Category Archives: Volunteering

They’re Alive! Can YOU help keep them working?

Sophie Wilson, co-designer of the BBC Micro, with the Beeb emulator on her smartphone (pic TNMOC)
Sophie Wilson, co-designer of the BBC Micro, with the Beeb emulator on her smartphone (pic TNMOC)

Over the past year more than 4,500 students have visited The National Museum of Computing on the museum’s Learning Programme, and many of them used an original 1980s BBC Micro computer to hack a computer games program and perhaps gain their first experience of coding in BASIC. (The others used a BBC Micro emulator on a modern laptop.)

It’s one of the most popular parts of the Learning Programme and high on the list of requested activities for returning groups.

Now, the museum, which is based at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, is appealing for help in keeping their collection of about eighty hard-pressed ‘Beebs’ alive – and for more people to join their BBC refurb team.  It is looking for people familiar with the computer and its peripherals, including disk drives and monitors.

Two factoids demonstrate the endurance of TNMOC’s Beebs 33 years on:

  • 2,250 hours of BBC BASIC coding each year
  • 78,000 key presses per BBC computer annually

The Beeb has certainly stood the test of time. Teachers reminisce about their introduction to computing while the students get a thrill from this uncomplicated and rewarding introduction to computer programming.

Here’s a short video about the Learning Programme to give a flavour of how important these machines are in the context of learning about computer history.

The BBC Micro Cluster at TNMOC goes beyond the Learning Programme too. It’s used by the general public, visiting corporate groups and a few of the micros often escape on tour to external exhibitions and displays.  In addition, some machines form part of static displays.

The Beebs wait patiently for eager hands... (pic TNMOC)
The Beebs wait patiently for eager hands… (pic TNMOC)

The main problem that tends to occur with these otherwise robust Acorn computers is two capacitors in the power supply that dry out and, if not replaced, may explode with a very unpleasant smell. Thankfully, these are relatively easy to replace due to the design of the computer.

The TNMOC team changes the capacitors as part of standard procedures which can also include replacing sticky keys and the odd other component that may fail. They are, after all, getting on a bit, despite being tough as nails!

Keeping the BBC cluster going is down to the skills of a TNMOC volunteer team. So if you would like to apply to join that team, please email volunteering@tnmoc.org and see the Volunteering section on the TNMOC website.

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Museum of Computing bags award – thanks to volunteers!

The Museum of Computing's volunteers are always "game" for a laugh (pic Museum of Computing)
The Museum of Computing’s volunteers are always “game” for a laugh (pic Museum of Computing)

Mixing education and fun, the popular volunteer-run Museum of Computing in Swindon, England is a relaxed and friendly place for all involved.

But that’s not just the proud staff of the museum talking – reviews back this up and are the reason why the museum, based in Theatre Square, has just been awarded TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence Award 2015.

And what better way to celebrate national Volunteers’ Week, an annual event which takes place on 1-7 June and celebrates the contribution made by millions of volunteers across the UK?

Curator Simon Webb, of the Museum of Computing, proudly shows off their Certificate of Excellence (pic Museum of Computing)
Curator Simon Webb, of the Museum of Computing, proudly shows off their Certificate of Excellence (pic Museum of Computing)

Museum Curator, Simon Webb, says, “It helps that our volunteer team is a pretty diverse bunch. From college students to the retired, and from all corners of the globe, it’s great how our enthusiasm for all this cool stuff brings us together. Besides, we reckon we have more fun than the average museum!”

Volunteers are partial to a bit of Pacmania but aren't spooked by hard work either! (pic Museum of Computing)
Volunteers are partial to a bit of Pacmania but aren’t spooked by hard work either! (pic Museum of Computing)

And if you like the sound of joining their happy band of volunteers, why not get in touch?  The museum especially needs people who can help organise events, work at the front desk on Fridays, or be assistant volunteer co-ordinators.

As a volunteer, you can do normal museum work, from greeting visitors to setting up exhibitions, you could also dress up as a game character for events, play with Lego, Papercraft (like Minecraft but with scissors) and compete at retro video games with visitors, but only if you want as there’s no pressure.

Museum of Computing volunteers get up close and pixellated with Mario (pic Museum of Computing)
Museum of Computing volunteers get up close and pixellated with Mario (pic Museum of Computing)

As for the many visitors to the museum, few can resist getting hands-on in the ‘Pong to PlayStation’ gallery with three decades of gaming to enjoy.

For inspiration, active displays bring alive the story of computing together with artefacts ranging from pioneering pre-70s machines, to nostalgic home computers from the 80s and 90s plus hand-held toys, robots, calculators and other fascinating stuff.

The Museum of Computing offers a great escape from wet weather, and shopping, in Swindon’s town centre.  It is open on Fridays from 10am until 4pm and on Saturdays from 9.30am until 5pm.

For more details of the museum, check out their website: www.museumofcomputing.org.uk

And to find out about volunteering there,  email: nora@museumofcomputing.org.uk or call 07834 375628.

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.