Charles Babbage Institute

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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 researchers are its extensive collection of oral history interviews, more than 400 in total. Oral histories with important early figures in the field have been conducted by CBI staff and collaborating colleagues.[5] 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."[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 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 on its Twin Cities, Minneapolis campus, where it is housed in the Elmer L. Andersen Library on the West Bank.

Archival papers and oral histories[edit]

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


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[edit]


  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. ^ "CBI Staff Publication List" (PDF). Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  3. ^ "CBI Research Program: Tomash Fellowship". Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  4. ^ "CBI Research Program: Norberg Travel Fund". Retrieved 6 October 2018.
  5. ^ "Oral history interviews". hdl:11299/59493. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. ^ M. Mitchell Waldrop, The Dream Machine: J.C.R. Licklider and the Revolution That Made Computing Personal (2001): quote p. 483.
  7. ^ Oral histories, Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota.

External links[edit]