Living Computers: Museum + Labs

Living Computers: Museum + Labs

Living Computers: Museum + Labs
5
Speciality Museums • Science Museums • History Museums
Read more
This location was reported permanently closed
Write a review
About
Living Computers: Museum + Labs, located in Seattle, Washington, is dedicated to preserving and displaying working examples of historic computers that tell the story of our journey away from computing as a difficult and expensive undertaking toward the universal access to information technology we enjoy today. On any given day at the Living Computers: Museum + Labs, you might see our staff working to restore our vintage machines. Starting November 18th, we will also make a fantastic array of new technology available to our visitors featuring topics in modern computing, such as AI, VR, robotics, and self-driving cars. We believe that the best way for people to fully understand computing systems is by experiencing them.
Suggested duration
1-2 hours
Suggest edits to improve what we show.
Improve this listing

Top ways to experience nearby attractions

See what travelers are saying
  • Tony
    3 contributions
    Above Average Fun with History!
    The living computer museum surprised me more than a little. Not only are the exhibits fairly engaging for younger folks, but there's enough real content to excite even the older geeks/history buffs. Do you want to see how memory has evolved in computers over time? What about just touch and use a punch card machine (maybe you're seeing it for the first time, or reliving the good old days). How about playing old video game consoles? Would you be interested in building some robots? If you answered "yes" to any of these, I'd highly suggest you check this place out. I visited with my wife, and then bought the year pass and came back with my kids.
    Visited November 2019
    Written August 26, 2020
  • Benson
    31 contributions
    Excellent place to see old computers and learn about computing history.
    Really enjoyed seeing all of the unique computers from the apple 1 to the Xerox mainframes. The machines on display are mostly able to be used be visitors to the museum. Enjoyed the totally 80s living room and decor on display. My wife even enjoyed a game of Ms Pacman
    Visited October 2020
    Written February 12, 2021
  • Meryl A
    11 contributions
    Hidden gem
    Fun for all ages--for those of us who have seen computers go from the size of a building to the size of a cell phone and for kids who have never lived without them. Love this museum. I took my teenage niece here when she visited during the summer and it was a hit.
    Visited August 2019
    Written January 20, 2020
  • smccallister
    35 contributions
    The history of computing, with some added current glitz
    For anyone who is interested in the history of computing, this is a mandatory visit. They have the world's largest inventory of working computers, from PC's to mainframes. And that part about the computers working? Most of them not only are working, but you can touch and play with them. How about playing with a functioning Xerox Alto (the first PC with a graphical user interface, famously "borrowed" for the Mac and Windows afterwards)? You can also be hands on with the Apple Lisa and even a PC running Windows 1.0. Lots of really spectacular looking mainframes and a lot of pieces of computer history, such as Bill Gate's resume from back in the 1970's. They've got everything here, from Commodore to Atari to Apple II's -- and you can run software like Oregon Trail on these vintage machines. In the last couple of years the Museum has branched out to include a ground level space with information and displays about current topics like virtual reality, robotics, and self-driving cars. There's also a classroom / maker space where classes are taught. All of this comes via MS co-founder Paul Allen, one of several museums benefiting from his personal collections of various items (Museum of Pop History and the Flying Heritage Museum of planes and tanks!) The Museum is just north of Starbucks Headquarters on First Avenue South in the Sodo neighborhood, and there's a free parking lot on the north side of the building.
    Visited July 2018
    Traveled with family
    Written August 19, 2018
  • iocat
    Seattle, Washington75 contributions
    Best Museum in Seattle
    The museum really got its start on the second floor. Basically Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, collected one of all the many computers he worked with as a kid (and adult), and paid a bunch of his nerd friends to get them in full working order, then made it a museum. Want to program and Altair 8080 (the very first PC) with a teletype, running MicroSoft BASIC 1.0? Have at it! (Except get there early, because it breaks a lot.) Want to see a PDP-11 running beautiful blinking lights displays? This is basically the only place in the world to see a working one! Mainframes too! And Apple IIs, C64s, Tandys, IBM PCs and more. The docent tours provide a FANTASTIC exploration of the history of computers, and there are some very interesting rotating displays. There's also a great library of books. The first floor covers more modern stuff like robotics, 3D printing, and seems more like a traditional science museum (aka a bunch of stuff that seems aimed at kids more adults -- I love the upstairs and I find the first floor very skippable, but then, I am a hardcore nerd). There's a really good nerdy gift shop, coffee and candy. Oh and free parking. If you really want to get your geek on, after you're done here, head over to Re-PC and check out their little PC museum too -- and their collection of amazing surplus PC stuff for sale!
    Visited April 2018
    Traveled with family
    Written April 3, 2018
  • Jeff R
    Boston, Massachusetts22 contributions
    Excellent Seattle Museum!
