The Computer History Museum (search), the world's largest institution dedicated to preserving Information Age artifacts, is getting a hefty financial boost from one of the biggest names in the computing industry.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (search) has pledged a $15 million gift — the museum's largest donation yet, museum officials said.

The gift means the Silicon Valley-based museum needs only about $50 million more to reach its $125 million goal of creating a full range of educational programs and exhibits and establishing a long-term endowment.

"The impact on our society of the computing revolution is simply breathtaking — it has changed the way we work, play, learn, and communicate," said Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp. (search) and the world's wealthiest man. "It's our responsibility to collect the artifacts and stories today that will explain this incredible change to future generations."

The museum opened in Mountain View in 1996.

Gates, who began his interest in software and programming computers at age 13, founded Microsoft Corp. in 1975.