A few red wires can be seen among a maze of blue-white wires and cable harnesses.

The Network

“The Network: People, Cables, Data Streams” puts 200 years of technology at your fingertips. Our robot Tim will lead you through this interactive exhibition.

The Human Longing for Connection

A woman and a man stand in front of a display case with Tim, the museum robot. The woman is using Tim’s touch screen, which shows an old, orange rotary phone.
Our robot Tim gives museum visitors a tour of “The Network,” highlighting selected objects in the exhibition.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

How do information and communication networks function? How do they impact our everyday lives? And why do we want to be in contact with one another anyway? This exhibition shows how we pursue our desire for human connection. The many exhibits include table telephones from Ballhaus Resi in Berlin’s Neukölln district, the first transatlantic cable, which in 1858 opened up telegraphic communication between the USA and Europe, and the modem used by activists to circumvent the state’s blockade of the Internet during the “Arab Spring.”

People and their ideas are the drivers of network technology – from the telegraph to the telephone, from BTX to the Internet. We build information and communication networks, but we are also part of them. The exhibition “The Network”, which opened in 2015 in the Ladestraße, a historic freight depot on the museum grounds, illustrates the history of modern network technology with over 500 exhibits drawn from the museum’s various collections.

The INFORMATION exhibit is set up like a library. The four walls are lined with recessed shelves full of books. There is a large table in the middle of the room. A huge octopus is suspended over it.
The INFORMATION exhibit investigates important questions: Who has access to our data? Who creates knowledge? How is information stored?
16elements GmbH

“The Network” has three main themes:

There is a circular bench in the middle of the CONNECT exhibit. Glass panels with life-size human figures on them are arranged around it. There is a graphic of a world map on the floor in the middle of the circle.
The CONNECT exhibit focuses on the users of communication and information networks.
16elements GmbH
  •  “CONNECT: Alive in Networks.” We do business, we communicate, and we stay in touch with one another. CONNECT traces our motivation for creating networks and provides answers to important questions, such as: Who participates in communication networks, and what barriers keep people out? What information do we disclose on the Internet, and how can we protect ourselves? How does the fact that we are always connected change our behavior – for better and for worse?
  •  “BACKBONE: The Technology.” Without technological infrastructure, we could neither order pizza from a mobile phone nor follow its progress to our front door. BACKBONE explains the unseen technology on which our networks run, such as how an email makes its way through the Internet, and how the Internet is constructed in the first place.
  • “INFORMATION: Knowledge in Networks.” For over 2,000 years, libraries have been our nodal points for sharing knowledge. Nowadays, the Internet not only connects us to libraries but also provides each one of us with data, information, and knowledge – from the latest scientific article to the cutest cat video of the week. INFORMATION exhibits the technology used to generate knowledge and raises questions about its consequences for society: Who does information belong to? How can we maintain control over our own data? How great is the tension between privacy protection and big data?

The Networked Life: Homing Pigeons, Modem Wars, and Toilet Seats

The MAPS exhibit is a very large table featuring objects, media stations, texts, and graphics. A small, yellow model of a map is suspended above the table.
How do I get from A to B? To find that out, we no longer need a compass or a map. Smartphones and navigation systems show us the way. The MAPS exhibit is devoted to the technology behind these devices.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

The exhibition contains many hands-on stations, where you can explore for yourself how network technology works and how we use it. The historical background to today’s technology is also a major focus, from the smart toilet seat to the online game Modem Wars. And would you have guessed that a military drone with GPS is a distant relative of the good old homing pigeon? The exhibition’s 1,600 square meters are divided into thematic units devoted to MAPS, OFFICE, HOME, and SHOPPING, highlighting the way technology has made its way into just about every aspect our lives. Those who want to delve even deeper into network technology can take a tour of the most important exhibits with Tim, our mobile museum robot.

 

“New in The Network!”

Ein Smartphone ist in seine großen Einzelteile zerlegt. Die einzelnen Module des Telefons geben den Blick frei auf die Elektronik im Innern.
Das SHIFT5me in Einzelteile zerlegt: Dank des modularen Aufbaus ist das Smartphone eine langlebige und nachhaltige Alternative zu Geräten etablierter Elektronikunternehmen.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

In our showcase “New in The Network” we currently present the SHIFT telephone, a sustainable smartphone. On average, a smartphone is only used for 18 months before it is replaced. This pollutes the environment and wastes rare resources. SHIFT has already completely dispensed with the use of the raw material tantalum in micro-capacitors and is particularly easy to dismantle and repair even by laymen due to its modular design.

