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Living Computers in Seattle is closing, for now?

ibmapc

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Just got an email from Living Computers in Seattle, WA. They are closing down operations for now. I sure hope the find a way to re-open in the future! They were a great host for the VCFPNW for two years until the Covid shut things down.

https://www.livingcomputers.org/

livingcomputersclosing.png
 
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NeXT

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I mean, it makes sense to go into a cold shutdown since they are paying a massive amount of money daily to keep the machine room online and air conditioned. This lets them drastically reduce the operating costs while the doors are closed for....well we still don't know.

I have however been noticing all afternoon that people are saying this is it and they are done, but so far I have found no press releases or news articles from Vulcan indicating that the LCM is closing for good. Just people pulling an "if" clause out and running with it.
 

mbbrutman

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I heard the news, then got the email. (I have a family membership even though I'm the only person in the family who uses it.)

The "for now" wording makes it seem like there is wiggle room, but personally I think that is wishful thinking. When you get to a certain age you realize that it is the people who make things happen and who give an institution its culture and character. It is extremely difficult to get something new off the ground and get critical mass, and the people are usually the hardest part to find. They also happen to be the more expensive parts. If the people who make the museum happen have to find work elsewhere then the museum is lost; if it was hard to find those people the first time around it won't be easier the second time. The building will be come a collection of dead artifacts without the people.

We held VCF PNW there for the first time in 2018 and we broke their attendance record. VCF PNW 2019 broke the previous attendance record, and we had great plans for VCF 2020. As upset as I was at the cancellation, it was also the right thing to do - COVID-19 has turned out to be far more of a public health problem than I realized. But I really hate to think now that we're not going to break that record again, and that nobody else will get a chance either. VCFed volunteers (and myself in particular) threw a lot of time into those events, which are part of our primary mission, but also helped to raise awareness and drive traffic to the museum. I wanted the museum to do well and to get that critical mass; I was looking forward to trying to volunteer there in a few years after I retired from the day job. ;-0

Right now you should be thinking about the people who work there, as it was probably devastating news. They have big changes coming up, and many of them just can't retire in peace so there will be job hunting and interviews. That can be stressful under normal circumstances, so having it happen now is terrible. Not the end of the world, but pretty damn terrible.

2020 has been a terrible year in so many ways I'm losing count, and COVID-19 is only part of my personal story. This should be a strong reminder to people that if you value something then you should stand up and make sure it's supported, both with your time and money. If you leave it for somebody else to do then it might not achieve critical mass or you might miss your chance. I'd like a nickel for every time I heard somebody in an IRC channel "I'd like to visit there but I can't do it this year"; while that may have been for great reasons, the timer expired and there might not be a second chance.
 

Chuck(G)

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Once we get to the other side of this pandemic and have a chance to look around, I fear that a lot of things that we've considered as part of our environment will be missing. With Paul Allen gone, I suspect that the LCM's days may be numbered.
 

ibmapc

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Thanks Mike and Chuck,
You guys wrote down my exact thoughts and feelings. My heart HURTS for the staff there. This Frickin' COVID is a real GUT PUNCH!

Do you think there is anything we can do to generate some interest in keeping the museum from going away for good?

Obviously what it needs is A LOT OF MONEY! That's in short supply for most folks right now. So, we would need a LOT OF PEOPLE (investors) to pitch in for what most rich people would consider a bad investment. I don't have any experience with things like "Go Fund Me" or the like, but I'm willing to help get the word out if anyone has any great ideas. What we'd really need is someone with experience and ambition to move the needle.
 
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ibmapc

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I mean, it makes sense to go into a cold shutdown since they are paying a massive amount of money daily to keep the machine room online and air conditioned. This lets them drastically reduce the operating costs while the doors are closed for....well we still don't know.

I have however been noticing all afternoon that people are saying this is it and they are done, but so far I have found no press releases or news articles from Vulcan indicating that the LCM is closing for good. Just people pulling an "if" clause out and running with it.

