Category Archives: Museums

Recursion 2015 repeats success in Stratford

The hall from above - general view
The hall from above – general view

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.

King Edward Vi School's Anroid App Inventor workshop
King Edward Vi School’s Anroid App Inventor workshop

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!

Recursion 2015 banner
Recursion 2015 banner

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.

A 360 degree panorama from a corner of the hall
A 360 degree panorama from a corner of the hall

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.

From Vectrex to Einstein - a tiny sample of exhibits from the Retro Computer Museum in Leicester
From Vectrex to Einstein – a tiny sample of exhibits from the Retro Computer Museum in Leicester

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

Early British home computers the Compukit UK101 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k
Early British home computers the Compukit UK101 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k

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.

From virtual reality learning to school video, there was plenty to interest the educationalist
From virtual reality learning to school video, there was plenty to interest the educationalist
SCHOOLS
Practical Programming Workshop using Scratch in the King Edward Vi School's Show in a Show
Practical Programming Workshop using Scratch in the King Edward Vi School’s Show in a Show

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.

The Android App Inventor workshop
The Android App Inventor workshop

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!

Those are the droids we're looking for - busily building and programming in the Mindstorm Arena
Those are the droids we’re looking for – busily building and programming in the Mindstorm Arena
Robots ready to rumble in the Mindstorm Arena
Robots ready to rumble in the Mindstorm Arena

Continue reading Recursion 2015 repeats success in Stratford

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Computer-mad volunteers needed in Swindon!

Museum of Computing at Swindon
Museum of Computing at Swindon

It’s National Volunteers’ Week, and the award-winning Museum of Computing in Theatre Square, Swindon, England has appealed to people who can give up some time to help out.

It is open on Fridays from 10am until 4pm and on Saturdays from 9.30am until 5pm.

The museum traces the history of the computer from ingenious mechanical devices to compact machines from as recently as a few years ago.

Countless machines are on display and many can be used by visitors.

The same goes for its extensive stock of gaming machines, the earliest of which include ‘Pong’-style offerings, which thrilled a generation when they were released in the early 1970s.

The museum also runs computer clubs for people of all ages and organises regular events such as live action Pacman tournaments.

In a news item published this week by the Swindon Advertiser newspaper, museum spokesman Rob Leaney said roles included welcoming people at reception and helping catalogue the vast collection of computing items.

“We’re always on the look-out for anyone who can help us with everything from helping out with events, manning the front desk and cataloguing the collection, to a spot of cleaning,” he said.

“Whether people can help us out with their time, or just want to visit, we offer a friendly and interesting experience.”

The museum especially needs people who can help organise events, work at the front desk on Fridays or be assistant volunteer co-ordinators.

For more details and to apply via email nora@museumofcomputing.org.uk or call 07834 375628.

Computing curiosities on show in Swindon!

Simply weird and wonderful! (pic: Museum of Computing)
Simply weird and wonderful! (pic: Museum of Computing)

This Saturday 23 May 2015 sees the opening of a fascinating  display of oddities from the collections of the Museum of Computing in Swindon, Wiltshire.

From programmable peculiarities to the avant-garde of gaming, the volunteer-run, not-for-profit museum, based at 6-7 Theatre Square, SN1 1QN, have dug out their most unusual and rarely-seen artefacts.  In fact, many will be on display for the first time!

It’s a feast for the inquisitive including:

  • Extraordinary inputs – How do Nintendo 64 games respond to your heart rate?
  • Quirky, not qwerty – How does the keyboard with only six keys work?
  • Dangerous computing – What kind of husky can you program?
  • Pyramid of processing – Who built this outlandish prototype?
  • Surfing while actually surfing – Why does this thing even exist

Visitors will have the chance to experience uncanny consoles, silicon strangeness and the electric eccentric by dropping in and perusing the remarkable selection of computing gadgets and goodies over the next six months.

The Museum of Computing in Swindon is full of fun! (pic: Museum of Computing)
The Museum of Computing in Swindon is full of fun! (pic: Museum of Computing)

And there will be regular updates about what’s on show, via the museum’s Facebook and events page as well as their website.

For more info on the museum, including opening times, admission fees and directions, check out their website: http://www.museumofcomputing.org.uk/

And on the exhibition’s Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/816997541702170/

See also the Museum of Computing’s general Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MuseumOfComputing

 

 

Computing fun with bugs – in Cambridge!

A different kind of computer bug! (Pic: Centre for Computing History)
A different kind of computer bug! (Pic: Centre for Computing History)

Youngsters visiting the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge next week will have the chance to experiment with a less common ‘bug in the system’,  when the popular establishment in Rene Court, Coldhams Road is offering the chance to build a Crawling Microbug that will definitely impress everyone you know!!

