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New-York Historical Society's Silicon City exhibit will reveal that NYC is where computer history—including Telstar!—all started!
New-York Historical Society's Silicon City exhibit will reveal that NYC is where computer history—including Telstar!—all started!
159 backers pledged $10,901 to help bring this project to life.

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Show Your Silicon City Pride!

New York has the opportunity of a lifetime to showcase New York as a major technology hub of the world – past, present and future.

We invite New York entrepreneurs, coders, history buffs, gamers, musicians, artists, and computer users -- and everyone who loves history -- to stand up and be proud! Because this fall, the New-York Historical Society will present Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York.

Specifically, we hope you will help us raise $10,000 via Kickstarter for the portion of funding needed to transport the Telstar satellite to New-York Historical Society. Please help us reach our goal!

What is this project all about?

On view November 13, 2015 – April 17, 2016, Silicon City will reveal the city as a technological hub where the intersection of commerce and innovation gave birth to the first computers and tech companies, ultimately reshaping entertainment, business, and daily life. The exhibition will present a dynamic timeline of digital milestones in the New York region from the late-1800s to the 1980s and jumping to the present (and future), concluding with a multimedia showcase of the firms and individuals who have carried the torch and established today’s city as a digital capital. 

More than 180 rare artifacts—including early computers and telecommunications hardware, archival materials, photographs, pioneering computer art, graphics, interactive games, and projections—will immerse visitors in the decades-long evolution of technology in the city.

What is Telstar?

A centerpiece of the exhibition will be the return to New York of Telstar, the world's first private satellite.

In a sense, Telstar ushered in the era of global communications.

Telstar 1, developed by Bell Labs for a multinational group that included AT&T, NASA, and the British and French telephone systems, inaugurated satellite communications, relaying telephone, fax, and television signals from orbit. It enabled the first public broadcast ever relayed from space: an image of the Statue of Liberty  -- in July 1962.

The satellite was shown at the 1964 World’s Fair. But for the last half a century, it has been missing from New York. Starting this November -- with your support -- it will once again be on display in New York!

What will it take to bring Telstar back to New York?

To get Telstar ready for display at New-York Historical Society, it must first be conserved. Michael Morris, the same expert who conserved Tullio Lombardo's Adam at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has been in charge of that process.

Then it will be transported by Marshall Fine Arts from its current home in the offices of the Telesat Corporation in Bedminster, New Jersey. Marshall is installing the hanging device on October 21 and doing the actual installation on November 4. (Contribute  $250 or more and we will invite you to come and watch!)

Why is this important?

Telstar is emblematic of New York City's proud history -- and mega-bright future -- as an epicenter of technology innovation. It is a story that hasn't been told before. 

New York's technology sector has changed the world and continues to do so. It is living history that everyone, young and old, needs to know.

New-York Historical Society -- New York's first museum -- has been telling the story of the United States of America, through the lens of New York, since 1804. (Just in case anyone might forget how long we've been around, we keep the hyphen in New-York!)

The story of the computer revolution that started in New York, and is again shifting its center of gravity toward New York, is a crucial part of the American story. 

Will there be art, gaming and early graphics work in this exhibition?

You bet!

Early Video Games

Long before Pong, in 1958 physicist William Higinbotham developed one of the first computer games for visitor's day at Brookhaven National Laboratory called Tennis for Two. Higinbotham was a scientist working on ballistics calculations and thought it would be a fun experiment for visitors to play.

The game was so popular that there was a line out the door and down the block, an indication of the multi-billion dollar industry to come. We've been working closely with BNL to develop a digital recreation of the game for visitors to play, which should be a very unusual experience for anyone who is familiar with modern day video games. Additionally, in the late 70s Arcade Culture was a very strong subculture in NYC. The 1976 game Space Invaders was hugely influential, and is credited by many as saving the video game industry, when interest was beginning to wane. 

We have worked with restoration specialists to restore an original 1976 Taito Space Invaders cabinet, and will have it on free play mode in the gallery.  Come and check it out!

Computer Graphics

Sunstone, Ed Emshwiller and Alvy Ray Smith
Sunstone, Ed Emshwiller and Alvy Ray Smith

The first computer generated film was created in 1963 by Ed Zajac at Bell Labs titled Simulation of a two-giro gravity attitude control system. Zajac was not an animator; he was a scientist working on satellite stabilization. In the early 70s, Dr Alexander Schure recruited Edwin Catmull to develop NYIT Computer Graphics Lab. The team at NYIT CGL pioneered many firsts in computer graphics technology and was considered the best computer graphics research and development group in the world from the late 70s thru early 80s. The team that was assembled at NYIT CGL would continue onto Lucas Film and then found PIXAR.

