The picture collection came out a while ago, but Google recently announced that the entire run of LIFE magazine — over 1800 issues from 1936 to 1972 — are now available on Google Books. I wish Google Books had some kind of nice-looking “splash URL” where you could start a browse of a digitized magazine, but you’ll have to start with http://books.google.com/books?id=R1cEAAAAMBAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s#all_issues_anchor.
You can browse issues (and from the look of these early 70s covers, it’s really tempting) but you can also search by keyword. I did a search for computers and was a bit surprised to see over 250 results. Flipping through the results it looks like the earliest results are from the mid-1950s, but I’m not sure about that because I can’t find a way to sort my search results by issue date (AW C’MON GOOGLE!)
I picked an article from November 1957 and took a look. You view the magazine by pages, and sometimes the print makes that a little tough. But you can zoom, pan, etc.
One thing you might be surprised about is the fact that Google has apparently indexed the text of the ads as well as the articles. One of the tests I ran (“circuit board”) ended up finding a lot of ads for GE televisions — not quite what I expected. On the other hand, browsing these old magazines always gets me distracted by the old ads anyway. Keep an eye out for the enormous Sylvania “Slimline” televisions. (Buy a TV and get a free electric blanket!)
I feel like Google designs these scanned magazines more for browsing than for serious searching (you can’t sort results by date, you can’t search article text separately from ad text, etc.) but they ARE a fun browse. Worth a look.