to run faster and generate less heat than before.
      • Microsoft releases Windows ’98. Some U.S. attorneys try to block its release since the new O/S interfaces closely with other programs such as Microsoft Internet Explorer and so effectively closes the market of such software to other companies. Microsoft fighs back with a letter to the White House suggesting that 26 of its industry allies said that a delay in the release of the new O/S could damage the U.S. economy. The main selling point of Windows ‘98 was its support for USB and its support for disk partitions greater than 2.1GB.


      • Apple releases the PowerMac G4. Using PowerPC G4 chips from Motorola, it is claimed to be the first personal computer to be capable of over one billion floating-point operations per second.


      • Intel releases very limited supplies of the 1GHz Pentium III chip.


      • Apple releases MacOS X. At its heart is `Darwin’, an Open Source operating system on the FreeBSD version of UNIX. MacOS X gives Mac users the stability benefits of protected memory architecture along with many other enhancements, such as preemptive multitasking. The BSD base also makes porting UNIX applications to MacOS easier and gives Mac users a fully featured command line interface alongside their GUI.


      • MacOS 10.3 continues to improve MacOS X, with major updates to ‘Aqua’ (the user interface) as well as performance improvements and new features.
      • Sir Tim Berners-Lee is knighted in recognition of his creation of the ‘World Wide Web’.

~Chronology of Personal Computers http://www.islandnet.com/~kpolsson/comphist/
~A Brief History of Computing – Complete Timeline  http://www.ox.compsoc.net/~swhite/history/timeline.html
~Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. http://www.computer.org/computer/timeline/timeline.pdf


This exhibit would not be possible without the generosity of those who were willing to dig into their closets and storage basements to loan us their old working computers and various computer parts they saved through the years.

Kathy Alderson, Hamersly Library ~ for loan of artifacts

Jim Birken, University Advancement ~ for loan of artifacts, his infectious enthusiasm for computers, and for sharing his extensive oral history of computer use at OUS and WOU

Dr. Bob Broeg, Computer Science Division ~ for loan of artifacts and sharing his oral history of the computers on this campus

Dale Goodell, Hamersly Library ~ for loan of artifacts

Jonah Hanson, WOU student ~ for exhibit installation and documentation assistance

Dr. John Leadley, Division of Business and Economics ~ for originating the concept of this exhibit, loan of artifacts, and for participating as exhibit editor

Dr. Hilda Roselli, College of Education Dean ~ for loan of artifacts

Bud Smith, Retired WOU Educational Media Director ~ for loan of artifacts and sharing his oral history of the computers on this campus


LOCATION: 3rd floor galleries
Curators: Jerrie Lee Parpart and Jonah Hanson, WOU Student curator