Celebrating 25 years of ARM in Cambridge

Centre for Computing History logo

Don’t let the tinsel and turkey at this time of year distract you from a fascinating exhibition which is on at the Centre for Computing History until 20th December!

The Cambridge, England-based museum is currently celebrating ARM @ 25 which is all about a remarkable British success story which has direct links to the home computer revolution of the 1980s-90s.  Their latest exhibition – 25 years of ARM in 25 Objects – features the most significant collection of ARM memorabilia and artefacts ever to be shown in the UK.

Key exhibits include: Steve Furber’s hand-drawn layout for the ARM 1, 1983, as well as Apple’s Newton MessagePad, 1993.  The Newton became something of a joke – even making it on an episode of The Simpsons – because of its erratic handwriting recognition. The vision may have been bigger than the technology at that time, but it paved the way for later developments such as the iPad. One of the first generation personal digital assistants, the Newton was powered by the ARM610 chip.

Also on show is the new BBC Micro:bit – In the 1980s, the BBC Micro introduced many children to computing for the first time. The BBC Micro:bit – a pocket-sized computer powered by an ARM Cortex-MO – aims to build on that legacy for the digital age. This year, the BBC Micro:bit is being given away free to every UK child in Year 7, to inspire a new generation to get creative and start programming.  Also on display are a champagne bottle cluster and a giant ARM microprocessor!

Pioneering processors

The original ARM processors were pioneered by Acorn for their groundbreaking RISC-powered Archimedes and RISC PC computers. Today, their more powerful and immensely popular descendant processors are rapidly taking over the world!

In the late 1980s Apple Computer and VLSI Technology started working with Acorn on newer versions of the ARM core. In 1990, Acorn spun off the design team into a new company named Advanced RISC Machines Ltd., which became ARM Ltd when its parent company, ARM Holdings plc, floated on the London Stock Exchange and NASDAQ in 1998.

From a barn to billions

The new ARM company was set up with 12 founding engineers working out of an old barn in Swaffham Bulbeck. Twenty-five years later, it is the world’s leading semiconductor IP company, with over 75 billion ARM-based chips shipped, and nearly 4,000 staff working in over 30 offices round the world.

ARM’s technology is at the heart of our connected world today: most smartphones, tablets, cars and TVs plus millions of medical, wearable and other smart connected devices are powered by ARM technology. It’s estimated that over 60% of the world’s population touch an ARM-powered device every day.

This exhibition tells the story of Silicon Fen’s most successful start-up, and how its continuous journey of innovation has changed our world …

There is no need to book this event.

Normal museum admission charges will apply.

The Centre for Computing History is located in Rene Court, Coldhams Road, Cambridge, CB1 3EW.  Tel : +44 (0) 1223 214446.

For details about visiting the Centre for Computing History, see: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/pages/28568/Visiting/

For more about ARM, see: https://www.arm.com/

 

Images courtesy the Centre for Computing History.
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Retro gamers to beat a path to Walsall

Walsall Games Mart banner

Retro and modern gamers are expected to beat a path to Walsall next April when the organisers of a popular Comic-Con bring a new gaming and collecting event to the West Midlands town.

Walsall’s first ever ‘Halloween Comic Con’ took place in the Town Hall in Leicester Street on Saturday 31st October this year, and was a popular success by all accounts, hosting celebrity sci-fi guests from TV and films and attracting enthusiastic crowds of fans, collectors and cosplayers. The new gaming event will also be at the same venue, and has just been announced.

Walsall Games Mart poster
Click to enlarge

Walsall Games Mart, on Saturday 9th April 2016, will not just be about video games, both retro and modern, there will also be Collectable Card Games, war gaming and lots of traders selling related products from favourite franchises.

There will also be toys, models, collectables and gifts on sale as well as a cosplay competition.

Admission is set at £3 each, with age 5’s and under free.

More information when we have it – meanwhile, for further details email geeks@gmx.co.uk and check out the Facebook event page: Walsall Game Mart

 

Graphics courtesy Walsall Games Mart.

 

 

Shacked up with EDSAC in Reading

James Barr in the 'Edshack' (pic courtesy TNMOC)
James Barr in the ‘Edshack’ (pic courtesy TNMOC)

A home workshop in Reading, England is today playing a vital role in the reconstruction of EDSAC, the Cambridge University machine that sixty-five years ago led the world’s computing revolution and today is being reconstructed and assembled at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) on Bletchley Park, where the process can be watched by museum visitors.

