Collection of Informatics Relics at Szeged.

History in Nutshell

    During the mid-seventies of the past century, the John Neumann Computer-Science Society (JNCSS) initiated, in Hungary, the collection of various objects of computational technology and written documents. The objective was the creation of a museum, which preserves and exhibits the international and national appearances and applications of object and written memories of this technological development.

    Within the frame of JNCSS a standing committee called the TECHNOLOGICAL HISTORY COMMITTE, consisting of 3 members, has been established. The cessionary of MOL Inc. has provided barracks, at its premises at Algyő, for storage of the collected items. With the help of the media, people have been informed that they can submit their discarded or scrapped machines, with full configurations, various units, peripheral equipments as well as documentations. During the next 25 years the barracks have slowly filled up with items that represented almost completely the national and international products. These barracks provided a new home from keypunch data preparation machines to the „big monsters” (Razdan-3, Minszk-22, Minsz-32, ICT, Elliot, Siemens, IBM, Honeywell, etc.) all the way to the PC XT. These are international epoch-characteristic computational objects in the same way as the domestic products are such as ( M-3, drum-memories, Kalmar-type logical machines, KFKI, EMG, GAMMA, SZTAKI, BME, VILLATI, VIDEOTON, SZKI, Telefongyar and other locally constructed machines).

    The machines and related objects show a great deal of multi-variance. This is the consequence of the past international political situation since import was usually allowed from countries belonging to „socialistic relations” (e.g. Soviet Union, Democratic Republic of Germany or East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Poland). Only selected Institutes with special need and special dollar-allocated budget were able to import hardware from countries belonging to „Western Relationships”.

    After the barracks have all filled-up, the Central Physics Research Institute (CPRI) helped to store and save all those items, which were donated for the future museum. Enthusiastic collectors were able to make a permanent exhibition in the building of „State Computational Services” (SCS). They were able to find additional site for storage location at the City of Cegléd.

    A portion of the items at the Szeged-Algyő warehouse were usual used for the 1989 exhibit at the city of Nyíregyháza. Dr. Heinz Zemanek the Australian Professor, who was the pioneer of European Computational Technology, opened the Exhibition. It was Professor Zemanek who first called the collection „unique of its kind”.

    In 1991 the INFORMATICS-HISTORY MUSEUM FOUNDATION was established, the founding organizations were the JNCSS the National Polytechnic Museum and the SCC. Of this point the established Foundation institutionalized the collection of items. The „Technical Infrastructure”, specially the storage possibilities were shrinking, the „multilayered” distribution of the machines created unprecedented problems and therefore it was possible to accommodate less and less visitors.

    The year of 1991 brought a decisive turn in the history of the collection. The University of Szeged has adopted, in several steps all, the collected object in the possession of the Foundation, and provided strange place for all the collected items. In this way it was possible all the machines to be stored at various location and was subjected for uniform treatment which led for further collection and accumulation of informatics objects.

    During the same year the International Trade Fair has exhibited a very successful exhibition utilizing some of the machines of the Foundation. On December 4 the exhibited material was viewed by delegates of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering from USA. They came to Szeged in Hungary to present the family of László Kalmár the computer Pioneer award posthumously. After viewing the collection they were amazed and wondered how could a small country, like Hungary create such an informatics collection of museum items.

    In the year of 2002 the strange of collection gained a new direction, which assumed a museum like infrastructure, therefore it was possible to show it to the general public. About 2400 m2 total area on 3 floors become availably to store the various items and the duplications were also stored at a separate place. Different exhibition halls were dedicated to special topics such as „the history of the internet”, „Hungarian developments and production”, „Here, everything is functioning well”, IBM, etc. The Kalmár-Room contained the machined designed by the world-renown mathematician, his personal objects and his written memories. During the year of 2006 the circle of membership of the Foundation partners increased by two important organizations: the University of Szeged (USZ) and the Municipality and the City of Szeged. The latter of these made an intensive effort to create, a final, satisfaction storage appropriate modern requirements with suitable reparation of special topics. Several such topics were established. Before the end of the year a collection of several thousand terms was received all of which were related to line-communication technique. The organization of these is still in progress. The number of visitors has reached the level of 1500 people by the end of the year.

    Among the founding organizations JNCSS provided the greatest financial and administrative help for the development of the collection. Starting with 2007 significant annual financial help was donated by the International Network Providers Coordination Center (INPCC). Thanks to these it was possible to initiate such developments which created equipments to help informing the visiting general public via an interactive fashion. It was very rewarding to see the voluntary work of IBM employees that focused on the revitalization of those old machines. They set them to function again and provided users’ manual for them.

    One of the significant happenings of 2008 was the call for a grant application entitled “In order that our grand children might see” for which we have applied for. The receipt of the grant allowed us to show an exhibition concentrating on the history of the internet. Also, it was significant that the City of Szeged, with county rights, was to decide that an appropriate building in downtown Szeged will be constructed as the final location, here the collected items will find their home. The funding of such a development was to come from the AgoraSzeged-Polus grant application.

    The work during 2009 was the preparation for the final museum surroundings that was to be appropriate for the 21st Century. Volunteer workers and contracted tradesmen were working along the clock. The latter group was concerned with the design of the building and its permit for construction. The former group was concerned with the high-degree of sophistication of the exhibit that should radiate the concept of the museum. For the financial support of the museum collection, located in the Cultural Center, the JNCSS was willing to make the necessary arrangement for a period of five years from the opening date which is projected to be July 2011. With this action, the original plan has finally reached its completion. The University of Szeged received a grant which will cover the cost of the catalogue preparation, the creation of an appropriate database as well as a corresponding home-page and its up-keep. The management of daily operations involving the museum attendants and exhibit presenters are also included.

    At the end of 2009, the collection is estimated to be of 220 metric tons, consisting of about 12 000 pieces. The electronically counted number of visitors exceeded 4000. We had in this year two well-known technical-historian guests: Reuben Hogget (Australia) and David Buckley (England).

Szeged, February 2010