The Computer History Museum


Continuing our quest to find more inspiration, our team went to the Computer History Museum this afternoon. Let me first start off by saying that this was an incredible experience, and I highly recommend that you go with a group of engineers. It was pretty fun watching Joe and Rudy geeking out over all the hardware and the history. I have to admit, it was eye opening and the museum gave me much more context on how and why our technology exists.


The museum wasn’t an architectural marvel (compared to MOMA SF), but it had so much substance.


The information is pretty dense, so expect to carve out at least 2-3 hours to go through everything.


To be honest, you could probably spend even more time here if you really wanted to dive deeper. There’s a lot to absorb.


What you’re seeing are the early calculators. Everything was manually driven, and they were used to help aid people do math. In this particular case, this device was used to perform insurance calculations.


Man, I remember my mom using the abacus when I was a kid.


Some of these machines seem so alien. This one was called “Tim”, otherwise as the Time is Money Calculator from 1910.


These were smaller, portable calculators. you had to crank them, and they would help you perform calculations on the fly. People would try to take them apart to see how they work, and could never put them back together. There were over 600 parts in each one, all intricately connected together.


The calculators continued to evolve, so did automation.


Most of the early computers was used to track time and calculate compensation for workers.


The founder of IBM’s motto was “Think”. Kind of interesting and somewhat motivating. Everyone should have this as a poster somewhere.


Joe described this as the birth of our first monitors. This machine would literally draw mathematical formulas on graph paper.


And as crude as this looks, this was the beginning of circuitry. Everything was manually connected, and cooled with some sort of industrial fan. Could you imagine trying to debug something?


As much as we love today’s technology, we owe most of the innovation to the military. Early on, technology was used to model ballistics. And yeh, technology has a dark history when you start looking at how it’s been used.


This was the ENIGMA, a machine that encrypted messages for the Nazis. Apparently, it was taken from a German submarine and was later decoded by Alan Turning. By cracking the intercepted codes, the world was able to defeat the Nazis.

The sad thing was that Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts and was chemically castrated. Two years later, he committed suicide. A mathematical genius that saved the world was brutally punished for being gay.


Computers used to be the size of rooms. You’d think that this was a giant data center, but it’s just an early computer.


Some of this stuff is just so amazing to look at. As time progressed, circuitry design became more sophisticated. Who else thinks this is art?


Look at all those buttons. Who wouldn’t want to play with that?


The earliest machine that visually tagged things.


It’s crazy that everything was controlled using tubes. The designs are hypnotic.


This was a particularly fun part of the exhibit—data storage. It’s funny that CDs are now obsolete.


Seriously, do you guys remember hi-density, double sided floppy drives? It’s f’n insane how far we’ve come. I’ll just give you a minute to soak this in. This disk was a scaled-down version of IBM’s 8″ disk, and held 1.2 MB.

1.2 MB!!!


In contrast, the earliest forms of storage were punch cards and paper tape.


Yes, that green thing was a state-of-the-art calculator.


This is a visualization of how programming languages evolved. It shows about 150 of the thousands of languages that have been invented.


As time progresses, technology miniaturizes… and parallel processing begins.


This was one of the early consumer facing computer products, designed to store recipes for house wives. None were sold.


And of course Moore’s “Law”. It seems it’s more of a marketing scheme than actual fact. Joe explained that for the first time in history, we are no longer exponentially advancing. I need to investigate this a little more. I’m not sure exactly what all of it means, but it’s fascinating.


This shows how a silicon ingot becomes a computer chip. Check out how they’re made here.


Here’s a micro-chip under tremendous magnification.


Then we checked out some robotics.


I have a new found appreciation for all the effort that went into building this machine.


This was a really fun part of the exhibit—gaming. Joe explained how the gaming industry has really pushed graphic technology forward. In many ways, gaming has pioneered virtual reality.


This, my friend, was my childhood. I loved the gold version of zelda—what a brilliant concept.


And yes, that’s Dr. Mario over there! This brings back so many memories. I can’t believe that I grew up during this time.


The Atari—it was before my time, but I recall some kids with it.


And this one is for you old timers.


No museum would be complete without including Apple.


Here’s a Commodore, running off a tape. Say whaaaaaaaaat???


Variations of all the early computers, designed for consumers.


And here are the tablets before the iPads.


And the sub-notebooks before the Macbook Airs.