    This museum (experience, really) is outstanding! If you're in Seattle, this is a must do. The museum and design lab space take up 2 floors in a beautiful building. Ground level you will find participatory experiences revolving around virtual reality (make sure to do the activity; it's so cool!), self-driving cars, computers+education, and the design lab, where you can build your own circuit. Upstairs you will find every make and model of computer, video game counsel, and office machine ever invented. The "cool room" has an actual running computer that takes up the whole room. You can sit at a punch card machine and type code (which I found very cool), then you can see the various typewriters used in the business world. Then - the creme de la creme: fully functional computers from the 80's/90's/early 2000's. You can play old favorites like the Oregon Trail or Myst, or pop in an Encarta CD-ROM to your Windows 95 machine. So darn cool (and nostalgic)! This place is definitely for kids and adults alike. Make sure to reserve a few hours because you'll be completely engrossed. Afterwards? Walk next door to the world HQ of Starbucks Coffee and get a latte at the ground-level retail store in the building. You just had a very Seattle afternoon. :-) Tip: Take the Light Rail from anywhere downtown to SoDo (just a few stops) and walk a few blocks over to First Ave. It's an industrial neighborhood, but don't be alarmed. The train is much easier (and cheaper) than driving down and paying to park.
    Visited December 2016
    Traveled as a couple
    Written January 3, 2017
  • iliketowrite
    Midlothian, Virginia593 contributions
    Where Old Computers have a Life
    Oh, so interesting! You can touch most everything and see how slow the early computers' response time was. Sit down and play a bunch of games, beginning with the old Pong, Space Invaders and Pac Mac. Take a guided tour to get the full story, then you're free to roam. This is a great little museum and it brings back a lot of memories for those of us who worked with these early computers. The staff was super friendly and ready to answer any questions. Admission $5, seniors $2.
    Visited July 2014
    Traveled as a couple
    Written August 4, 2014
  • Nostalgiyeah
    Bothell, Washington1,891 contributions
    Superb museum - an absolute must visit!
    This museum is a must visit if you got your feet wet in tech or are generally curious about the various facets of it. The museum is split based on two themes - today's technology with big data and how it is shaping up the world of tomorrow and the history of tech, how we reached where we are today. I was able to spend time only in the latter half, the history and evolution of computers from the mid 20th century. I ended up spending over 3 hours here and thus was too tired to check the modern technology exhibits. I began with a wonderful tour given by Justin, one of the staffers at the museum. They have three tours everyday, I'd encourage you to try and make it for one if you can. The tour was about early development and democratization of computing - a special shout-out to Justin who conducted an excellent tour. At the entry to the vintage section is an "Enigma" machine, that was used quite extensively by Germany in World War 2. On display is the Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP-7 and subsequent versions of computers from the same family. The punch card machine (IBM 029) and the instruction set to create our own punch card is novel. It was enriching to read about the evolution of programming through punch card, punch card reader and the way punch cards were a way of life especially in universities and big companies. This floor then moves on to MITS Altair, based on the Intel 8080 microprocessor. They do have a working MITS Altair 8800 "computer" on display - that is priceless! They do an excellent job of walking though the popular culture of those days, the development of Altair and how eventually they faded away. Along this display is where they introduce the tech titans of Microsoft and Apple. There is mention of the founders of the two companies, the difference in the way they started out and the evolution of either of them and how they came to be the duopolies in the tech scene till late 20th century. I was particularly fascinated by the Microsoft exhibits - which included Windows 1.0, evolution of Microsoft Office and the advent and decline of Microsoft Home (products like Microsoft Encarta and Flight Simulator etc). I loved the layout and the explanations in this museum. Most of this stuff needs a lot of explanation and they've done a wonderful job with the plaques and short videos. The best part about this museum is the working machines, which have definitely been restored with time, care and effort. To play Pacman on Windows 1.0 or Apple II or write a basic program on the Altair 8800 is an incredible feel and something that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. The entrance fees is on the higher side ($22 for adults), if you purchase the ticket online, the price is slightly lower ($18). But I'll add that the price is should be considered in conjunction with the value of exhibits they have on display and the efforts that would have involved getting those machines online. They have a parking lot where free parking is provided. There are plenty of computer and arcade games to keep kids occupied as well! I'll definitely make another visit, especially to cover the modern tech displays which I didn't get time for!
    Visited September 2019
    Written September 2, 2019
  • Taffmaistergeneral
    4 contributions
    Entrance fee
    This place would have had top marks if it wasn’t for the entrance fee. Over $80 for a family of 4. Where we live museums are free. They could lower their prices. Plus side.. kids enjoyed for 3 hours. Retro Arcade machines were free and addictive.
    Visited August 2019
    Written August 28, 2019
  • Seth L
    Colorado Springs, Colorado138 contributions
    An Interactive Museum Done Right
    The funny thing was that I had no idea that this place even existed until I found a brochure on the Bridgebain Island ferry. The place was a little hard to get to from the SODO Link station, but the museum did not disappoint! It consists of 3 floors, and each floor consists of interactive exhibits that teach you about how computers, both old and new, work, using layman's terms and hands-on methods. It has instructions on how to operate older computers, as well as fully-functional models to apply what they teach you. Many of the computers and video game consoles have applications games you can play like Macintosh Paint, Oregon Trail, DOOM, and Atari classics. If you're a computer wiz, or have even a slight interest in computers and video games, definitely check this museum out!
    Visited August 2019
    Traveled solo
    Written August 9, 2019
These reviews are the subjective opinion of Tripadvisor members and not of TripAdvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.

