The Charles Babbage Institute is a research center at the University of Minnesota specializing in the history of information technology, particularly the history of digital computing, programming/software, and computer networking since 1935. The institute is named for Charles Babbage, the nineteenth-century English inventor of the programmable computer. The Institute is located in Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota Libraries in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In addition to holding important historical archives, in paper and electronic form, its staff of historians and archivists conduct and publish historical and archival research that promotes the study of the history of information technology internationally. CBI also encourages research in the area and related topics (such as archival methods); to do this, it offers graduate fellowships and travel grants, organizes conferences and workshops, and participates in public programming. It also serves as an international clearinghouse of resources for the history of information technology.
Also valuable for researchers are its extensive collection of oral history interviews, more than 400 in total. Oral histories with important early figures in the field have been conducted by CBI staff and collaborating colleagues. Owing to the poorly documented state of many early computer developments, these oral histories are immensely valuable documents. One author called the set of CBI oral histories "a priceless resource for any historian of computing." Most of CBI's oral histories are transcribed and available online.
The archival collection also contains manuscripts; records of professional associations; corporate records (including the Burroughs corporate records and the Control Data corporate records, among many others); trade publications; periodicals; manuals and product literature for older systems, photographic material (stills and moving), and a variety of other rare reference materials.
The CBI has collections of archival papers and oral histories from many notable figures in computing:
In 1979, the American Federation of Information Processing Societies (AFIPS) became a principal sponsor of the Society, which was renamed the Charles Babbage Institute.
In 1980, the Institute moved to the University of Minnesota, which contracted with the principals of the Charles Babbage Institute to sponsor and house the Institute. In 1989, CBI became an organized research unit of the University.