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 of digital computing, programming / software, and computer networking since 1935. The Institute is named for Charles Babbage , the nineteenth-century English inventor of the programmable computer. [1] The Institute is located in Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota Libraries in Minneapolis , Minnesota .


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. [2] CBI also encourages research in the area and related topics (such as archival methods ); to do this, it offers graduate fellowships [3] and travel grants, [4] 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 its extensive collection of oral history interviews, more than 400 in total. Oral histories with important early figures in the field by CBI staff and collaborating colleagues. [5] These oral histories are immensely valuable documents. One author calls the set of CBI oral histories “a priceless resource for any historian of computing.” [6] Most of CBI’s oral histories are transcribed and available online. [7]

The archival collection also contains manuscripts ; records of professional associations ; corporate records (including Burroughs corporate records and 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 on its Twin Cities , Minneapolis campus, where it is housed in the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the West Bank.

Archival papers

The CBI has many archival papers and oral histories from many notable figures in computing:

  • Gene Amdahl
  • Walter L. Anderson
  • Isaac L. Auerbach
  • Rebecca Bace
  • Charles W. Bachman
  • Jean Bartik
  • Edmund Berkeley
  • Gertrude Blanch
  • Vint Cerf
  • John Day
  • Edsger W. Dijkstra
  • Wallace John Eckert
  • Alexandra Illmer Forsythe
  • Margaret R. Fox
  • Gideon Gartner
  • Bruce Gilchrist
  • George Glaser
  • Martin A. Goetz
  • Gene H. Golub
  • Carl Hammer
  • Martin Hellman
  • Frances E. Holberton
  • Cuthbert Hurd
  • Anita K. Jones
  • Brian Kahin
  • Donald Knuth
  • Bryan S. Kocher
  • Mark P. McCahill
  • Daniel D. McCracken
  • Alex McKenzie
  • Carl Machover
  • Michael Mahoney
  • Marvin Minsky
  • Calvin N. Mooers
  • William C. Norris
  • Susan Nycum
  • Donn B. Parker
  • Alan J. Perlis
  • Robert M. Price
  • Claire K. Schultz
  • Erwin Tomash
  • Keith Uncapher
  • Willis Ware
  • Terry Winograd
  • Patrick Winston
  • Konrad Zuse


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

In 1979, the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS) became a leading 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

  • History of computing
  • History of Computing Hardware
  • History of operating systems
  • History of the internet
  • Internet governance
  • List of pioneers in computer science
  • Standards Setting Organization


  1. Jump up^ 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. Jump up^ CBI Staff Publication List
  3. Jump up^ Adelle and Erwin Tomash Graduate Fellowship
  4. Jump up^ Arthur L. Norberg Travel Fund
  5. Jump up^
  6. Jump up^ Mr. Mitchell Waldrop,The Dream Machine: JCR Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal(2001): quote p. 483.
  7. Jump up^ Oral Histories, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota.

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