The Reading workshop, affectionately named Edshack, belongs to James Barr, who not only has the rare skills required to help in the reconstruction of EDSAC, but also has a computing pedigree that can be traced directly to the machine that first ran before he was even born.

EDSAC, full name the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, was built in Cambridge, England in the years following the Second World War and was the first high-speed electronic computer ever to go into service at a University. Because of its remarkable speed, it enabled new approaches to scientific research, which were previously impossible, and was used in at least two Nobel-Prize winning research breakthroughs.

Intricate wiring of the control chassis (pic courtesy TNMOC)
Intricate wiring of the control chassis (pic courtesy TNMOC)

In Barr’s workshop, key components of EDSAC’s central control system are being reconstructed. He is one of the very few people in the country who could attempt such a task. It requires a knowledge of thermionic valves that were used for wartime RADAR and preceded the invention of transistors and silicon chips. They were the only devices at that time fast enough for high-speed computing technology. He also has had to research and re-discover the ways that 1940’s valve circuits were made to perform digital functions.

Continue reading Shacked up with EDSAC in Reading

Happy 200th birthday Ada!

Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace), 1840
Watercolor portrait of Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (Ada Lovelace), 1840

Today is a day which should not only inspire women to an interest in computing, but a day which we should all celebrate as having a direct link to the modern world which surrounds us in 2015 – the 200th anniversary of the birth of the legendary Ada Lovelace.

Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (1815-1852), was the English daughter of a brief marriage between the famous Romantic poet Lord Byron and Anne Isabelle Milbanke, who separated from Byron just a month after Ada was born. Four months later, Byron left England forever. Ada never met her father (who died in Greece in 1823) and was raised by her mother, Lady Byron.

Trial model of a part of the Analytical Engine, built by Babbage, as displayed at the London Science Museum (pic Bruno Barral/Wikipedia)
Trial model of a part of the Analytical Engine, built by Babbage, as displayed at the London Science Museum (pic Bruno Barral/Wikipedia)
Programming pioneer

Ada was a brilliant mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on mathematician Charles Babbage’s early mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.  Ada met Babbage in 1833, when she was just 17, and they began an extensive correspondence on the topics of mathematics, logic, and ultimately all subjects, including his designs for the Engine. They became lifelong friends.

Her notes on the Analytical Engine include what is now recognised as the first algorithm intended to be carried out by a machine. Because of this, she is often regarded as the first computer programmer.  The computer programming language, ADA, was named in her honour in 1979. Based on the language PASCAL, ADA is a general-purpose language designed to be readable and easily maintained.

For more information, see: http://findingada.com/book/ada-lovelace-victorian-computing-visionary/

Happy Birthday, Ada!

Leicester computer museum to make quantum leap!

A tiny fraction of the collections at Leicester - picture courtesy the Retro Computer Museum
A tiny fraction of the collections at Leicester – picture courtesy the Retro Computer Museum

In a move that is sure to please retro computing hobbyists and retro gaming fans alike, Leicester’s popular Retro Computer Museum has announced that it is to make a quantum leap to new and larger premises in the New Year.

After another busy and exciting year of both opening the Leicester HQ in the Troon Way Business Centre, Humberstone Lane and tireless travelling to events around Britain exhibiting and making available some the museum’s remarkable and growing collections, museum organiser Andy Spencer revealed the good news yesterday.

Andy said:

“It is our pleasure to announce the Retro Computer Museum is moving into bigger premises in very early January. It is in the same area as our current unit – just a few doors away.

“This will mean that we will have more storage space, more system space and several other enhancements that we will announce at a later date. We are going from around 1800 sqft to 2400 sqft.

“However, because of this we will be closing at the end of December until the beginning of February. During this time we ask you to continue to support us and we will continue to keep you updated with how the move is going.”

Good luck!

Needless to say, Retro Computing News wishes the Retro Computer Museum all the best in their new home! We will be keeping up with the latest information on the move, and we aim to visit and publish a feature on the ‘new’ museum early next year.

The guys from the Retro Computer Museum with their virtual reality machines behind
The guys from the Retro Computer Museum with their virtual reality machines behind at REVIVAL 2014
Last days open in 2015

Opening hours for the rest of this year at the current museum location are as follows:

Sunday 13th December – Open 11am-5pm
Sunday 20th December – Open 1.30pm – 5pm
Sunday 27th December – CLOSED

Only open by prior arrangement at other times.

For more info on the Museum including contact details, see their official website.

