HMR is a research project about Computer Science History.
The aim of HMR is to recovery and disseminate the history and the technology of old computing devices,
with a special focus on the Italian ones.
HMR has both historical and technological goals:
- on the one hand, HMR aims at reconstructing the facts surrounding the development of the early machines;
- on the other hand, HMR keeps alive the old technologies, by restoring the originals and maintaining them in running conditions,
or by building replicas; in particular HMR uses today simulation techniques to make software emulators of the past machines.
The research of HMR is strongly related to the exhibitions, the events and the teaching activities
of the Museum of Computing Machinery of the University of Pisa.
Hacking. In order to rebuild the computers of the past it
is mandatory to fully understand their technology.
A superficial knowledge does not suffice: all the details need to be explored and understood with curiosity and commitment.
Just like it is written in the definitions of hacker given in the Jargon File.
The Macchina Ridotta. The Macchina Ridotta (MR, meaning
Smaller Machine in Italian) was
the very first computer designed and built in Italy, in Pisa, in July 1957. The MR was the first result of the same project
that, in 1961, delivered the more famous CEP (standing for Calcolatrice Elettronica Pisana, that is Electronic Computer of Pisa).
The MR has been the first computer investigated by the HMR project. Today HMR has widened its research goals,
but MR remains in the acronym to highlight the origins and the first important success of the project.
The MR was almost completely disappeared from the history of Italian computer science.
The recovery of the blueprints and their in-depth understanding led to the rediscovery of the MR
and made possible to fully comprehend its achievements and its relevance. From an historical point of view, HMR added a whole
new chapter to the annals of Italian computer science.
Experimental Archeology. Information technologies had an extremely quick development.
The hardware was (and still is) superseded year by year. Old machines are forgotten, often scrapped.
The other half of computer science, the software, was encoded in obsolete formats, the storage media degrade with time.
The documentation is lost, often it was incomplete since the start - a bad habit of computer scientists.
Men and women protagonists of the events are often still with us, but we cannot ask them the details of such complex systems.
We need to dig in warehouses and archives, decode the old formats and notations, reassemble the pieces,
make comparisons with other contemporary computers, always referring only to the technological knowledge of the time.
Gaps need to be filled with hypotheses which have to be checked and validated experimentally through simulations and replicas.
Due to the project focus and its target audience, these web pages are mostly in Italian.
Here is a selection of english documents about the HMR research and activities.
G.A. Cignoni, "Functional or appealing? Traces of a long struggle", to appear in the proc. of 3rd Int. Conference
on the History and Philosophy of Computing, Pisa, October 8-11, 2015 (ext. abstract, presentation)
G.A. Cignoni, L. Cappellini, T. Mongelli, "Games, from Engaging to Understanding: a Perspective from
a Museum of Computing Machinery", proc. of 14th International Conference on Entertainment Computing,
Trondheim, Spetember 30 - October 2, 2015 (poster).
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, S. Paci, "A Virtual Experience on the Very First Italian Computer", in ACM Journal
on Computing and Cultural Heritage, Vo. 7, No. 4, 2014.
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, G. Lettieri "Rebuilding/Interacting at the Museum of Computing Machinery of Pisa",
poster at RICHES First International Conference - Cultural Heritage: Recalibrating Relationships, Pisa, December 4-5, 2014.
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, "Designing an exhibition about the history of personal computing", poster at XXIII Congresso dell'Associazione Nazionale dei Musei Scientifici, Venezia, November 13-15, 2013 (abstract).
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, "A Syllabus for the Fifties, Teaching Computer Science on the first Italian Computers", talk at 2nd Int. Conference on the History and Philosophy of Computing, Paris, October 28-31, 2013 (slides).
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, "Les premiers ordinateurs Olivetti: Deux études de cas in brand making", talk at the
Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris, June 25, 2013.
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, "Using Old Computers for Teaching Computer Science", proc. of Making the History of Computing Relevant - IFIP WG 9.7 International Conference, (A. Tatnall et alii eds.) Springer, Science Museum, London, June 17-18, 2013, ISBN: 978-3-642-41649-1 (slides).
G.A. Cignoni, "Computer Science Illustrated through Old Computers", talk at Knowledge Triangle - New formulas for
science communication, Pisa, May 24, 2013.
G.A. Cignoni, S. Paci "UML Modelling and Code Generation For Agent-based, Discrete Events Simulation", proc. of International Workshop on Applied Modeling and Simulation, Roma, September 24-27, 2012, ISBN: 978-88-97999-06-5 (slides).
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, "Rediscovering the Very First Italian Digital Computer", proc. of IEEE 3rd HISTory of ELectro-technology CONference, Pavia, 5-7 settembre 2012, ISBN: 978-1-4673-3079-4 (slides, on IEEExplore).
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, "Experimental Archeology of Computer Science", proc. of II Congresso La ricerca scientifica in Museo,
Calci (Pi), May 25-26, 2012, Soc. Toscana di Scienze Naturali, Mem. Serie B, 119, 2012.
G.A. Cignoni, F. Gadducci, A. Rubinelli, "When Hackers Rewrite History: the Lost Machine of Pisa", talk at
13th Vintage Computer Festival Europe, Munich, April 28, 2012.
HMR is on-going since the beginning of 2006, hosted at the Department of Computer Science of the University of Pisa.
The research of HMR has been funded by Fondazione Galileo Galilei, Fondazione Pisa, Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Lucca, Associazione Italiana per l'Informatica e il Calcolo Automatico. Other istitutional partners of HMR activities are: the INFN Section of Pisa,
the Dept. of Information Engineering, the Computer Museum of Novara, the Graphics Museum of Pisa, the Internet Festival.
HMR started as an one-man-project of Giovanni A. Cignoni and, in practice, so it's always been.
Many people, however helped (and help) the project with substantial contributions. In particular Fabio Gadducci and Giuseppe Lettieri on the research side, and Nicoletta De Francesco for the support via the Fondazione Galileo Galilei.