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A computer museum is devoted to the study of historic computer hardware and software, where a museum is a "permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment, for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment", as defined by the International Council of Museums.
Some computer museums exist within larger institutions, such as the Science Museum in London and the Deutsches Museum in Munich. Others, such as the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, Montana, the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum in Paderborn, and The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, are dedicated specifically to computing. Some specialize in the early history of computing, others in the era that started with the first personal computers such as the Apple I and Altair 8800, Apple IIs, older Apple Macintoshes, Commodore Internationals, Amigas, IBM PCs and more rare computers such as the Osborne 1. Some concentrate more on research and conservation, others more on education and entertainment. There are also private collections.
The term 'museum' has expanded in common usage to encompass online collections, in much the same way other activities have made the transition ('Online shopping', 'Online Gallery' etc.). Online Museums range in type and quality from those that collate and preserve material to those that simply display photographs of hardware from other sources. They are distinct from traditional museums mainly in that the exhibits can not be physically touched or interacted with in the traditional sense.
Some notable museums and collections are shown below, however this is not a List of ... article. For known lists of computer museums or collections see the See also section.