“We use these gadgets every day, but there’s so much history we don’t think about. You can’t skip any steps,” Barbara Keremedjiev said as she began the tour of Bozeman’s American Computer & Robotics Museum. The first room contains an original 4,500-year-old Babylonian clay tablet, a Gutenberg Press and an original Apple-I computer donated to the museum by the inventor, Steve Wozniak. Her husband George Keremedjiev emphasized, “We can’t talk about computing unless we talk about this stuff first.” Each room in the modest museum expands on the original technologies from room one, eventually ending with a look forward at the future of robotics and artificial intelligence.
The Keremedjievs founded the American Computer & Robotics Museum in 1990. According to George, the museum was originally planned to be in Princeton, New Jersey but he and his wife wanted to raise their kids with nature. When they settled in Bozeman, they brought their museum along too.
“While we are the founders, this is not ours,” Barbara stressed. The museum is an IRS-approved non-profit organization, and admission is free, but donations are accepted.
“We were early,” George said, “Back in 1990 a computer museum was really weird because not that many people had computers. Today there are more computers than people in America.”
The brain room, which houses a real slice of the human brain, discusses natural intelligence and begins the conversation on human intelligence. “This is not something you expect to see — a human brain in a computer museum — but it makes sense if you look at it in the context of the whole picture. It’s all interconnected,” George Said
The most important aspect for George is that everything in the museum be understandable. “There’s nothing hard here. Anyone with a curious mind can follow this,” he said. “There’s nothing frightening or complicated. It’s a good story.” He wants visitors to know that the ideas discussed in the museum are not narrowly focused. The technologies affect everyone; “[The brain] room is the beginning of the revolution that you’re going to live through as things move on. We’re in a hurry to put ourselves out of work. Everyone uses these tools; it makes sense to come and learn about this history.”
According to George, understanding the history of computing and robotics helps the average museum visitor understand the everyday world around them. “I think it’s important to learn about the past because it helps you appreciate it. That sounds so cliché, but if you learn a little bit about the past twenty years it makes it easier to think about the next twenty,” he said.
In the last room of the museum there is a 60 Minutes segment on the future of technology in jobs and careers. In the clip, scientist Eric Brynjolfsson says that, “Technology is always replacing human jobs, but for the first time in history it’s happening faster than we can keep up.”
The museum is hosting a forum with prominent pioneers in artificial intelligence and biodiversity on Oct. 1 in the SUB Ballrooms in association with various campus organizations. George looks forward to the discussion, saying, “We’ll have a good hour and a half conversation about the future, and what all this means to jobs and your careers and education. Smart machines are coming very quickly; they’re already here. It’s important to think about the consequences.”
George hopes to reach MSU students because of the effect these technologies have on our futures. “The biggest challenge has been getting the average MSU student to come in. Once they come in, they never leave; they come back again and again.”
He added that “[this technology] is a story that will continue. This will not stop. As long as there’s humanity, we’ll have new inventions and new horizons. It doesn’t matter if you’re an English major, an engineering major or in computer science; this is affecting everybody.”
The American Computer Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. and admission is free. The museum is located at at 2023 Stadium Drive.