Dell Donates Computer to Smithsonian
Michael Dell never imagined his work would end up in a museum when he was
sitting in his college dorm room in 1984, dreaming of building and selling his
own personal computers. Now, one of his original computers is going to the Smithsonian
Institution's National Museum of American History.
The 42-year-old chairman and chief executive of Texas-based Dell Inc. donated
a collection of materials Wednesday to the Smithsonian, including his employee
badge, one of the company's newest computers and a PC Limited computer from
The objects will join an Altair computer, a first-generation IBM PC and an
original Apple Macintosh in the museum's collection.
"If we do our jobs right, I suspect that much of the technology developed
right now in 2007 will be ready for the museum in another two or three years
or so," said Dell, who dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin
23 years ago when his business took off.
Parts of the Dell collection will be temporarily displayed beginning Thursday
at the museum's "Treasures of American History" exhibit housed at
the National Air and Space Museum.
The American history museum, which is closed for a major renovation, will reopen
in summer 2008 with new thematic exhibits. A gallery focused on American enterprise
and innovation is expected to open in 2011 and will include stories of how technology
has driven the U.S. economy.
"When you think about it, American history and its economic history are
synonymous," said Brent Glass, director of the museum. But he said economic
history can be a complex story to tell. "We hope with our new exhibition...we
will make that story come alive."
One piece of the Dell collection came from a couple in Ashe County, N.C. They
recently traded their 1985-era PC Limited, Dell's original brand, for a new
computer from Dell when they realized it could be a historic artifact.
"We had it wrapped up in a garbage bag and kept it," said Clint Johnson,
a nonfiction writer. He said the old computer, with its amber-colored screen,
was stored in their attic.
Dell also gave the Smithsonian videos, graphics and documents to show how the
business transformed into a global company.
Dell would not answer questions about the company's internal review of accounting
errors and evidence of misconduct in previous earnings statements. Despite those
troubles, he said the Dell company will have a long future.
"There's no perfect path to success but we've had a lot of fun and it's
been great," Dell said. "I think it's still just getting started."