Back in the Day With Woz: A Sneak Peek Inside the New and Improved Computer History Museum

What could be better than listening to legendary Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak wax poetic about his first and favorite gadget–which turns out to be a transistor radio?

Well, doing it inside the newly renovated Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., certainly raises the geek factor to 10.

The museum has spent the last five years planning and installing “Revolution: The First 2,000 Years of Computing” and will open the doors to the public on January 10, 2011. That’s “011011,” Woz reminded the small crowd of journalists invited for an early tour of the new Silicon Valley facility.

The museum has more than doubled its public space to accommodate the new exhibit, which includes an impressive collection of the rare, revolutionary and ridiculous–mostly relating to computing from the 1950s onward.

The whole shebang was largely funded by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, whose name features prominently in the signage.

Woz led a tour that highlighted some of the machines that meant most to him. He recounted hours spent at the IBM Model 026 punch card machine, and fawned over a Honeywell Kitchen Computer.

That device was originally sold by Neiman Marcus, complete with mod ’60s styling and bearing the “Mad Men”-esque slogan: “If only she could cook as well as the Honeywell computes.”

Woz said it was the machine that inspired him to believe computers could be attractive things for the home.

After a long meander through many, many more Woz-ly musings, the tour ended at the Homebrew Computer Club exhibit, complete with an Apple 1–signed by Woz–basically identical to the one that recently sold at Christie’s of London for $210,000. (Woz flew there and signed that one too.)

Once open, the expanded museum promises to be the perfect spot to take that über-geeky date, or just wander and reflect amidst hundreds of miles of wire and mountains of transistors.

No word on whether Woz will also be on permanent display.

He seemed to enjoy it, but you can judge for yourself by checking out our highlight video reel from the tour, complete with an interview about Woz’s first and favorite gadget, the coming robopocalypse and the iPhone as a future historical artifact.