Challenges of Preserving Computing History: The Computer Museum History Center

EECS Joint Colloquium Distinguished Lecture Series

John C. Toole
Executive Director & CEO
The Computer Museum History Center

Wednesday, May 2, 2001
Hewlett Packard Auditorium, 306 Soda Hall
4:00-5:00 p.m.


As a partner in the proposed NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, the Computer Museum History Center brings a rich heritage and exciting future to computing history. As an independent non-profit organization, it is dedicated to preserving for posterity the artifacts and stories of the information age. The Museum currently boasts a diverse and internationally respected collection of over 3,000 artifacts, 2,000 films and videotapes, 5,000 photographs, 2,000 linear feet of documentation, and gigabytes of historical software – housed temporarily in two warehouses at Moffett Field, CA.

Although everyone recognizes how rapidly the information revolution has been changing our lives over the last 50 years, most are unaware that the history of the Information Age is being lost! When the world looks back 500 years in the future, we will owe it to ourselves and our descendents to tell the story of how these 50 years have made such a difference.

The lecture will discuss the background of The Computer Museum History Center; some of our artifacts and why they are important; and some of the interesting challenges of presenting history. How can authentic stories be told? How might we present software in exciting ways? How can we address different technical and educational audiences? How can we learn from the past? How can we “capture” history? How can we use the dynamics of research and our industry to help create new solutions? How can universities participate? These and other provocative questions will be discussed in the context of becoming operational in a new, world-class facility in 2005.


As the Executive Director & CEO of The Computer Museum History Center, John C. Toole oversees and drives the overall strategic vision of the museum, and reports directly to the Board of Trustees. In this position, Toole leverages more than 28 years of research and development experience in advanced computing, networking, information technology and microelectronics, culminating in national leadership positions in science and technology management across industry, academia, and government.

Formerly one of two deputy directors at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, Toole oversaw the technical operation and coordination of the National Computational Science Alliance. Prior to the NCSA, Toole was the first fulltime director of the National Coordination Office (NCO) for Computing, Information, and Communications, working for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He also served as executive director for High Performance Computing and Communications for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and as acting director – after several years as program manager and deputy office director – of DARPA’s Computing Systems Technology Office (CSTO), which was responsible for advancing computing systems technologies. Toole retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1994 after more than 22 years of service. He holds BS and MSEE degrees from Cornell University.