On Wednesday 27 May, from 11am, they’ll be turning their Hauser Studio into an Electronics Lab., complete with soldering stations set-up and their in-house electronics expert ready to help children assemble, solder and test their very own crawling microbug ready to take home with you. What a great souvenir!

Ideal for budding electronics engineers or anyone interested in learning to solder, this is a great project where you get to build a robot bug which loves light and scuttles towards areas where it can find some!

This is a lively and unique workshop aimed at children aged from seven upwards. All under 16’s must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Spaces are limited for this hands-on session, so booking is required to ensure your place.  You can do this online by following this link:

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/det/37660/Electronics-Lab-Build-A-Bug-27-May-2015/#

Payment is taken by PayPal immediately. Please print a copy of the receipt that is displayed at the end of the payment process and bring it with you as your e-ticket.

Please note: Whilst the Centre will make every effort to help ensure your Microbug works, careful assembly and soldering is required and they cannot be held responsible for any non-working Microbugs due to poor assembly.

This workshop session is priced at £22.00 per participant and includes the cost of the kit and entry to the museum!

Check out the Centre’s website here:

http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/

 

Project Odyssey is a smash for computer museum

Jason Fitzpatrick shows off rows of BBC Micros's and Raspberry Pi's at Gadget Show Live (Pic: Stuart Williams, RCN)
Jason Fitzpatrick shows off rows of BBC Micros’s and Raspberry Pi’s at Gadget Show Live (Pic: Stuart Williams, RCN)

The Centre for Computing History, the popular and fast-growing museum in Cambridge, England, is popping the corks in celebration following the massive success of their recent ‘Project Odyssey’ fundraising campaign!

The first stage of the project was launched on 10 March by museum patron Dr Hermann Hauser (of Acorn fame) and is now finished, having raised £100,000. What’s more, as this figure was reached within 30 days, it will now be matched by the generosity of Cambridge-based Redgate Software, bringing the total amount to a staggering £200,000!

The aim was to raise £110,000 to complete the refurbishment of the Centre’s main gallery and create a new core exhibition – ‘Tech Odyssey’ – which will chart the global impact of the computing revolution.

Computing education is fun - retro or otherwise! (Pic: Stuart Williams, RCN)
Computing education is fun – retro or otherwise! (Pic: Stuart Williams, RCN)

Continue reading Project Odyssey is a smash for computer museum

Cambridge computer history to benefit from Heritage Lottery Fund

Entrance to the Centre for Computing History (courtesy CCH)
Entrance to the Centre for Computing History (courtesy CCH)

One of the UK’s largest museums in its field, the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England has announced that it has ‘downloaded’ a substantial £85,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to support a vitally important historical project: Viva Computer! A People’s History of Home Computing. 

Computers have transformed our modern world; innovations in home and professional computing have irreversibly changed our ways of thinking, from communicating and organising, to work, life, and play! Many people access computers in their daily lives, but few know about the inspiring and remarkable technological breakthroughs and stories behind the development of the machines, the software and the games they use.

Increasing understanding

The fast-paced nature of the computing industry, along with its tendency to discard irrelevant technology as soon as it becomes outdated, means that the heritage around its origins and subsequent developments is at risk of being lost.  The Centre for Computing History aims to preserve this fundamental part of our heritage and ensure it is valued, celebrated and secured for posterity.

The Rene Court, Coldhams Road-based educational charity and not-for-profit company, which opened its current premises in August 2013, has the core purpose of increasing understanding of developments in computing over the past sixty years by exploring the social, cultural and historical impact of the Information Age.

L to R: Christopher Curry, Iain Sinclair, Sir Clive Sinclair, CCH Director – Jason Fitzpatrick, CCH Projects - Jane Phillimore, CCH Communications - Elaine Symonds  at a Sinclair celebration weekend held at CCH earlier this year (courtesy CCH)
L to R: Christopher Curry, Iain Sinclair, Sir Clive Sinclair, CCH Director – Jason Fitzpatrick, CCH Projects – Jane Phillimore, CCH Communications – Elaine Symonds at a Sinclair celebration weekend held at CCH earlier this year (courtesy CCH)
 Silicon Fen

Known locally and to many hobbyists and computing professionals as ‘Silicon Fen’, Cambridge has been, for many years, a home to global advances in technology – including some of the most important companies and innovators of the British ‘home computer revolution’ of the 1980s-90s and those that followed – but there has been no systematic attempt to preserve this rich heritage. Viva Computer! will redress this need and uncover  the memories of the past. Focusing on the people, technological breakthroughs, computers and businesses that created, developed and sustained the ‘Cambridge Phenomenon’ – the funding announced will bring these stories to life for a present day audience.