 

Popular Amiga emulation package updated and more

Amiga Forever 4K Desktop View (Sample Screen with Merged Amiga and C64 Forever Environments on High-DPI Display)
Amiga Forever 4K Desktop View (Sample Screen with Merged Amiga and C64 Forever Environments on High-DPI Display) – click to enlarge

The official holders of the original Commodore/Amiga copyrights have made a bold step into the New Year before the old one is even out, with their new 2016 releases of Amiga Forever and C64 Forever 2016.

Italian company Cloanto Italia srl, who today specialize in retrocomputing and classic gaming, were once known for Amiga software products such as Personal Write and Personal Paint. Building on this legacy, in 1997 Cloanto released an Amiga preservation, emulation and support package, Amiga Forever, which allows Amiga software to run on non-Amiga hardware legally and without complex configuration.

The Windows version of Amiga Forever includes ‘player’ software developed by Cloanto which seamlessly uses ‘plugins’ such as WinUAE as emulation engines, while relying on its own user interface for configuration and authoring. In addition to supporting common disk image formats, Amiga Forever can play back and author files in Cloanto’s proprietary RP9 format.

The first version of the Amiga Forever package was initially released on a CD-ROM containing different versions of the emulator UAE (itself first released in 1995) for Windows, DOS, Mac and Linux, Fellow for DOS and a selection of Amiga Kickstart ROM images and Workbench disks. There was also an Amiga floppy disk available which contained the Amiga side of Amiga Explorer. The new plugin-based player software was introduced in 2007.

Amiga Forever Desktop View (Sample Screen with Workbench 1.3 and 3.X) - click to enlarge
Amiga Forever Desktop View (Sample Screen with Workbench 1.3 and 3.X) – click to enlarge

From the 2012 version onward, Amiga Forever has included Cloanto’s RP9 Editor for content authoring. Besides its own authoring and playback environment, and Cloanto’s floppy disk conversion service, Amiga Forever includes WinUAE and WinFellow, and different versions of UAE and E-UAE for other platforms. All versions of Amiga Forever include different AmigaOS (m68k) environments and support to run a large range of Amiga games and demoscene productions which are available for free download from different software publishers and Amiga history sites. The Windows version also includes Cloanto’s Amiga Explorer  networking software, which allows access to Amiga resources (including virtual floppy, hard disk and ROM image files) from the Windows Desktop.

Today, through successive development of more and more compatible software-based emulation of old Commodore Amiga hardware, Amiga Forever and the its 2008 sister package C64 Forever (the latter emulating the earlier, and equally popular, 8-bit Commodore 64 computer), allow millions of users to enjoy tens of thousands of games and other applications from the 1980s and 1990s.

AROS and AmiKit Integration (Sample Screen)
AROS and AmiKit Integration (Sample Screen)

Continue reading Popular Amiga emulation package updated and more

REVIVAL set to return after Winter Warmer success

Just part of the REVIVAL Winter Warmer (pic by Johnnathan Taylor)
Just part of the REVIVAL Winter Warmer (pic by Johnnathan Taylor)

Popular British retro gaming and computing event REVIVAL looks set to return in the New Year with all guns blazing, according to chief organiser Craig Turner – not surprising, judging by positive comments coming from the crowds attending their latest show.

After the success of last weekend’s smaller, but still beautifully marked, REVIVAL Winter Warmer event held at a leisure centre near Wolverhampton, the volunteer-supported exhibition and gaming extravaganza is heading onward and upward into 2016!

The popular combination of vast numbers of arcade machines, pinball games and legendary home consoles and computers made available for use at events by the organisers, exhibitors and supporters, combined with retro traders, plus talks and star guests at their bigger events, means REVIVAL has never had much difficulty getting gamers and geeks through the doors.

At ground level, gaming galore! (pic by Lee Mather)
At ground level, gaming galore! (pic by Lee Mather)

Putting on a major event of this kind on a small budget is never a simple affair, however, and it’s a lot of hard work as well as fun, as Craig Turner, of Turnarcades fame, said recently:

“After a tough first few events that went beyond our expectations and became a little harder to handle, future plans for REVIVAL were uncertain last year. After a major change early this year though and thanks to our dedicated team of die-hard enthusiasts, REVIVAL Winter Warmer has been solidly organised and was well-prepared well in advance this time. It was never certain though that we would again be in a position to return to full form. The primary decider was always you, the gamers, that buy the tickets and share in the hobby with us…

“After crunching the figures, I am pleased to announce that despite initial reservations about moving venue and trying a mid-sized event, ticket sales have been strong since day one and I can officially confirm that REVIVAL WILL RETURN IN 2016 not only with a full-scale event in Wolverhampton, but plans are underway for two additional events with a different focus that will be going outside the Midlands to reach gamers around the country!”

