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.