York computer museum boots up

It”s a first for York and it”s known as the York University Computer Museum (YUCoM) and Center for the History of Canadian Microcomputing Industry. “Virtually” new (it came into being only late last year) it is still a relatively small, but growing historical collection and research center on the history of computing. It is located in the York”s Department of Computer Science & Computer Engineering.

Its mission is to preserve, document, and interpret the history of the information age in Canada, with special emphasis on the creation and the development of the Canadian microcomputing industry, says curator and founder Zbigniew Stachniak, York computing science professor.

The museum is interested in acquiring hardware, software, and documents related to the history of computing, and it maintains a collection of computer artifacts of historical significance to Canada. The collection preserves relevant historical documentation in all media. The museum also initiates and supports a broad range of activities from historical research and student supervision to exhibits, lectures, seminars, and other forms of public presentation, says Stachniak.

Present collection materials include, among other objects, more than 150 hardware artifacts and the MCM Collection — named after Canadian company Micro Computer Machines Inc. (MCM) of Toronto. MCM was among the first companies to fully recognize, articulate, and act upon the immense potential of microprocessor technology for the development of a new generation of cost effective computing systems.

The MCM/70 computer, designed by MCM in the period between 1972 and 73, is the earliest example of a microcomputer manufactured specifically for personal use. In other words, says Stachniak, the Canadian built MCM/70 was the world”s first personal microcomputer!

And there is more — two of the core members of the engineering team that worked on the MCM/70–Gord Ramer and Dom Genner–worked at York University before joining MCM. While at York, they developed the York APL programming language and that proved critical for the writing of software for the MCM/70 computer.

The MCM/70 was followed by the MCM/700, /800, /900, the MCM Power and MiniPower computers. The MCM Collection is an archive documenting the personal computer development activities at MCM.

For more information on the museum see the virtual fonds at www.cs.yorku.ca/~zbigniew/museum.html.