REVIVAL logo

REVIVAL has always been an event by gamers, for gamers and the organisers have been keen to stay true to their retro-gaming roots, which has aided in their success, as Retro Computing News found out at last year’s massive REVIVAL event at Wolverhampton’s Dunstall Park racecourse.

Last weekend bodes well
The REVIVAL Winter Warmer team, organisers and volunteers
The REVIVAL Winter Warmer team, organisers and volunteers

Mr Turner, speaking after the well-supported Winter Warmer weekend, said:

“Our first show in over a year REVIVAL Winter Warmer 2015 is now over and based on feedback so far, was an overwhelming success! With a sellout crowd on Saturday and an unusually large Sunday crowd too, we doubled our expected turnout with a head count just short of 700 people over the weekend. A huge thanks to all who attended; visitors, staff and guests who all contributed to an unrivalled atmosphere that our events have always been renowned for!

“Such an event wouldn’t be possible without a well-balanced team of true retro gaming enthusiasts that make up our organisers, floor staff, setup volunteers, exhibit contributors and entertainment. I would like to say a huge thanks to all of my family and crew who helped make Winter Warmer what it was and committed their efforts to bring every attendee a great time – it couldn’t be done without them. Allow me to introduce our main team [pictured above, Ed.] for last weekend, and thanks to the miracle of powerful high-resolution image editing, been able to seamlessly blend in one of our main team members who was unfortunately on a logistical errand while this shot was taken.

“Be sure to give props to these guys if you see them again or have any stories to share from the event!”

Well, we can’t say fairer than that, and despite the illness that sadly kept our editor Stuart Williams away from this year‘s Winter Warmer, Retro Computing News is already looking forward to covering next year’s REVIVAL event in person, so watch this space!

For more information and to keep up with these events, check out REVIVAL’s official website and the Facebook page.

 

All images courtesy REVIVAL and individual photographers.

Micro Mart marks 30th Birthday

Micro Mart 30th Birthday issue
Micro Mart 30th Birthday issue

The UK’s only weekly printed computer hobby magazine, Micro Mart (perhaps better known by retro fans as the original Micro Computer Mart, back in the day) is celebrating its thirtieth birthday in its current issue, number 1,390!

Micro Computer Mart was launched in November 1985 as a fortnightly publication consisting of classified advert listings for the computer trade. The magazine soon expanded in editorial content to include articles and reviews from many realms of computing, at a time when the market was still full of quirky and diverse hobbyist, home and business systems and before the current domination by IBM-compatible clones, Apple and tablets. It became popular with both amateur and professional system builders. In 1991, due to reader demands, Micro Mart moved to a weekly format.

On 14 November 2002 (issue 723) the magazine moved to a full colour format, having previously been printed (internally at least) in black and white. At this time, Micro Mart also expanded in content.

Happy Birthday!

This past week’s special issue (dated 26 Nov-2 Dec), apart from the usual preponderance of hardware reviews and specialist features, is a little chunkier than usual, celebrating as it does the magazine’s birthday, mainly with two special features. The first is an article by James Hunt entitled ‘Personal Computing: 1985-2015’ which is about the huge rise and gradual decline of the IBM compatible computer (an interesting overview, if rather dismissive of the many other hobby machines which actually made the home computer revolution). The second, ‘The Writer’s Tale’, is a personal reminiscence by Mark Pickavance about his years as a computer journalist and particularly his time as a contributor to Micro Mart since 1993. There’s also a one-pager by David Briddock highlighting some events and figures from the year of Micro Computer Mart’s birth.

Back in the day

I must admit I remember the good old days of the original Micro Computer Mart in the 1980s with great fondness; I actually penned a few articles and reviews for them in 1987-1989, when their first publishers, MicroMart (UK) Ltd, were based in Olton, Solihull. I still buy the occasional copy today, usually when I spot something of particular interest in the intermittent retro columns. This time around, the mag includes a remembrance of ‘Chuckie Egg’ on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum by David Hayward and a ‘Retro Round Up’ by Dave Edward of a pretty average-looking load of modern 8-bit games.

Despite today’s apparent declining interest in ‘home’ computer magazines (apart from those covering Linux and the Raspberry Pi…), and the loss of many major monthly titles over the past three decades, Micro Mart still manages to maintain its niche on the shelves of major newsagents, albeit often thinner than it once was, and that resilience is certainly something to celebrate after all these years.

Happy Birthday, Micro Mart!

Stuart Williams