In just a few hours, San Jose's Computer History Museum can take you from the earliest days of computing to the technical wonders of the near future.
At the Computer History Museum, you'll start by going back centuries to see ancient abacuses. By the time you're done, you might be sitting in a self-driving car. In between, it has everything from the history of computing: punched cards that helped analyze data from the 1890 census, the first computer (so big that took up an entire room), an early personal computer barely larger than an iPad, and tech gadgets that everyone will recognize. In fact, the thing people say most often in the museum is "I remember that."
Reviewers on Yelp love the Computer History Museum, giving it 4.5 stars out of five. Even people who thought it was going to be dull end up enjoying it.
Things to Do
Take a guided tour. It's the easiest way to get something out of the museum in an hour or so and to get more insights into the exhibits. Tour guides make your visit especially engaging by focusing on the practical problems that computers have helped people solve over the decades.
If you can't make it for the guided tour, download the museum's free app called CHM Tours. The one-hour Revolution tour is also free once you install the main app, so bring some headphones with you.
Check the museum website for docent-led tour times, lectures, demonstrations, and workshops that you might enjoy.
Tips for Visiting
The museum closes once in a while for private events and also on some holidays and weekdays, so check their current hours before you go.
The museum's maze-like layout may feel overwhelming at first, but don’t fret. Galleries are numbered, and there are arrows on the floor. Follow them, and you won't get lost.
The Computer History Museum doesn't have interactive exhibits or play areas, and it's not the place to take children until they are old enough to understand what they are seeing. If you're looking for a science experience for your kids, go to The Tech in downtown San Jose or even better, take them to The Exploratorium in San Francisco.
If your phone needs a charge, you can top it off for free at the museum, but you will need to download an app to do it.
The gift shop doesn't have a lot of tech toys, but they have a large selection computer history books and lots of techy t-shirts that you may like if you can understand tech puns (like Cu Ti π, which are the symbols for the elements copper and titanium followed by the Greek letter pi, but also when pronounced phonetically read "cutie pie").
The museum is located in a landmark building initially built as the headquarters for Silicon Graphics, Inc.
To drive there, navigate to 1401 N Shoreline Blvd in Mountain View, CA.
The Caltrain/VTA Light Rail Station is in downtown Mountain View, about 2 miles away from the museum. From the train station, you can call a ride-sharing service or take the Mountain View Community Shuttle.