GEEKs invade Birmingham this weekend!

Heroes and Villains is the theme
Heroes and Villains

This weekend, geeks and gamers will be an even more common sight in Birmingham, England than usual, as the GEEK festival moves north from its usual home in Margate, Kent – and this latest event has the theme of Heroes and Villains!

Since 2012 the event has run in the February school half term, inviting people to come and play in the seaside town in the winter.  But this time the geeks roadshow – organised by Marine Studios – and its hordes of fans old and new – are expected to rock up early, at the Custard Factory arts and events creative quarter and venue  in Gibb Street, Birmingham – in the heart of the ‘second city’.

Retro Gaming and geekery galore in Brum

From Friday 19 – Sunday 21 September, the GEEKS will be bringing you all the best retro video gaming from Replay Events! Classic and modern games will be available to play, alongside quirky games like Punch The Custard.  You’ll also be able to chat to indie developers, check out props from blockbuster movies and geek out to your heart’s content. Tickets are on sale NOW – check out the GEEK website for opening hours and advance tickets, and day tickets can also be purchased on the day/night.

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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nature of the computing industry, along with its tendency to discard irrelevant technology as soon as it becomes outdated, means that the heritage around its origins and subsequent developments is at risk of being lost.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.

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Get in a jam – Sinclair Spectrum style!

SpeccyJam logo - courtesy SpeccyJam

Coming soon to a cyberspace portal near you is a great worldwide coding event which pays tribute to the spirit everyone’s favourite rubber-keyed wonder, the Sinclair Spectrum home computer, which started the home computer gaming revolution in the 1980s.

#Speccyjam  is a regular world wide one week game jam, where indie game developers come together to create games with the flavour of the famous British 8-bit retro gaming legend – and the next event is on 29 August – 5 September, 2014.

Game developers may work alone or as part of a team, and can use any game engine or dev tools to create their game. It can be developed for ANY device or platform… it doesn’t matter as long as it looks and feels like a Spectrum game!

Your game doesn’t have to run on an actual Spectrum, or an emulator – It can run in whatever environment you are comfortable with, just as long as people can play it when it’s finished.

Find out more at:

www.speccyjam.com

and check out some of last year’s #SpeccyJam games here:

www.speccyjam.com/games/

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!

Upcoming at The Centre for Computing History

Centre for Computing History

One of the UK’s top computer museums, especially for fans of retrocomputing, is the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge, England.

They regularly participate in and run retro gaming and educational events but for the next few weeks their internal events focus is on things which are mostly a little more up-to-date!

Sonic Pi Workshop

This coming Wednesday 27 August, for example, sees a Sonic Pi Workshop running at the Centre, offering those attending the session the chance to explore the open source programming environment Sonic Pi, which is designed to explore and teach programming concepts on the inexpensive British Raspberry Pi computer through the process of creating new sounds. Sounds like fun!

Full details:  Sonic Pi Workshop

The Art of Intelligence Analysis with IBM

An exciting challenge will be set in the following workshop at the Centre, on Monday 1 September, from 11am-2.30pm, when simulating a real-life investigation, participants are cast in the role of Intelligence Analysts and, using the award-winning IBM i2 Analyst’s Notebook combined with their own brainpower, are asked to solve a fraud case!

Full details:  The Art of Intelligence Analysis with IBM

Continue reading Upcoming at The Centre for Computing History

Get your teeth into retro games and stargazing as Summer Bytes at TNMOC!

Space Invaders courtesy of TNMOC

Britain’s National Museum of Computing is all set to prove that computer history is fun this Bank Holiday weekend – with a double whammy of retro gaming excitement, daylight stargazing – and more!

The Bletchley Park based charity, which houses and preserves an internationally important collection of historic computers and exhibits dating back to the Second World War, when Bletchley Park (near Milton Keynes) was the top-secret headquarters of Britain’s codebreakers and computer scientists, have been running their daily series of Summer Bytes events and activities since 26 July – but there’s still time to join in the fun before the conclusion of the programme on 2 September.

Summer Bytes courtesy TNMOC

Computer games weekend

Every day, Summer Bytes is packed with a wide range of activities, but on Saturday 23 August the fun really moves to the next level with a Computer Games Weekend, offering the chance to play retro games as well as  the opportunity to meet professional games makers! Continue reading Get your teeth into retro games and stargazing as Summer Bytes at TNMOC!

computer history, retro gaming and computing today