Organisers of an exciting and innovative – but also nostalgic – computer fair which took place at a school in Stratford-upon-Avon, England on Saturday were celebrating another highly-successful repeat event as crowds swarmed in to see everything from retro-computers to robots via Raspberry Pi’s.
The historic King Edward Vi School, where William Shakespeare was educated, was offering a free and fun-packed digital day out dedicated to computer science and computing in education, industry and leisure, to one and all – and were rewarded with a buzzing, vibrant and diverse event for computer fans of all interests, not only gaming. In short, a show of a kind which has been rarely seen since the 1990s!
The show, dubbed the Recursion 2015 Computer Science Fair, was held in the modern Levi Fox Hall of the Tudor school off Church Street, and delivered a great opportunity for anyone looking for a techno-fix of retro and modern computing, and all things educational. Amazingly, there was no charge for both visitors and exhibitors – but the packed event was definitely worth far more than the non-existent admission fee.
There was plenty of time for all kinds of fun and learning, since the fair was open between 11am-4pm, allowing visitors to catch up on the latest community gossip and events, sign up to a user group, find out about robots and computer science – or just reminisce by playing their favourite games from the good old days.
The editor of Retro Computing News, Stuart Williams, was delighted to be able to attend in person to cover the show this year, and certainly had a ‘grand day out’ amongst the Amiga gurus, the Risc OS evangelists, the preservers of rare computers and historic software, the robot warriors and the gadget makers – and not least amongst the educationalists, teachers, and their students who are the future of British computing.
Our editor was certainly spoiled for choice, from wallowing in nostalgia (back in the 1980s-90s he wrote for several home computer magazines) by chatting to the Amiga experts, to watching the boffinaceous science and engineering antics of the fizzPOP maker crew and robot experts. He was also excited to see all the new developments in school and university computer education, especially as there were no computers in schools when he left in the mid 1970s!
GEEKY FUN IN THE SUN AND INSIDE
The weather was blisteringly hot outside, but while it was warm inside too, it was actually really cool in so many ways! In fact there was everything for the geek (whether budding or ageing!), the hobbyist, the educationalist and the prospective student of school or university to take their minds off the soaring temperatures – not to mention the handy refreshment area.
There was a great educational theme threaded all through Recursion, as you might expect in a school which clearly recognises the importance of real computing education and not just ‘ICT’ for pupils’ career prospects as much as its’ cultural connections with the Bard of Avon.
King Edward Vi School had also joined forces with several other schools and educators from the area and beyond, and students and other youngsters were treated to the opportunity to try modern coding by taking part in Android and Scratch programming workshops as well as experiencing the fun and excitement of building, programming and fighting with warrior robots in the Mindstorm Arena – as well as some high-powered modern PC gaming!
The following schools were signed up to take part:
- King Edward Vi School:
Robot Wars, Android Annihilation, E-Safety Council, DT dept, Robotics Club
- Thomas Jolyffe Primary School:
E-Cadets online e-safety champions
- The Willows Primary School:
Reach For The Stars Radio Broadcasting
- Wootton Wawen Primary School
- St Gregory’s Primary School
- Alcester Grammar School
- Southam College
There was no shortage of representation from top universities and colleges either, with Iva Babukova and Adam Kurkiewicz of Glasgow University, Sam Littley & David Videnovic of Oxford University, plus Anandhi Vivek of Cambridge University showing, as well as King’s College, London.
EDUCATION AND INDUSTRY
The educational computing industry and others including one or two dealers also had a presence, with plenty to discover, and possibly buy. There was even a charity supporting villages in Africa with rather less technical tools!
RETRO AND COMMUNITY
Meanwhile, along one side of the hall, the lads from the Retro Computer Museum in Leicester had set up a massive retro computing and retro gaming presence, with a wide range of historic home computers from Sinclair, Commodore, Dragon, Amiga, Atari, Acorn and more, through a variety of early consoles to offer everything from classic coding in 1980s BASIC to total alien destruction on classic games consoles!
Indeed, the retro-computing community was well-supported by Recursion 2015 and well-represented by exhibits from user groups, and enthusiastic volunteers were on hand to show attendees such delights as classic Commodore Amigas – celebrating their 30th birthday this July – next to the latest Amiga-derived operating systems such as Amiga OS 4.1, MorphOS and AROS, presented by the guys from Amiga North Thames, Nigel Tromans, and others.
There was also a strong showing from the not gone, and not forgotten, British Acorn operating system Risc OS, both on classic Acorn gear such as the 1990s Risc PC and on the comparatively tiny – yet even more powerful – modern Raspberry Pi computer, both being shown off by Bryan Hogan and colleague from ROUGOL as well as the The Midlands RiscOS User Group who were holding their annual Summer Show as part of Recursion.
Amongst many others, Stuart Williams had the additional pleasure of meeting Vince Hudd of Softrock and RISCOSitory fame, as well as Tom Williamson demonstrating education on both the classic BBC Micro and its literal and spiritual descendant the Raspberry Pi – in his own designed Ident case. He also chatted to Chris Dewhurst, editor of Drag n Drop Magazine, Anthony Bartram of Amcog Games showing off Overlord, and Andy Spencer of Retro Computer Museum. He also spoke to Neville Hunt who was demonstrating ThePitrol and 7 Segments of Pi
FIZZES, POPS AND ROVING ROBOTS!
Some remarkable robots and eerie electronics were on show, amongst other things, by Dr Bill Bigge of Creative Robotics and Imagineering, who was showing his proof of concenpt for 3D-printing a space habitat in orbit; David Hannaford of the King Edward Vi School Robotics Club, presenting his line-following and wall-climbing bots, and last but definitely not least, the fascinating fizzPOP Makerspace crew from Birmingham – mad scientists one and all – who had more geekery going on than you could shake a sonic screwdriver at!
What a great complement to all the other amazing gadgetry elsewhere in the hall!
Some of the day’s other exhibitors attending were as follows:
For anyone else whom we may have missed – we hope to see you next year!