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Remembering the Future at the Living Computers Museum

Seattle's newly expanded Living Computers museum is a tech wonderland where visitors can interact with a variety of gadgets.

woman and child use interactive exhibit at Living Computers in Seattle, Washington, picture
Photo credit
Photo Courtesy of Living Computers: Museum + Labs
Photo caption
An interactive exhibit at Living Computers.

Walk in front of a sparkling blue wall at Living Computers: Museum and Labs and, on-screen, flowers sprout from your shadow. Miracles come often at the Seattle museum, a tech wonderland where visitors can play with myriad gadgets, from a 1963 Teletype machine to a brand-new Dash robot. The institution's credo? "Most museums put glass in front of their stuff. We put a chair."

It's an apt philosophy at a place that was designed for tinkerers by the chief tinkerer himself, Paul Allen. The Microsoft cofounder wanted to allow the public to interact with vintage computers while honoring early engineers' achievements for posterity. From that notion, Living Computers was born in 2012. Four years later, the establishment added labs and a fleet of forward-looking exhibits on robotics, artificial intelligence, and more.

Today, visitors can step into an air-conditioned room to gape at the world's only operating CDC 6500, an 8.3-ton supercomputer hand-wired in 1967. Nearby, Mac devotees can play with an original Apple I. The build-your-own-robot exhibit entices DIY types, while budding artists head to the Bob Ross station to create digital masterworks in Paint while watching episodes of—what else?—The Joy of Painting, with Bob Ross.

This article was first published in Winter 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.