Does THIS https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/vulcan-to-close-its-arts-entertainment-division-which-includes-cinerama-and-seattle-art-fair/ do it for you?
 

NeXT

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Worblehat

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Very disappointing news. I'm so glad I had a chance to visit - I attended last year's VCF PNW and spent two full days at the museum. It was an incredible opportunity to test drive a whole bunch of systems I'd only ever read about before, or at best tried out on an emulator. A working PLATO terminal was a highlight, one of many. I was given an informal tour behind the scenes, and saw the public displays were only the tip of the iceberg. There is a warehouse full of vintage equipment, on floor to ceiling industrial shelving, back there.

In all it was a memorable couple of days, a dream come true in a lot of ways. I am very grateful to all the people who created such an amazing place.

I'd like to be optimistic and I do hope they will reopen, but like others here I am doubtful. I think they would have made a stronger statement than "if, how, and when" if they really intended to come back. I feel very badly for the people who have lost their jobs. I am also very concerned that a great deal of history is in danger of being lost, or becoming inaccessible.
 

ScutBoy

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Damn - the only two days I've ever been in Seattle were two days the museum was closed.

Somewhere back in their "archives" is the SGI Origin 2000 I donated about 10 years ago. They rented a truck to haul it from Minneapolis to Seattle. All I had to do was get it on our shipping dock.
 

hackerb9

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I'm glad my partner and I got to go in The Before Times. We had just renewed our memberships when the plague struck.

That article still does not say in stone that the doors are closed for good.

It's written in a tough, stone-like substance. The article says that the umbrella organization, Vulcan Arts + Entertainment will cease operation before the end of the year.

With Paul Allen gone, I suspect that the LCM's days may be numbered.

There is a quote at the end referencing tough decisions being part of "the ongoing transition after Paul G. Allen’s passing in 2018". So, yeah, I think you're right and this may have been in the cards for a while.

Unlike the other two museums the article mentions (MoPOP and Flying Heritage), the Living Computer Museum is not an independent entity. Instead the LCM is “overseen by a private operating foundation run by Vulcan staff”... who may have just lost their jobs. ☹

I'm hoping the LCM can weather this storm and transition to become like MoPOP or the Flying Heritage Museum: an independent nonprofit or charity. But, even if they survive, I suspect the LCM will be radically changed by the process.

Once we get to the other side of this pandemic and have a chance to look around, I fear that a lot of things that we've considered as part of our environment will be missing.

True in so many ways. I heard on the radio that COVID-19 has decimated the elder generation of legendary jazz musicians. I wonder if there has been a similar impact on historic computer scientists, designers, and programmers.
 

NeXT

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This little tidbit was posted on RottedBits yesterday night from a former employee..... :(

As you might have heard, Living Computers: Museum+Labs has shut down; its doors will remain closed for at least the next twelve to eighteen months, and the staff is off to find new adventures.

I have had the honor of being an engineer at LCM+L for the last five years and I am still struggling to come to terms with this -- I've had time to let the shock settle in since I heard the news a month ago and I am still unable to really grasp the finality of the situation. I don't know how to say goodbye.

These past few weeks I have been working on-site at the museum, helping to shut things down in an orderly fashion. It feels like I'm preparing to bury a close friend, building an ornate wooden box, polishing it, lining it and driving the nails in. Digging a hole. Preparing some final words.

And it really is a living, breathing entity that we're saying goodbye to; this museum is an undertaking that spans decades and has involved the blood, sweat, and tears of every person that has worked here. It encompasses the souls and dreams and ideas of dozens of dedicated individuals -- educators, engineers, guest services, archivists, curators and benefactors. This museum that we built together has touched many thousands of lives across the world and each of them in turn has added something of their own. It is meaningful, and it is important.

It hurts to let go, to bury all of this.

I helped shut the big systems down on Monday with the rest of the engineering staff. I have never heard the computer room this quiet before. I'd be lying if I didn't shed a tear when turning Rosencrantz (the VAX, running perpetually for a decade) off, wondering when it would run again.

