Historic Cybernetic Devices

Last update: 4 February 2017

This gallery displays a selection of instruments and other artificiala and documents relating to calculating, computing, telecommunications and robotics. Themes revolve around Cybernetics, i.e., control and communication systems in living things and machines alike. The Calculator & Computer section is made mostly of a suite of devices and documents originating from the Allan G. Bromley (1947-2002) collection. The Simulated & Artificial Life section focuses on video games, robotics and the emergence of Artifical Intelligence. The Telecommunications section has yet to be developed.

A note on copyright (fair use): This section includes some objects which may still be copyrighted (e.g., video game artworks). Their use does not compete with the purposes of the originals since they are shown as "collection-objects" with focus on the collecting method (i.e., cataloguing). Only low-resolution images are shown.

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Jeremy Norman origins of cyberspace library on history of computing, networking and telecommunications

Simulated & artificial life

Artificial Intelligence
From 1970s to 1980s

Notes taken in 1988 by the patriarch of Soviet chess and multi-time world chess champion Mikhail Botvinnik about his PIONEER computer chess program.

Artificial Intelligence playing games, between science-fiction & reality

Description coming later

Figures: IBM Think magazine, 1971 (L. Lane) | Botvinnik, 1984 (association copy: Z. Tsypkin) | PIONEER algorithm manuscript (M. Botvinnik, 1988)

robot exhibits, Science Museum, BoilerHouse project, Bromley library, Michael Wright, letter,, 1984 1991

Video Games, part I
From the White Mountain collection

Pole Position and Hyper Chase video games for the Vectrex system formerly from the Kennett Neily "White Mountain" collection with handwritten dates of purchase.

See also: White Mountain Collection

A short history of video games
A suite from the Kennett Neily "White Mountain" collection

Description coming later

Figures: Atari 5200 | Vectrex | Nintendo Game & Watch | Sega Game Gear

comics strips 1984 video game era ZAP Tony Tallarico

Video Games, part II
Atari video games
From the Alamogordo landfill

E.T. Atari cartridge in box, found in the Alamogordo, New Mexico, landfll on 26 April 2014, memento of the 1983 video game crash and of the end of the Atari era.

See also: Civilization II video game box impactifact | Tetris Modern Fossil

The 1983 video game crash and the end of the Atari era

Atari cartridges of E.T. The Extra Terrestrial were discovered in the Alamogordo landfill in New Mexico on 26 April 2014, ending a three-decade long urban legend [1]. The story, which started in 1983, is well summarized in a New York Times article dated 28 September 1983: "With the video game business gone sour, some manufacturers have been dumping their excess game cartridges on the market at depressed prices. Now Atari Inc., the leading video game manufacturer, has taken dumping one step farther. The company has dumped 14 truckloads of discarded game cartridges and other computer equipment at the city landfill in Alamogordo, N.M. Guards kept reporters and spectators away from the area yesterday as workers poured concrete over the dumped merchandise. An Atari spokesman said the equipment came from Atari's plant in El Paso, Tex., which used to make videogame cartridges but has now been converted to recycling scrap. Atari lost $310.5 million in the second quarter, largely because of a sharp drop in video game sales." Over time an urban legend built around the mysterious Atari video game burial. Rumor was that the burial was made of unsold copies of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a game often cited as one of the worst video games ever released. The idea of digging up the Atari grave came up in 2011 from the CEO of marketing agency Fuel Industries, M. Burns. The dig itself happened 3 years later thanks to the combined efforts of Fuel Ind., Microsoft (fund the dig and documentary) and J. R. Lewandowski (in the Alamogordo's waste recycling industry since the 1980s) (Polygon, 2014). About 1,300 Atari cartridges were unearthed that day (before the burial was refilled) and while E.T. games were present, many other games were found as well (Defender, Centipede, etc.). The dig, as well as the sale of the cartridges, have been highly publicized. A documentary of the dig was made for Xbox Entertainment Studios.

Figures: E.T. Atari cartridge in box (Alamogordo City, featured on Wired)


Printout of Phil Zimmermann's 1992 PGP key (from a PGP keyserver), autographed, Pretty Good Privacy, seminar at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)

From Calculators to Computers

Computer parts

Supercomputer Cray-1 ECL Logic Board (no. 400/998) and Cray-2 Memory Board (no. 305/998), memorabilia prepared by Tony Cole as computer hardware collectible.

From hightech to scrap metal to collectible & art medium

Description coming later

Figures: Manuscript on hardware collecting (A.G. Bromley, 1981) | Cray supercomputer parts (T. Cole) | T-800 early CPU model (D. Pennington)

Catalogues of the calculating machines at the Science Museum of London, Baxandall, D. (1926), Pugh, J. (1975), Allan Bromley library, Origins of Cyberspace 222, letter from J. Shore to A. Bromley,  Senior Curator of Sciences at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (Powerhouse, Australia)

From the Allan G. Bromley collection

Three standard linear slide rules formerly from the Bromley collection. From top to bottom: by Albert Nestler (41 Z) in case, by Sun Hemmi (34RK), and by Relay (550).

A short history of calculators
A suite from the Allan G. Bromley collection

Description coming later

Figures: Abacus | Linear slide rule | Circular slide rule | Cylindrical slide rule | Addiator | Lightning Calculator

Handbook of the exhibition of Napier relics and of books, instruments, & devices for facilitating calculation (rare softcover edition), Bromley library

Antikythera Mechanism & Analytical Engine
Oldest known calculating gear machine & Babbage's computer

An early version of the Bromley-Percival Antikythera Mechanism model, made of red cardboard gears, with some photographs of the real model during construction.

Professor Bromley's scholarly work on the first calculating gear machine & first computer
A suite of documents from the Allan G. Bromley estate

Figures: Bromley (1986) research material (A.G. Bromley) | Bromley-Percival model construction (A.G. Bromley) | Bromley's articles about Babbage (A. Bromley)

Charles Babbage, father of computing, autaograph letter, Dorset street, Elphinstone Trinity College, 1853