Making history

Volunteers, trained and managed by two part-time staff, will learn practical heritage skills including how to research, record and develop a compelling history of home computing in the Cambridge area from the 1960s, and explore its relevance for today in ways that are educational and engaging.

The heritage will be shared in meaningful, exciting ways through a freely available digital archive, wide-ranging learning resources, and an end festival with events and workshops.

Time to capture the magic before it fades

Commenting on the award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Jason Fitzpatrick, director at the Centre for Computing History said:

“We are delighted and deeply grateful to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for this important and timely project.

“There is a real need to capture the memories of industry pioneers, or their stories risk being lost forever. Many active members of the vibrant tech community are now aged in their 70s and 80s. Viva Computer! provides the opportunity to share their stories and make them publicly available.

“The over-arching aim of the project is to help people capture the ‘magic’, to engage with the industry’s heritage and history of innovation, and come to a better understanding of the most important cultural development of the last 100 years.”

Thrilling!

Stuart Hobley, Development Manager for Heritage Lottery Fund said:

“It is always thrilling to revisit the video games of your childhood… and this project is about so much more! This is a really exciting project that will reveal the history behind technology we often take for granted. Thanks to Lottery players’ money, we can now all learn more about the lives of those remarkable local visionaries who brought computer technology into our everyday world.”

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help to build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.

In the East of England, HLF has awarded more than £400m to over 3,500 projects, www.hlf.org.uk.

The Centre at the heart of Silicon Fen
Former chairman of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, Andrew Herbert with a young visitor to the museum (courtesy CCH)
Former chairman of Microsoft Research, Cambridge, Andrew Herbert with a young visitor to the museum (courtesy CCH)

The Centre for Computing History (CCH) has an internationally significant collection of vintage home computers, memorabilia, artefacts, documents and hands-on displays – in total about 24,000 items.

The core collection consists of 800 historic computers including an Altair 8800, usually considered the first home computer, as well as mobile phones, games consoles and calculators.

The Centre is currently developing two new Cambridge-related archives: a Sinclair collection and an Acorn collection.

See www.computinghistory.org.uk for more information.

Swindon Museum of Computing children’s events

Museum of Computing logo

Loads of fun for all the family is programmed for the Museum of Computing in Swindon, Wiltshire this weekend!

Summer Activities

In the last of this month’s Children’s summer activities, the Museum, which is in Theatre Square, opens its doors on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 August for a  Codes and Ciphers Treasure Hunt! Can you crack the 6 coded messages, find the hidden treasure in the museum and claim your prize?

All activities are free, but standard museum admission charges apply (adult admission £2, children £1, concessions £1.50 and families £5).

The Museum

The Museum of Computing opens its doors on Fridays and Saturdays and offers a fascinating glimpse into a subject that many of us can’t help but connect with.

Although it provides a serious record of serious computing, as you might expect, the Museum of Computing is also high on nostalgia. Many exhibits are devoted to home computing, so you are likely to encounter a few old ‘friends’ in the shape of games consoles and primitive PCs.

The Museum of Computing offers educational opportunities for all ages with Saturday morning computer club for children. There is a waiting list for these sessions so please contact the Museum of Computing on info@museumofcomputing.org.uk.

Continue reading Swindon Museum of Computing children’s events

The Retrocomputing heart of the Midlands is Leicester!

Retro Computer Museum logo

Did you know that one of the meccas for British retrocomputing fans is in Leicester, England?

The Retro Computer Museum, which opened its new HQ in March 2013 at the Troon Way Business Centre off Humberstone Lane, is a registered charity dedicated to the benefit of the public for the preservation, display and public experience of computer and console systems from the 1960s onwards.

RCM Weekender, May 2011 - courtesy Retro Computer Museum
RCM Weekender, May 2011 – courtesy Retro Computer Museum

The museum’s main focus is on systems that were in use in the home, rather than big computer systems and mainframes of early computer development. They have systems ranging from the early Pong consoles through the Sega and Nintendo console wars and the home computers of the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64s and Amigas.  From the famous to the obscure, the rooms at the museum are packed solid with fascinating bygone gadgets, and software from floor to ceiling!

The guys from the Retro Computer Museum at Revival 2014 with their virtual reality machines behind (pic: Stuart Williams)
The guys from the Retro Computer Museum at Revival 2014 with their virtual reality machines behind (pic: Stuart Williams)

And this museum and its enthusiastic volunteers certainly punch above their weight when it comes to retro events, having made important contributions to the content of Revival 2014 at Dunstall Park, Wolverhampton, and Silicon Dreams at Snibston Discovery Museum, as well as Spectrum @ 30 (at Anglia Ruskin University) and their own series of RCM Gaming Events, for example.

Continue reading The Retrocomputing heart of the Midlands is Leicester!