· Milestone machines; an A-Z of PC’s from Acorn to ZX Spectrum
· When 8 bit micros were King and toggle switches were de rigueur!
· The History of Home Computing before desktop PCs took over
27 May 2003, Swindon – The Science of Cambridge Mark 14, designed by Clive Sinclair is the ‘jewel in the crown’ at the ‘History of Home Computing’ exhibition, being launched on 29th May at Swindon’s Museum of Computing. This rare 1978 model, which resembles a large circuit board with seven LEDs that light up with numbers or letters, is on loan from Mike King.
The remaining 45 exhibits including half a dozen home computers in full working order belong to private collector Simon Webb. Simon began collecting home PCs 10 years ago and now his home, attic and friend’s cellar overflow with another 100 or so home computers from the 1970’s and 1980’s. The idea of putting these into an exhibition has been welcomed by his long-suffering wife, Linda!
People with a passion for technology will be delighted to see these ‘old faithful’ machines. It’s a real trip down memory lane if you cut your ‘digital teeth’ on: Acorn, Amstrads, early Apples, Atari, BBC Computers, Commodores, Dragons, Einstein, Jupiter Cantab’s, Mattel Aquarius, Memotech, Nascom, Oric, Tandy, Texas, Toshiba, and finally the old favourites, ZX Spectrum’s. There is even an Alcatel Minitel, a French forerunner of the Internet.
The most noticeable aspect of the exhibition is how many of these famous brand names of thirty years ago, have simply disappeared. Their manufacturers have gone out of business or been swallowed up by larger companies.
Anyone wishing to attend the launch party sponsored by Software Solutions for Business, on Thursday 29th May at 6.30pm is invited to ring Jeremy Holt on Tel: 01793 617444 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a free invitation. There is a talk about these machines and the golden era of technology innovation at 5pm.
The exhibition opens to the public on Friday 30 May 2003. It is housed in the CCTV protected library of the University of Bath in Swindon, Oakfield campus. See www.digitalhistory.org.uk for details of opening times and map. Groups by appointment as a guide will be provided. The Museum of Computing is especially keen to welcome school visits. Entrance is free of charge.
The museum is keen to encourage private individuals to get involved and to send in their anecdotes about their favourite home PC machines. The not-for-profit organisation is also looking for commercial sponsors willing to stake their claim in Britain’s digital history with their own story of innovation.
For further details, interviews or jpegs, and a copy of the colourful Museum logo, please contact
Rhona Jack MIPR
Blue Click PR
Tel 01793 52353
Mobile 07866 546221
The vision is that the museum will be devoted solely to the history of the development of computers. It is housed in the Library of the University of Bath in Swindon, and this initiative is being supported by the Science Museum in Wroughton, the British Computer Society and Swindon borough council. The Museum does not intend to own a collection of exhibits. Its function will be to act as a showcase for outside exhibitors. The first exhibition was presented by Bletchley Park Trust. The Museum is keen to show former products of commercial computer companies, and welcomes such offers.
An MIT machine was targeted to sell 200 units a year. At $360 dollars in 1975, people camped outside the factory for days to get their hands on them and the company sold 200 home computers a day.
The Sinclair ZX 80 was Sinclair’s second machine released in 1980. It revolutionised the industry because it was the first mass-produced home computer for under £100. By breaking through this price barrier, it soon achieved levels of distribution other manufacturers could only dream of.
A cut-price £49 kit version was also put on sale and Simon Webb recalls ‘In my haste to assemble it, I soldered a resistor pack the wrong way around. After a frantic trip to the local Tandy to purchase a desoldering pump and a bundle of discrete resistors, I managed to salvage it. Evenings were never the same again!’
Editors may wish to note that there are still some people who write software for the ZX Spectrum to make it compatible with other software and programmes running today.
The BBC released a version of the home computer to run with its televised home computing course and these were very popular in schools. (In fact they are still in use in a village school in Wiltshire!) The Acorn Electron was a cut down version of the BBC computer.
Although Atari were famous for their computer games with great graphics for the time, they brought out their own PC.
The Altair was a home assembly kit, which consisted of a box with toggle switches and LEDs.
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