Every artifact I look at as I wander through the rows of computers in the museum's basement brings back memories, or a longing for potential now out of reach. I remember some of the first things I did after joining the team -- restoring the Interdata 7/32 and getting Wollongong V6 UNIX running for the first time and being able to share that with the world was really something else. Working on the Alto emulator, I found myself chatting with legends from Xerox PARC, an experience that will be tough to top. In the months before we closed, we all worked together to get V0 UNIX running on our restored PDP-7 and in so doing brought some truly important history back to life.

I almost got over my fear of public speaking doing our engineering gallery talks and I came to realize that I actually enjoyed it. I loved chatting with visitors, and the enthusiasm they all had for the place was amazing.

We all did some amazing things here. We all have so many stories and memories. We all have so much to be proud of.

I want to thank all the wonderful folks I worked with at LCM. This has been the greatest job I've ever had and that's due in no small part to the people I shared it with. I will miss you all. I also want to thank everyone who came to visit the museum over these many years -- thank you for letting us share it with you. I have met so many new people, shared so many stories and have learned so many extremely cool things and I will never, ever forget it.

Today was my last day. At 5:45pm I walked out of the doors of the museum for the last time. The hurt is still here in my heart as I write this but I know things will get better and that I will be able to move on.

And someday, I hope, the museum will live again.

.KJOB
.

Josh Dersch at 7:37 PM
https://rottedbits.blogspot.com/2020/07/on-closing-of-living-computers.html?m=1
 

lowen

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Hmm, a VAX named Rosencrantz was the first VMS system I had an account on, way back in 1985, at Brevard College in Brevard, NC. It was one of two 11/750's at BC; the other one, used by College administration, was predictably named Guildenstern..... This makes this already substantial loss just a little more personal for me.
 

Dwight Elvey

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It would be good if they can find a benefactor that can afford to pay the rent and have some security. This would be to hold it in stasis until things get better. Someone like Paul Allen or Bill Gates.
When this hole thing was coming down, I realized that it was going to be an issue for the long haul. Lets stop lying to ourselves.
3 Weeks ago, Santa Clara was averaging a little less then 20 new cases a day. Yesterday, we were at 185 and to day it is down to 109. It seems people don't get it. It isn't just us older people that a dying. about 4-5% of the deaths are in their 40s. Those that live through a medium case have damage to their lungs and often damage to their hearts, kidneys or livers.
Even if you catch it and you live through it, you could be starting a chain that kills several people.
There is also a high instance of people in their 20s that have no reason for having blood clot type strokes, other then just getting over covid-19.
No, we are not going to get over this by the end of April, especially with so many people thinking is isn't a big deal. It is estimated that for this one, we need about 60% having the virus before we have enough herd immunity, assuming having it once will protect us some. Studies in Span show that there were not that many hidden cases as they thought. Doing random sampling of people, even in areas where they had significant cases. They showed that the hidden unknown cases were in the 5 to 10% of the known cases.
Let me see, 328 million people in the USA, using 60% and allow for hidden cases, we have 177 cases. At the current death rate in the US, that is 6.2 million deaths.
It would be nice to hold off until a vaccine is ready but lets realize that that is still in the works. It is a good thing that there are places like Brazil and Africa that are desperate enough to allow vaccine studies, that one could never do here in the USA.
Dwight
 

falter

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I'm not surprised it physically closed due to covid. That makes eminent sense. What isn't making sense to me is why a venture that was originally underwritten by Paul Allen would be into such severe financial distress after only a few months.

I've read a lot of 'conspiracy' talk online - that Allen's sister isn't a fan or sees it as a drain on resources, or Vulcan hasn't been run well. Not sure what to make of any of that. But I feel like Paul would have set things up in such a way to tide it over in hard times, and something is amiss here beyond just covid interruption? I'm sure his estate isn't dried up already.
 
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