 

Further information can be found here.

Highlights

Der Datenkrake Otto liegt auf einer breiten Metalltreppe vor einem Holztor. Seine acht schwarzen Arme sind über die Stufen drapiert. Sein Auge leuchtet gelb. Auf Kopf und Armen sind viele gelbe Nullen und Einsen gemalt.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Otto the Data Octopus

Otto the Data Octopus is a creation of Berlin artist and activist Peter Ehrentraut. The octopus symbolizes the efforts of intelligence services, other state institutions, and companies to collect data on citizens and customers. Since 2008, Otto has been a mainstay of demonstrations and protest actions carried out by the privacy and digital-rights organization Digitalcourage.

Peter Ehrentraut, 2008, gift of Digitalcourage e.V.

Das Stück des Transatlantikkabels steht aufrecht. Es glänzt metallisch. Die einzelnen Kabelstränge treten hervor. In der Mitte befindet sich eine messingfarbene Metall-Banderole mit einer Aufschrift in erhabenen Buchstaben.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Transatlantic cable

The first transatlantic telegraph cable was constructed as follows: seven thin copper wires, covered in three coats of the rubbery substance gutta-percha, then wound with jute thread soaked in oil, pitch, talc, and tar, and finally encased in a sheath of 18 strands composed of seven iron wires each. More than 3,000 kilometers of the cable were constructed and laid by the Atlantic Telegraph Company of London. The project began in 1856. The first telegram from America reached Europe on August 10, 1858.

Atlantic Telegraph Company, Tiffany & Co., 1858

Die Hülle des Computerspiels Modem Wars. Rechts aus der Hülle herausgezogen ist die 5-1/4-Zoll Floppy Disk, auf der das Spiel gespeichert ist. Das Bild auf dem Cover zeigt zwei Spieler in futuristischen Rüstungen, die über einen Screen und Tastaturen Panzerarmeen befehligen.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Modem Wars (computer game)

The goal of the 1988 strategy game Modem Wars is to destroy the opponent’s command center. Modem Wars was one of the first games that allowed two players to connect via a modem (and thus over a telephone line). It was developed for the Commodore 64, a very popular home computer of the day, and its successor, the Commodore 128.

Electronic Arts, 1988

Die schwarze Maschine sitzt in einem hölzernen Kasten, der aufgeklappt ist. Oben hat sie eine Buchstabentastatur eine Buchstabenanzeige sowie drei Drehrädchen. An der Vorderseite der Maschine befinden sich schwarze doppelpolige Buchsen.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

Enigma I cipher machine

The Enigma I looks very similar to a typewriter. Yet it contains a powerful encoding system that the German Wehrmacht used to encrypt radio communications in the Second World War. The cipher machine was invented in 1918 by Arthur Scherbius, an electrical engineer in Berlin. After the Nazis came to power, the Berlin-based company Heimsoeth & Rinke mass-produced the Enigma. In total, about 40,000 Enigmas of various design were built.

Chiffriermaschinen A.G., 1939

Sponsors

The exhibition and the extension of Ladestraße were supported by the European Fund for Regional Development (EFRE) and the LOTTO Foundation Berlin.

EFRE Logo: Die Europa-Fahne, gelbe Sterne im Kreis auf blauem Grund, darunter der Schriftzug "Europäische Union, Europäischer Fonds für regionale Entwicklung, Investition in Ihre Zukunft".
EFRE Logo: Ein stilisiertes blaues Männchen vor einem blau-gelben Bildschirm, darüber blaue und gelbe Sterne, daneben der blaue Schriftzug "EFRE", gelb unterstrichen, darunter der blaue Schriftzug "...eine Chance durch Europa!"
Be Berlin Logo: "be " als roter Schriftzug, daneben ein stilisiertes Brandenburger Tor in rot und weiß, dahinter "Berlin" als weißer Schriftzug auf rotem Grund.
Logo der Lotto-Stiftung: "Lotto Stiftung Berlin" als schwarzer Schriftzug, links daneben ein stilisiertes Kleeblatt in weiß auf rotem Grund.

Media Partner

Das Logo von radio eins vom rbb: "radio" in schwarzen Buchstaben, "eins" und "rbb" in orangenen Buchstaben.
Logo von GEOlino: Ein blaues G, ein rotes E und ein gelbes O, "lino" in weiß, darunter der schwarze kleine Schriftzug "Das Erlebnisheft".