5.0
209 reviews
Excellent
169
Very good
33
Average
7
Poor
0
Terrible
0

smccallister
Bothell, Washington, United States35 contributions
Jul 2018 • Family
For anyone who is interested in the history of computing, this is a mandatory visit. They have the world's largest inventory of working computers, from PC's to mainframes. And that part about the computers working? Most of them not only are working, but you can touch and play with them. How about playing with a functioning Xerox Alto (the first PC with a graphical user interface, famously "borrowed" for the Mac and Windows afterwards)? You can also be hands on with the Apple Lisa and even a PC running Windows 1.0. Lots of really spectacular looking mainframes and a lot of pieces of computer history, such as Bill Gate's resume from back in the 1970's. They've got everything here, from Commodore to Atari to Apple II's -- and you can run software like Oregon Trail on these vintage machines.

In the last couple of years the Museum has branched out to include a ground level space with information and displays about current topics like virtual reality, robotics, and self-driving cars. There's also a classroom / maker space where classes are taught.

All of this comes via MS co-founder Paul Allen, one of several museums benefiting from his personal collections of various items (Museum of Pop History and the Flying Heritage Museum of planes and tanks!)

The Museum is just north of Starbucks Headquarters on First Avenue South in the Sodo neighborhood, and there's a free parking lot on the north side of the building.
Written August 19, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

iocat
Seattle, WA75 contributions
Apr 2018 • Family
The museum really got its start on the second floor. Basically Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft, collected one of all the many computers he worked with as a kid (and adult), and paid a bunch of his nerd friends to get them in full working order, then made it a museum.

Want to program and Altair 8080 (the very first PC) with a teletype, running MicroSoft BASIC 1.0? Have at it! (Except get there early, because it breaks a lot.) Want to see a PDP-11 running beautiful blinking lights displays? This is basically the only place in the world to see a working one! Mainframes too! And Apple IIs, C64s, Tandys, IBM PCs and more.

The docent tours provide a FANTASTIC exploration of the history of computers, and there are some very interesting rotating displays. There's also a great library of books.

