Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum (part 7)

      6 Comments on Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum (part 7)

This is part of a series of blogposts about the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum in Paderborn Germany. Read part 1 here, part 2 here, part 3 here, part 4 here, part 5 here and part 6 here.

Just as the wall of mass produced typewriters at the first floor, the second floor has a wall of desk and pocket calculators. But also a wall of mobile phones, describing the beginnings of mobile communications.

wall of calculus

But first, back to some computers. The PDP-8 was the first successful commercial minicomputer, produced by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in the 1960s. This PDP8/e is more common, often configured as a general-purpose computer. The earliest PDP-8 model used diode-transistor logic, packaged on flip chip cards, and was about the size of a small household refrigerator.


This Altair 8800 is from the 1970s. It was the first build-it yourself computer. Thanks to the cover of an 1975 issue of Popular Electronics, MITS sold thousands of these only in the first month!

Altair 8800

Altair 8800

Altair 8800

Giant HP 185-a oscilloscope! I like the look of these things, although I never use them. They look like coming from an aircraft or even an alien spaceship. I like the looks a lot (although they are even cooler with Russian marks on them!).


I only know Xerox from the massive office printers, but they apparently also produced one of the first computers designed for individual use. The Xerox Alto model greatly influenced the design of personal computers in the following decades, notably the Apple Macintosh and the first Sun workstations.


This is the first all-in-one home computer, the PET 2001, produced in 1977. Its processor controlled the screen, keyboard, cassette tape recorders and any peripherals connected to one of the computer’s several expansion ports.


This computer, also from 1977, was one of the earliest mass-produced personal computers. It’s known as the “TRS-80 Micro Computer System”. Apparently it was such a success that the TRS-80 had the largest available selection of software in the microcomputer market by 1979.


Hm, this somehow looks like an Apple product, for children maybe? O wait, it is! It’s the eMate 300. It has a touch screen and ran Apple’s Newton PDA operating system. However I do like the name of the operating system, I find the green-colored translucent case hideous.


Okay, I’m spoiled, because this isn’t really much better either. It isn’t a laptop though, the Data General One (DG-1) is a battery-powered traveling workstation. With advanced features! Maybe I can just call it an early portable computer instead? No? Okay. I won’t.


Just like the crypto exhibition at the first floor, there was a hidden hallway which explained how microchips get made. Inhere I learned that microchips are made from some crystal found in sand. Of course I was joking about this when walking with r3boot through this hallway “so, my laptop is basically a pile of sand, good to know!“, but it was very interesting.

There was also a small corner dedicated to hackers. In Germany hackers, especially the Chaos Communication Club, have a long history. It was good to see that the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum didn’t forget that.

It displayed the story of John Draper aka Cap’n Crunch, an American phone phreaker who found out that a toy whistle that was, at the time, packaged in boxes of Cap’n Crunch cereal could emit a tone at precisely 2600 hertz—the same frequency that was used by AT&T long lines to indicate that a trunk line was ready and available to route a new call. This would effectively disconnect one end of the trunk, allowing the still connected side to enter an operator mode. Experimenting with this whistle inspired Draper to build blue boxes: electronic devices capable of reproducing other tones used by the phone company. It also told the story of a couple of other hackers, one of which I have even met, and a bit of the history of the Chaos Communication Club.




I cannot remember precisely where it was, but there also was a small theater showing a documentary about the history and development of programming languages. We took place in the theater nearly at the end of the documentary. As we set down I really felt like falling asleep, so we didn’t watch the entire thing when it started from the beginning again.

6 thoughts on “Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum (part 7)

  1. Robert G

    Wow. Just wow. That is a very impressive and complete collection they have. Many thanks for your posts.
    (Really weird seeing the grey CRT of the telly, it looks so dated and I know I must have viewed them as normal or even part of something ‘new’ when a classmate had a ZX Spectrum hooked up to his parents’ TV set.
    Must be similar for some ppl with mechanical equipment, seeing it back as a relic when you remember it being unbelievably advanced and new :)
    Again tnx!

    1. spider Post author

      You’re welcome! And believe it or not, there’s still more to write about (if I can find the time to sort out the rest of the pictures).

  2. Scott K

    An Altair! I have yet to see one in person. I would love to visit this place.

    This is some great stuff. Thanks for sharing all of this, and taking the time to write it up.

    1. spider Post author

      You’re welcome! I like to do reviews of museums a lot, but I would never have guessed this one would cost me this much time. I am still enjoying it though. I can relive the whole visit by posting these blogs.

  3. Michael SZS

    The Pet displayed was my very first computer.
    I had signed it with my initials and sold it but lost track of it.
    Then I visited the museum and was shocked to see it again.


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