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Think the West Coast was the birthplace of the digital age? Think again. New York – yes, the Big Apple played a seminal role in the digital revolution. And this Fall 2015, the New-York Historical Society will celebrate NYC’s part in tech history, highlighting the innovators as well as the actual technological innovations that transformed the world. The exhibit – Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York, will be on public view November 13, 2015 – April 17, 2016 and will showcase NYC as a digital hub where commerce and innovation gave way to the first computers and tech companies. Or, in other words, how NYC was the “OG” in the digital revolution.

6_3Photo: http://www.nyhistory.org

Dr. Louise Mirrer, CEO and President of the New-York Historical Society states, “New Yorkers should be proud of their visionary forbearers whose experiments transformed the region into a hotbed of discovery. Silicon City will show how they brought about a whole new world.” Coordinated by New-York Historical’s Chief Curator Stephen Edidin, the exhibition presents a timeline of tech milestones in NYC and the surrounding areas from the late-1800s to the 1980s.

Using interactives, 180 artifacts, digital artworks, early computers, archival materials, photographs, film, and oral histories, the exhibition will immerse visitors in innovations that were key to computer development. In addition, the exhibit will showcase revolutionary work after the 1964-1965 World’s Fair (a fair where visitors embraced radical ideas and inventions surrounding the space age and technology that transformed American culture forever) such as the computer graphics revolution created in NYC a decade later.

Key Exhibition Highlights

Here’s a breakdown of what not to miss at the Silicon City: Computer History Made In New York exhibition:

  • The retelling of the historic moment, at the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair, when the general public was introduced to computing at the IBM Pavilion (54,038 square feet), also known as the “egg.” Every 15 minutes for about a year, 500 visitors entered the egg to view a multimedia presentation called “THINK” by Charles and Ray Eames. The historic recreation of the egg experience will transport attendees back in time to the beginning of the digital age.

EH_WFs037_1Photo: segd.org – Inside the “egg” at the IBM World’s Fair pavilion. Film shown: “Think”

  • Other innovations that laid groundwork for the computer revolution will also be on display such as Samuel Morse’s electric telegraph, Thomas Edison’s early light bulbs and the experiments that inspired vacuum tubes for early computers.
  • An IBM System/360 (1964) will be shown with its beginning principles fully realized in a nearby example of the IBM 5150 Personal Computer (1981).
  • An original Telstar 1, the satellite used to televise the first live images from space on July 23, 1962—views of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and New York Harbor—will be installed from the gallery’s ceiling.

bell-picturephonePhoto: AT&T’s Picturephone 2 Model/Alan Band/Keystone – Getty Images

  • AT&T’s Picturephone 2 Model, the precursor to Apple’s FaceTime, will be showcased with photographs of the “see-as-you-talk” conversation between First Lady Bird Johnson in Washington and Mayor Robert Wagner of New York.
  • Another section not to be missed will include computerized musical instruments invented by Bell Labs engineer Max Mathews that inspired the computer synthesized “Bicycle for Two” song during the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • A tribute to the rise and fall of 1970s-80s video game arcades in NYC will be commemorated with a playable 1978 Space Invaders game in its original cabinet.
  • The exhibition will close with a media presentation celebrating “New York’s spirit of innovation”, map the growth of technology companies, and share stories of key thought leaders involved in New York’s digital renaissance.

For more information, visit http://www.nyhistory.org.

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