The first floor covers more modern stuff like robotics, 3D printing, and seems more like a traditional science museum (aka a bunch of stuff that seems aimed at kids more adults -- I love the upstairs and I find the first floor very skippable, but then, I am a hardcore nerd).

There's a really good nerdy gift shop, coffee and candy. Oh and free parking.

If you really want to get your geek on, after you're done here, head over to Re-PC and check out their little PC museum too -- and their collection of amazing surplus PC stuff for sale!
Written April 4, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Jeff R
Boston, MA22 contributions
Dec 2016 • Couples
This museum (experience, really) is outstanding! If you're in Seattle, this is a must do. The museum and design lab space take up 2 floors in a beautiful building. Ground level you will find participatory experiences revolving around virtual reality (make sure to do the activity; it's so cool!), self-driving cars, computers+education, and the design lab, where you can build your own circuit.

Upstairs you will find every make and model of computer, video game counsel, and office machine ever invented. The "cool room" has an actual running computer that takes up the whole room. You can sit at a punch card machine and type code (which I found very cool), then you can see the various typewriters used in the business world. Then - the creme de la creme: fully functional computers from the 80's/90's/early 2000's. You can play old favorites like the Oregon Trail or Myst, or pop in an Encarta CD-ROM to your Windows 95 machine. So darn cool (and nostalgic)!

This place is definitely for kids and adults alike. Make sure to reserve a few hours because you'll be completely engrossed.

Afterwards? Walk next door to the world HQ of Starbucks Coffee and get a latte at the ground-level retail store in the building.

You just had a very Seattle afternoon. :-)

Tip: Take the Light Rail from anywhere downtown to SoDo (just a few stops) and walk a few blocks over to First Ave. It's an industrial neighborhood, but don't be alarmed. The train is much easier (and cheaper) than driving down and paying to park.
Written January 3, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

iliketowrite
Midlothian, VA593 contributions
Jul 2014 • Couples
Oh, so interesting! You can touch most everything and see how slow the early computers' response time was. Sit down and play a bunch of games, beginning with the old Pong, Space Invaders and Pac Mac. Take a guided tour to get the full story, then you're free to roam. This is a great little museum and it brings back a lot of memories for those of us who worked with these early computers. The staff was super friendly and ready to answer any questions. Admission $5, seniors $2.
Written August 5, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Nostalgiyeah
Bothell, WA1,891 contributions
Sep 2019
This museum is a must visit if you got your feet wet in tech or are generally curious about the various facets of it. The museum is split based on two themes - today's technology with big data and how it is shaping up the world of tomorrow and the history of tech, how we reached where we are today.
I was able to spend time only in the latter half, the history and evolution of computers from the mid 20th century. I ended up spending over 3 hours here and thus was too tired to check the modern technology exhibits. I began with a wonderful tour given by Justin, one of the staffers at the museum. They have three tours everyday, I'd encourage you to try and make it for one if you can. The tour was about early development and democratization of computing - a special shout-out to Justin who conducted an excellent tour. At the entry to the vintage section is an "Enigma" machine, that was used quite extensively by Germany in World War 2. On display is the Digital Equipment Corporation's PDP-7 and subsequent versions of computers from the same family. The punch card machine (IBM 029) and the instruction set to create our own punch card is novel. It was enriching to read about the evolution of programming through punch card, punch card reader and the way punch cards were a way of life especially in universities and big companies.
This floor then moves on to MITS Altair, based on the Intel 8080 microprocessor. They do have a working MITS Altair 8800 "computer" on display - that is priceless! They do an excellent job of walking though the popular culture of those days, the development of Altair and how eventually they faded away. Along this display is where they introduce the tech titans of Microsoft and Apple. There is mention of the founders of the two companies, the difference in the way they started out and the evolution of either of them and how they came to be the duopolies in the tech scene till late 20th century. I was particularly fascinated by the Microsoft exhibits - which included Windows 1.0, evolution of Microsoft Office and the advent and decline of Microsoft Home (products like Microsoft Encarta and Flight Simulator etc).
I loved the layout and the explanations in this museum. Most of this stuff needs a lot of explanation and they've done a wonderful job with the plaques and short videos. The best part about this museum is the working machines, which have definitely been restored with time, care and effort. To play Pacman on Windows 1.0 or Apple II or write a basic program on the Altair 8800 is an incredible feel and something that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. The entrance fees is on the higher side ($22 for adults), if you purchase the ticket online, the price is slightly lower ($18). But I'll add that the price is should be considered in conjunction with the value of exhibits they have on display and the efforts that would have involved getting those machines online. They have a parking lot where free parking is provided. There are plenty of computer and arcade games to keep kids occupied as well! I'll definitely make another visit, especially to cover the modern tech displays which I didn't get time for!
Written September 2, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Taffmaistergeneral
Wales4 contributions
Aug 2019
This place would have had top marks if it wasn’t for the entrance fee.
Over $80 for a family of 4. Where we live museums are free. They could lower their prices.
Plus side.. kids enjoyed for 3 hours. Retro Arcade machines were free and addictive.
Written August 28, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Seth L
Colorado Springs, CO138 contributions
Aug 2019 • Solo
The funny thing was that I had no idea that this place even existed until I found a brochure on the Bridgebain Island ferry. The place was a little hard to get to from the SODO Link station, but the museum did not disappoint! It consists of 3 floors, and each floor consists of interactive exhibits that teach you about how computers, both old and new, work, using layman's terms and hands-on methods. It has instructions on how to operate older computers, as well as fully-functional models to apply what they teach you. Many of the computers and video game consoles have applications games you can play like Macintosh Paint, Oregon Trail, DOOM, and Atari classics. If you're a computer wiz, or have even a slight interest in computers and video games, definitely check this museum out!
Written August 9, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

