Mastering The Game: A History of Computer Chess

8/14/2005 – In September the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, is opening a new physical and online exhibit on Computer Chess. It follows a chronological plan from Turing and Shannon to the development of PC chess software and the drama of Deep Blue. It also has a lot of other fascinating exhibits.

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Computer History Museum Debuts New Exhibit,
Mastering The Game: A History of Computer Chess

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF.—The Computer History Museum, the world’s largest history museum dedicated to the preservation and presentation of the artifacts and stories of the information age, will debut a new physical and online exhibit, Mastering The Game: A History of Computer Chess, at a public open house, 1-5 p.m., Saturday, September 10.

According to John Toole, the Museum’s executive director and CEO, this marks the first new exhibit since the institution relocated to its home at 1401 N. Shoreline Boulevard in Mountain View, Calif., three years ago.

“The topic of chess is a fascinating way for visitors of diverse backgrounds to learn about computing history. Chess resonates with the general public as a difficult problem to solve for people and machines alike. From this launching point, visitors can explore some important software concepts--abstract and traditionally challenging topics to explain,” said Toole. “For the Museum, this exhibit is our ‘opening move’ since it serves as a prototype of others that we will develop throughout the next phases of our evolution.”

This 1,000 square foot exhibit will follow a chronological plan, from the theoretical foundations developed by such computing pioneers as Alan Turing and Claude Shannon, to the development of PC chess software and the drama of IBM’s chess-playing supercomputer, Deep Blue.

In addition, the institution has supplemented the physical exhibit with an online version of Mastering the Game: A History of Computer Chess. “Not only will this online counterpart provide access to information made available in the physical exhibit, it will contain additional content and include access to original source materials, links to complementary organizations and allow visitors to share their computer chess stories,” Toole said.

The story starts in the earliest days of computing and reflects general advances in computer hardware and software over this period. It also describes how the work on computer chess led to important software techniques still in use today.


The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California

Visitors will explore the multi-layered history of computer chess, listen to chess software pioneers, learn the basics of chess algorithms and experience the sights and sounds of the era through vintage footage. They will also learn about the development of chess-playing supercomputers including a special display featuring part of IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer alongside a multimedia presentation capturing the dramatic match between World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov and Deep Blue. In addition, a freestanding computer learning station will allow visitors to explore software concepts, such as the basic ideas that lie beneath all chess software programs.

In addition to the public open house on 1-5 p.m., September 10, the Computer History Museum will host a special presentation in conjunction with the opening of Mastering The Game: A History of Computer Chess. Entitled Computer History Museum Presents: The History of Computer Chess: An AI Perspective, the 7 p.m., September 8 event will feature Murray Campbell, Deep Blue project member, International Business Machines (IBM); Edward Feigenbaum, a Stanford artificial intelligence researcher; David Levy, International Master and President of the ICGA, and John McCarthy, professor, Stanford University. The evening presentation will be moderated by Monty Newborn, professor, McGill University and organizer, ACM Computer Chess Championships (1970-1991). This panel, comprising of seminal contributors to the solution of this challenge—including two of AI’s leading pioneers—will discuss the origin and development of computer chess and what it tells us about ourselves and the machines we build.

About the Computer History Museum
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, a public benefit organization, preserves and presents for posterity the artifacts and stories of the information age. The Museum is dedicated exploring the social impact of computing and is home to the world's largest collection of computing-related items - from hardware (mainframes, PCs, handhelds, key integrated circuits), to software, to computer graphics systems, to Internet and networking - and contains many one-of-a-kind and rare objects such as the Cray-1 supercomputer, the Apple I, the WWII ENIGMA, the PalmPilot prototype, the 1969 Neiman Marcus (Honeywell) "Kitchen Computer" and the Minuteman I Guidance Computer. The collection also includes photos, films, videos, documents, and culturally-defining advertising and marketing materials. Currently in its first phase, the Museum brings computing history to life through its Speaker Series, seminars, oral histories and workshops. The Museum also offers tours of Visible Storage, where nearly 600 objects from the Collection are on display. Future phases will feature full museum exhibits including a timeline of computing history, theme galleries, and much more.


History of the Internet

There are many interesting exhibits in the Computer History Museum. You can spend hours wandering through its rooms, either physically in Mountain View or on a virtual tour of the website. One of the most fascinating exhibits is the History of the Internet, which traces a timeline beginning in 1962, well before the word ‘Internet’ was first introduced. At the time there were 10,000 computers in the world, all primitive but expensive, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. They had only a few thousand words of magnetic core memory, and programming them is far from easy.

At the time the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense laid the groundwork for what became the ARPANET and, much later, the Internet.

In the words of Danny Cohen: "In the Beginning, ARPA created the ARPANET. And the ARPANET was without form and void. And darkness was upon the deep. And the spirit of ARPA moved upon the face of the network and ARPA said, 'Let there be a protocol,' and there was a protocol. And ARPA saw that it was good. And ARPA said, 'Let there be more protocols,' and it was so. And ARPA saw that it was good. And ARPA said, 'Let there be more networks,' and it was so."

After installation in September, handwritten logs from UCLA show the first host-to-host connection, from UCLA to SRI, is made on October 29, 1969. The first ‘Log-In’ crashes the IMPs, but the next one works!

The musical printer

Another of our favourites is to be found in the section Curator's Choice. It illustrates how even in pioneer times the people around the computing machines were essentially grown-up playing with the world's most gorgeous toys.

The IBM 1403 printer was noisy, but it could also be musical! Clever engineers figured out what line of characters to print to make a noise at a given pitch, and how many times to print that line repeatedly to sustain that pitch for a given duration. In other words, the printer could play musical notes. All that was needed was a program for the IBM 1401 computer system that read in a deck of punched cards, each card containing a single note of melody, and then played the melody on the printer. The tempo could be adjusted using the sense switches on the computer console.

The songs here are from a performance recorded in about 1970 in the computer room of the Richmond (California) Unified School District. The computer operators (whose voices can be heard on the original tape recording) made the recording by holding the microphone in front of the printer.


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