And the greatest moment in modern history, the iPhone. Anyone still have their original? Don’t sell it—keep it forever. I was stupid and sold mine. Doh!

This museum really opened up my eyes—I can’t believe how much effort went into the computer I’m using to blog this instance. We live in such an incredible time, and I’m so happy to be experiencing it.

Okay, let’s end it here. That was a lot to go through. If you’re ever in town, you should definitely go check this exhibit out.

Andromeda Galaxy


Here’s a photo Annie and I shot of the Andromeda Galaxy last night. I was using my dad’s old 135mm f3.5… and the humidity took away some contrast… But overall, it’s a step in the right direction.

Oh yeh, the image was stacked using 18 photos shot at around ISO 256,000. There was a ton of noise, but by aligning, stacking and doing a median filter, I was able to get a cleaner image. It’s bonkers what software can do now-a-days. A couple of clicks, and bada-bing, a noise-free image.

I kind of wish I had a newtonian telescope with a star tracker. Oh could you imagine how sweet some of these photos would turn out?? One day… one day. ^_^

Hopefully we’ll get another clear this evening—I’m looking forward to grabbing a couple more snaps.

Milky Way Video at My Parent’s River House


I managed to snag a couple of photos of the night sky last week. The photo above is a still from a time lapse video I created.

It’s kind of funny that I bought my camera nearly two years ago, and I’m finally started to get the hang of astrophotography. I guess I finally figured it out after watching a ton of youtube videos and staring at people’s photos on 500px and Flickr.

Creating this actually wasn’t that hard… there was some trial and error over the last few years, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. A DSLR, fast wide angle lens, tripod, and Light Room + Premiere seemed to get the job done.

If you’re curious, the images were shot with the following equipment and settings:
Camera: Nikon D600
Lens: Nikon 24mm f1.4
ISO 2000
Shutter Speed: 15″
Interval shooting: 20″ per photo
Format: RAW


Again, the photo above was pulled from one of the still photos I shot in a time lapse. It’s pretty amazing what our galaxy looks like. Any problem or issues we have here are so small and irrelevant compared to the vastness of our universe.

I’m really looking forward to shooting some more soon. Until then, enjoy some the test videos below:

I shot this one when the sun was setting. That’s why it was over exposed at the beginning. Also, my ISO was way too high.

And this one was pointed up at the sky. Again, my ISO was too high in this test. I managed to get a small glimpse of the milky way, and that fueled me to try again.

Check out some more milky way photos on Foo’s site.

Minerals, Space, DC

Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

It was pretty fun metro-ing into DC with Annie and her friend, Nguyen. I’ve seen some of these exhibits several times, and I am astonished by how much I take away every time I visit.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the cross sections of these particular meteorites, and yet every time I see them, it’s always a new and fascinating experience. To actually see these things up close blows my mind away. There are vast amounts of metals and minerals in space waiting to be found, just like this.


If you put the materialism aside, there’s a part of me that would love to own a piece of space in the form of a watch. What you see here is a Jaeger Le-Coultre master calendar watch with a small cross section of iron meteorite on the face. The naturally occurring pattern in the iron is money.


For now I need to reduce my spending. So no expensive watches. Instead, I will look into only expensive camera lenses. Hah! On a side note, I’m really digging this new Nikon 24mm f1.4 lens. It’s a beast to lug around, but I’m really pleased with the results.


I’m actually more interested in natural shapes and inclusions of minerals versus the cut and polished gemstones. This thing looks like it should be a planet in some sort of sci-fi movie.

Some of the naturally formed shapes are like miniature paintings. Millions of years of the earth’s history are visually captured within each one of these minerals. Each inclusion is unique and one-of-a-kind.


And I really liked this one. The little touches of orange are curious and beautiful. The tiniest bit of molecular contamination can create lovely visual accents.


Look at the shapes of all the metals (silver and copper) that have been formed from crevices of other rocks. Each shape is a natural sculpture that I could stare at for hours.


And here’s a picture of Annie showing off her moissanite next to the raw mineral crystal on display. She really likes the color, and it was pretty interesting seeing it next to the real thing.


And of course opal. The people who originally discovered it probably thought opal was an alien or god-like material. In its raw form and unpolished, it looks like it’s from the movie Avatar.

After the Smithsonian, we headed over to the Air and Space Museum. More on that later, so stay tuned.