Back to the Past: Bill Buxton Shows Off 35 Years of Tech Devices

From a Microsoft Press Pass: Microsoft Research’s Bill Buxton has unboxed, unearthed, and organized his personal collection of interactive tech devices gathered over the last 35 years. The collection will be on display at an international interaction design conference this week and could end up as a display in a museum.

VANCOUVER, B.C. – May 9, 2011 – Bill Buxton had no intention of creating a museum-quality collection of technological devices. But over the course of 35 years, that’s just what happened. Buxton has accumulated hundreds of items that struck him as interesting, unusual or important to the evolution of interactive devices – watches, keyboards, mice, an electronic drum set, a 60-year-old transistor radio whose design inspired the iPod, a Nintendo Power Glove, several Etch-A-Sketches, and even the first so-called “smart” phone – controlled by a touch-screen – first shown in 1993, 14 years before smart phones exploded onto the scene.

“I’m just bad at throwing stuff out,” joked Buxton last week, as the movers came by to transport his entire collection to Vancouver, British Columbia, for display at the 2011 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) this week.

“A lot of people, even people working in the field, have no idea these objects exist,” said Buxton, a principal researcher for Microsoft Research. “Those of us in the Internet Age with the most access to search engines have the least knowledge about our past. We’re so obsessed with the future that we only look forwards. I’ve been collecting specifically to counter that – to show how deep the roots go.”

A leading expert in human-computer interactions, Buxton frequently teaches, speaks and writes on the subject of natural user interface, or NUI, in which technology incorporates more human-friendly means of “input” such as touch, face- and voice-recognition, and movement sensors.

You can read the rest of the news release here and see the collection here (Hint: Try the cool PivotViewer feature).

How many of these devices did you (or do you) own?

I owned several: