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.

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!