Using Old Computers for Teaching Computer Science

  • Giovanni A. Cignoni
  • Fabio Gadducci
Conference paper
Part of the IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology book series (IFIPAICT, volume 416)


Research on the history of computing often needs to adopt experimental archaeology methods: the rebuilding of old hardware and software requires us to proceed by hypothesis and experimentation. This is one of the key assets of the HMR project, whose main goal is the study of Italian computers from the Fifties and Sixties. The results obtained by the HMR research are made accessible to the public through exhibitions and workshops held at the Museum of Computing Tools of the University of Pisa. The visitors of the Museum, mainly students from middle and high schools, are introduced to the basic concepts of computer science through fascinating old machines. The paper reviews some of the results of the HMR project and presents how historical computers, either preserved at the Museum or rebuilt by HMR, are shown to the public to teach principles and mechanisms of computer science.


computing history computing museums teaching 


  1. 1.
    Hackerando la Macchina Ridotta,
  2. 2.
    Museum of Computing Tools,
  3. 3.
    Levy, S.: Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Doubleday (1984)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Internet Users’ Glossary,
  5. 5.
    Cignoni, G.A., Gadducci, F.: Rediscovering the Very First Italian Digital Computer. In: Proceedings of 3rd IEEE History of Electro-technology Conference (HistElCon). IEEE Computer Society (2012)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Webb, L.: Tracing the birth of Italian computer science,
  7. 7.
    Cignoni, G.A., Gadducci, F.: Experimental Archaeology of Computer Science. Atti della Società Toscana di Scienze Naturali, Serie B 119 (2012)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Sale, T.: The Colossus Rebuild Project,
  9. 9.
    Burton, C.P.: Replicating the Manchester Baby: Motives, Methods, and Messages from the Past. IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 27(3) (2005)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Auerbach, I.L.: European Electronic Data Processing – A Report on the Industry and the State of the Art. Proceedings of the IRE 49 (1961)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Blachman, N.M.: The State of Digital Computer Technology in Europe. Communications of the ACM 6(6) (1961)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Parolini, G.: Olivetti ELEA 9003: Between Scientific Research and Computer Business. In: Impagliazzo, J. (ed.) Proceedings of the 3rd IFIP Conference on the History of Computing and Education (HCE3 2008). IFIP, vol. 269, pp. 37–53. Springer, Boston (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Goldstein, G.D. (ed.): ELEA 9003 - C. Olivetti & C. - Milan, Italy. Digital Computer Newsletter, Office of Naval Research 12(3) (1960)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Goldstein, G.D. (ed.): ELEA 6001 - C. Olivetti & C SpA. - Laboratorio di Ricerche Elettroniche Milan, Italy. Digital Computer Newsletter, Office of Naval Research 13(3) (1961)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Guerraggio, A., Mattaliano, M., Nastasi, P. (eds.): La lunga marcia di Mauro Picone. Università Bocconi (2010)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Leclerc, B.: From Gamma 2 to Gamma E.T.: The Birth of Electronic Computing at Bull. Annals of the History of Computing 12(1) (1990)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Cignoni, G.A., Ceccarelli, D., Imbrenda, C.: Il restauro del software di sistema della Macchina Ridotta del 1956. In: Atti del Congresso Nazionale AICA. AICA (2009)Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cignoni, G.A., Paci, S.: UML Modelling and Code Generation For Agent-based, Discrete Events Simulation. In: Bruzzone A.G., Buck W., Cayirici E., Longo F. (eds.), Proceedings of the International Workshop on Applied Modeling and Simulation (WAMS 2012). DIME Università di Genova (2012)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© IFIP Federation for Information Processing 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giovanni A. Cignoni
    • 1
  • Fabio Gadducci
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of PisaItaly

Personalised recommendations