Charles Babbage Institute

Charles Babbage Institute

The Charles Babbage Institute is a research center at the University of Minnesota specializing in the history of information technology, particularly the history since 1935 of digital computing, programming/software, and computer networking.[1]

The institute is named for Charles Babbage, the nineteenth-century English inventor of the programmable computer.



In addition to holding important historical archives, in paper and electronic form, its staff of historians and archivists conduct and publish historical and archival research that promotes the study of the history of information technology internationally. CBI also carries out and encourages research in the area and related topics (such as archival methods); to do this, it offers graduate fellowships[2] and travel grants[3], organizes conferences and workshops, and participates in public programming. It also serves as an international clearinghouse of resources for the history of information technology.

Also valuable for researchers are its extensive collection of oral history interviews, nearly 400 in total. Oral histories with important early figures in the field have been conducted by CBI staff and collaborating colleagues. Owing to the poorly documented state of many early computer developments, these oral histories are immensely valuable documents. One author called the set of CBI oral histories "a priceless resource for any historian of computing."[4] Most of CBI's oral histories are transcribed and available online.[5]

The archival collection also contains manuscripts; records of professional associations; corporate records (including the Burroughs corporate records and the Control Data corporate records, among many others); trade publications; periodicals; manuals and product literature for older systems, photographic material (stills and moving), and a variety of other rare reference materials.

It is now a center at the University of Minnesota, and is located at its Twin Cities, Minnesota campus, where it is housed in the Elmer L. Andersen Library.

Research Resources

CBI has major archival research collections pertaining to these organizations:

In addition, CBI has collections of archival papers from many notable figures in computing:


CBI was founded in 1978 by Erwin Tomash and associates as the International Charles Babbage Society, and initially operated in Palo Alto, California.

In 1979, the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS) became a principal sponsor of the Society, which was renamed the Charles Babbage Institute.

In 1980, the Institute moved to the University of Minnesota, which contracted with the principals of the Charles Babbage Institute to sponsor and house the Institute. In 1989, CBI became an organized research unit of the University.

See also


  1. ^ William Aspray, "Leadership in Computing History: Arthur Norberg and the Charles Babbage Institute." IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, 29(4) (October–December 2007): 16–26.
  2. ^ Adelle and Erwin Tomash Graduate Fellowship
  3. ^ Arthur L. Norberg Travel Fund
  4. ^ M. Mitchell Waldrop, The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal (2001): quote p. 483.
  5. ^ Oral histories, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota.

Publications and Reprint Series

CBI Hosted publications (pdf files)

CBI--Tomash Reprint Series (of the original 16 volumes, only these select ones remain available):

  • Volume 1: The Preparation of Programs for an Electronic Digital Computer by Maurice Wilkes, David Wheeler, and Stanley Gill; (original 1951); reprinted with new introduction by Martin Campbell-Kelly; 198 pp.; illus; biblio; bios; index; ISBN 0-262-23118-2.
  • Volume 2: Babbage's Calculating Engines by H. P. Babbage (1889). New introduction by Allan G. Bromley; 8½" × 11"; 294pp.; illus; notes; biblio; ISBN 0-263-02200-1
  • Volume 3: Handbook of the Napier Tercentenary Celebration or Modern Instruments and Methods of Calculation edited by E. M. Horsburgh; (1914); New introduction by M. R. Williams; 8½" × 11"; 384 pp.; illus; notes; ISBN 0-262-08141-5
  • Volume 4: High Speed Computing Devices by the Staff of Engineering Research Associates; (1950); New introduction by Arnold A.Cohen; 6" × 9"; 493 pp.; illus; biblio; bios; index; ISBN 0-262-08152-0
  • History of Binary and Other Nondecimal Numeration by Anton Glaser; (1981); 6" × 9"; 218 pp; illus.; index; ISBN 0-938228-00-5

CBI staff publication list

External links

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