Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum (part 1)

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Warning! This is going to be a very long blogpost!

First, a bit of history:
“Heinz Nixdorf was a German computing pioneer and businessman, founder of Nixdorf Computer AG and successful entrepreneur with a vision for the future of information technology and a sense of social responsibility for his staff. He firmly believed that computers could help people to fashion a better future for themselves.

From the mid-1960s, Heinz Nixdorf built computers of a size that also enabled small and medium-sized businesses to make the transition from conventional forms of office organization to electronic data processing. His concept for introducing computer technology to the workplace for the benefit of users made Heinz Nixdorf the pioneer of decentralized data processing, the 820 office computer being his first great success.

Out of this conviction (his believe that computers could help people to fashion a better future for themselves) was born the idea of making the history of the computer’s development accessible to the general public in a museum. He himself laid the foundations for this project with his collection of over 1,000 objects in the field of office communications. His Stiftung Westfalen foundation took up the baton after his death in 1996, extending his collection in line with contemporary developments and giving it a home in the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum.”

The MuseumsForum does not only cover the office communications we know nowadays, but goes back until the Mesopotamian time when the first characters of information were drawn into clay slabs. They have about 6,000 objects relating to calculating, writing and printing, office automation and computer technology, over 2,000 of these objects in the exhibition. And that’s only the main collection, not the special exhibit area’s. To give you an idea about how crazy big this Museum really is, take a look at this video:

That’s really really big… To be able to have enough time to look at everything, we woke up at 06:30 AM on a SATURDAY. Only twelve minutes later than anticipated, we were in the car and driving towards the highway. It was still a bit dark when we left.


But three hours and a romantic carpicknick later, we arrived!


After checking in, going to the bathroom and taking that escalator upstairs, we found ourselves in Mesopotamian time. And I must say, I did not really anticipate on that. We were after all, going to the biggest computer museum there is. And now we are looking at clay?

But it made sense after all, because on these clay tablets someone calculated how many cows they have, or wrote down some other administrative thing. It soon became clear to me that this wasn’t just a Museum about computer technologies, but about information technologies. I can tell you, this got me even more excited!



After the clay, things took a bit of a flight to Romanian, Greek and Egyptian alphabets, fountain pens of all sorts and early written documents. I didn’t take any pictures here, because everything was behind a thick layer of glass and lights were all dimmed for preparation of the papers. Taking pictures would only end up in a couple of blurred JPG’s.

And then, things got mechanical!


In case you don’t know what this is, take a look at this Wikipedian page and feel as excited as I was. This enormous beast was the industry standard for newspapers, magazines and posters from the late 19th century to the 1960s and 70s. AND I TOUCHED IT!


When I was still admiring the other kind of presses (that were all rebuild, not originals) r3boot called me to take a look at this Oliver 3 which was stunningly preserved! I would later find out, almost all typewriters at this museum look like they just got out of their factories.


In case you are wondering what the sign tells you, this is roughly translated from German:

“Schreibmaschinen Oliver model 3
Oliver Typewriter Manufacturer London, 1907
183.000 machines manufactured

From the 1880’s the typewriter brought new benefits when needing to write:
* Typefaces are well readable and evenly written along the line.
* A typewriter (profession) can write faster with a machine than by hand.
* Carbon can save you even more time when you need to make copies.”

But before we get to one of the typewriter galleries, we first learned about the discovery of perspective, arithmetics, exploration of the universe by astronomical calculations and the first calculating machines.

TL:DR The Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum is very impressive! If you are ever in the Netherlands or Germany, make sure you have a spare day to spend in Paderborn. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

2 thoughts on “Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum (part 1)

  1. Scott K

    Great stuff! I’m actually hoping to go to Germany sometime in the next year or so, so I do find this interesting.

    Love the linotype!

  2. Rob Bowker

    If you ever get the chance to see a Linotype machine in operation, grab it! It is not a quiet machine but there’s a real poetry in the way it casts type.


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