jenncupcake
Seattle, WA24 contributions
Oct 2018 • Friends
This place is very cool and nostalgic. The third floor has old computers and games that visitors can play like the Oregon trail and Frogger! My friend had major nostalgia when she found a magic school bus game that she used to play. We found the CD, popped it into the computer, and it was like a blast to the past! My favorite thing about this place was the VR experience. I would recommend checking it out. Admission is free on museum days which is the first Thursday of every month.
Written January 15, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MancKat
Manchester, UK137 contributions
Dec 2018 • Couples
We visited on a Saturday worrying it would be crowded, but it was absolutely fine having arrived late morning - it did seem to get busier as we were leaving in the afternoon. We attended a talk which introduced us to the various machines on the 2nd floor, including some info on the machines in the cold room, and there were more in-depth talks later on although we didn't stay for those.

There was something for everyone - plenty of "hands-on" exhibits, and we enjoyed the trip down memory lane. The entrance fee seemed very reasonable too compared to other attractions in Seattle!
Written January 4, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

d h
San Francisco, CA213 contributions
Sep 2018 • Family
This is a must see if you're in Seattle! I've been to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View and that museum isn't even close to what this museum has to offer. First of all, like the name implies, this is a "Living" museum where you can actually touch almost everything in the museum. Rather than boring, static displays, visitors are invited to touch and interact with exhibits, to be a part of them. That's what makes this such a wonderful venue. When I went they had an 80's rewind, complete with a mock up of an 80's style living room - complete with wood paneling, vintage Atari/Nintendo which of course, you could play! They also had a mock up of a typical 80's computer lab with some Apple 2's and 80's arcade that you could play for free! They had Tempest, Centipede, Pac-Man and another game I can't remember. I went on a Monday and I had the whole museum to myself. So, if you want to really enjoy the museum, go on an off day. As a bonus, Katsu Burger is just down the street and for those that don't know what katsu is - just think of a thicker version of schnitzel. Rather than plating the katsu, it's between a bun like a burger. Anyway, you could easily spend 2 hours here and maybe more if you have kids. On the 2nd floor, you can learn how to make your own game. They have multiple stations that explain how games are made and how to create your own. All in all, a wonderful experience and I just can't heap enough praise on the people/staff who have obviously put a lot of love into this place!
Written September 24, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Showing results 1-10 of 188
Is this your Tripadvisor listing?
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.
Claim your listing

Living Computers: Museum + Labs - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)