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MISTIC Memories: 50 Years of Computing at MSU

September 29, 2006 - March 2007
Ground Floor Entry Lobby

Michigan State University Museum, in partnership with MSU's Department of Academic Computing & Network Services, is assembling an exhibition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first electronic computer to be used on MSU's campus. "MISTIC Memories: 50 Years of Computing at MSU" opens Sept. 29 in the MSU Museum's Ground Floor Entry Lobby.

In the summer of 1956, work began on the construction of Michigan State University's first computer. When completed, it measured 10 feet high, 11 feet long and 2 feet deep. Along with the eight other pieces of equipment needed to run the computer, it occupied a 25 foot by 30 foot room on the fifth floor of the Electrical Engineering Building (now the Computer Center).

In contrast to its massive physical size, it had a memory of only 40,960 bits. A modern personal computer has a memory of over 100,000 times the capacity of MISTIC. Nevertheless, when completed in November 1957, MISTIC was in continual use for 8 hours a day by members of the Ag Economics, Psychology, Math, Chemistry and Physics departments, and others. The computer's nickname, MISTIC, stood for Michigan State Integral Computer. The exhibit will include a sample frame of core memory and a model of the MISTIC room and its equipment.

"MISTIC Memories: 50 Years of Computing at MSU" will run through March 2007.

Also highlighted are various forms of calculators which came before the modern computer such as the abacus, the Warren Calculating Engine that was completed in 1875 by a clock-maker from Three Oaks, Mich., and early 20th century adding machines, slide rules, and comptometers -- much of which is drawn from the MSU Museum's historical collections. Progress in computing beyond MISTIC will also be illustrated through the history of mainframe computers, networking and the first personal computers.

For more details, also see http://computing.msu.edu/50years.