Our History

From a single computer online, to the world's largest collection of historic operating computers...
It all started with one computer. In 1997 Paul Allen's company, Vulcan Inc., purchased a TOAD-1 System from XKL Systems Corporation (now XKL LLC), an engineering firm in Redmond, Washington. Mr. Allen was interested in preserving the historically significant software that was created on Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-10 family of systems, which came to be known as the DECsystem-10 and DECSYSTEM-20, and made the TOAD-1, a PDP-10 clone, available to the public.

A DECSYSTEM-1090 and DECSYSTEM-2065 from XKL and a large collection of various DEC PDP computers soon followed. In 2006, remote accounts to some of these machines we opened to the public through the PDPPlanet.com website.

After broadening the collection beyond DEC, in 2012 the museum opened its vintage computer collection for the public to see, and use, as the Living Computer Museum. In 2016 the museum expanded with the addition of 1st floor exhibits featuring current technology, as well as three hands-on computer science learning labs. It then took the name Living Computers: Museum + Labs.

LCM+L continues to collect, and bring back to life, historically significant computers and software. Machines are available for use onsite whenever possible, and many can be used remotely.

At Living Computers: Museum + Labs we empower people through the active use of computing technology. Most museums put glass in front of their stuff—we put a chair.

Our philosophy is simple. To understand computing technology, you need to experience that technology firsthand. And the best way to experience a computer is to use it.
Vintage technology exhibits honor the history of computing with the world’s largest collection of fully restored—and usable—supercomputers, mainframes, minicomputers and microcomputers.
Modern technology exhibits offer direct experiences with robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, big data, the Internet of Things, video-game making, and digital art.
The Labs provide learners with hands-on workshops that develop computer science skills, and are aligned with state and national standards.
Our archives and computer restoration efforts insure that important developments in the history of computing are preserved, and usable, for future generations.

Paul G. Allen

Living Computers was originally founded by Paul G. Allen (1953-2018), and operates today as a 501(C)3 non-profit charity.

For four decades after co-founding Microsoft, entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul G. Allen continued to explore the frontiers of technology and human knowledge, and act to change the future.

Through his company Vulcan Inc., Paul worked to save endangered species, slow climate change, improve ocean health, share art, history and film, develop new technology, tackle epidemics, research how the human brain works and build sustainable communities. In all his endeavors, Mr. Allen constantly asked “What if…?” and pushed people to challenge conventional thinking, collaborate across disciplines and reimagine what’s possible.
Paul invested locally in his hometown of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, and created public spaces including Flying Heritage & Combat Armor Museum, MoPOP and the Living Computers Museum + Labs—where people learn and interact with Seattle’s historic, cultural and musical heritage. The Seattle Art Fair and Upstream Music Fest + Summit have put the city on the map as one of the premier art and music destinations in the U.S.

He also thought globally, making impact investments that have helped developing countries expand their health, infrastructure and nurture a diversified economy.

Many of his ventures were seeded in his youth, and reflect the depth and diversity of his passions. He strived to create a new kind of future—a future that maps the intricacies inside our head, sets hidden talent alight and upends conventional thinking.

If we can understand the mysterious organ, the brain, we can pave the way towards understanding diseases like Alzheimer’s. If we can change the economics of space launches, we can change space travel and exploration. If we can get the formula right for a new kind of downtown neighborhood, it becomes a guide for the innovation centers of tomorrow. Paul was motivated by his commitment to sharing his ideas and discoveries with the world to help catalyze a better future. We continue that work today.

Find out more at paulallen.com