Art & Tech

In our exhibit, a geodesic dome will enclose an interactive theater displaying some of the most important multimedia art from the 60s and 70s, including 9 performances from the 9 Evenings: Theater & Engineering event in 1966 (John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Whitman, David Tudor, Alex and Deborah Hay, Lucinda Childs, Steve Paxton, Yvonne Rainer) as well as works by Lillian Schwartz, Stan VanDerBeek, and Merce Cunningham. Most Artists working in New Media in the 60s and 70s were members of E.A.T (Experiments in Art and Technology).  

Will young people benefit from this project?

Yes! Thanks to a partnership with Google.org, New-York Historical is offering New York city public schools the opportunity to visit the exhibition for a free one-hour guided tour followed by a free one-hour, interactive coding workshop.

How about families?

To celebrate the exhibition’s November 14 –15 opening weekend, families will be able to practice Morse code, write their name with a punch card computer, take a coding class, meet our IBM robots, and build circuits. Kids will also interact with the amazing Watson cognitive technology and subject the Founding Fathers to a personality quiz! 

There will be additional family activities throughout the duration of the exhibition. 

Is New York's tech community behind this?

Absolutely. We have secured the support of several major tech companies and other foundations and individuals to make this exhibition possible: AT&T, Citi, Google.org, IBM, the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc, and the Watson Foundation. 

However, to get to the finish line—including bringing the Telstar satellite back to New York City—we need your support!

Why Kickstarter?

Kickstarter is a "made in New York" tech company -- part of the story we are telling. So it is only fitting that we raise a part of the funding for this project on this platform. 

And this exhibition belongs to everyone who cares about New York as a continuing base of technological progress. We want to give individuals, small tech starts ups and everyone else who is interested an opportunity to support us at whatever level works for you.

Make contribution -- enjoy a reward!

At a nonprofit museum like New-York Historical Society, every dollar counts. We are thrilled that some of the major tech companies and foundations have show their support. But we need your support too!

We are seeking $10,000 through Kickstarter to get us to the finish line. This is the money that will directed, specifically, to transporting Telstar to New York and getting it installed. So we need YOUR support!

Grab an original Telstar! t-shirt or mouse pad, be a part of the opening celebrations, get a personal tour, or enjoy one of the other fun rewards. 

Thank you!

Risks and challenges

We foresee few challenges. Of course it is possible that people won't like the rewards or will have trouble scheduling personal exhibition or other tours at times that are convenient for both the donor and the New-York Historical Society staff -- but we will do our best to be accommodating.

Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    A big thank you, periodic exclusive updates on the exhibition, PLUS your name listed on our website in a special "Kickstarter Funders" section.

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    An original Telstar! refrigerator magnet.

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    A personalized authentic 1960s-era punch card!

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    An original Telstar! mouse pad.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    An original Telstar! print, and our big thank you.

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    Pledge $30 or more About $30

    An original Telstar! t-shirt!

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    Your picture taken with the Telstar – emailed to you!

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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    A signed copy of Zabet Patterson's Peripheral Vision.

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    A signed copy of Raiford Guins's Game After.

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    Free admission to the exhibition for 2!

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    An exclusive "9 Evenings: Theater & Engineering" DVD set – not available elsewhere!

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Free admission to the exhibition for 4.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Invitation to the exhibition's VIP opening party.

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    Invitation to a private Q&A reception with the exhibition curators.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    Year-round free admission to the New-York Historical Society for two and a $50 museum store shopping spree.

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    Invitation to the Telstar! hanging press event on November 4.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    You and 13 guests will go “Inside Industry” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on this exclusive private tour led by Turnstile Tours.

    Building on a legacy of technological innovation as America’s premier naval shipbuilding facility for 165 years, the Yard is now home to the greatest concentration of manufacturing and green businesses in NYC. You will experience the past, present and future of the Yard through a custom, guided experience of BLDG 92 and then head out into the Yard to visit the workshop spaces of two Navy Yard businesses to get a behind-the-scenes look at how they're integrating traditional craftsmanship with digital technologies.
    - Redeemable between 2/1/2016 and 6/1/2016.
    - Tour must be delivered on a weekday between 9-5.

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    A private docent-led tour of the Silicon City exhibition, followed by lunch for four in the Museum's Caffe Storico.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Private access to exhibition vintage computer games for group of 10.

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    Pledge $1,200 or more About $1,200

    A private playtime workshop for up to 20 kids with IBM Robots, using Python Programming.

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    A private coding birthday party for up to 20 kids using Google CS First Technology.

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    A private curator-led after-hours tour of the exhibition.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    Private after-hours Silicon City exhibition tour plus complimentary dinner for 6 in the Museum's Caffe Storico.

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Funding period

- (25 days)