· 1 of only 3 known surviving machines worldwide
· 1500 manufactured, all destroyed when Berlin Wall demolished
· ‘High Score’ Gaming exhibition extended until mid-September 2004
July 8th 2004, Swindon – An arcade machine called Poly Play is one of only three known surviving machines worldwide. Currently on display at the Museum of Computing in Swindon in their ‘High Score’ Gaming exhibition, this working example was manufactured in 1985 by the East Germans and is the only machine with communist party and Government approval. At that time, the Cold War dominated politics and all things Western were deemed to corrupt the Communist proletariat. Of the 1500 machines manufactured, the rest were recalled to be destroyed (reason unknown) when the Berlin Wall was brought down in November 1989.
When it was first launched in 1985, the computer technology was 10 years out of date by western standards. It has text-based graphics generated with a Russian 8-bit processor compared to the 16-bit processors used in western home computer games, or 32 bit processors used in western arcade machines at the time. The styling was unusual too. The East German TV monitor and Russian card-based computer were housed in wooden cabinets lovingly crafted by furniture makers – styling at least 20 years out of date by western standards.
There were no amusement arcades in East Germany so these robust Poly Play machines were found in municipal buildings, leisure centres and swimming pools, and offered seven or eight simple games. In the mid 1980’s, Westerners would have been enjoying ‘beat ‘em up’ games such as Streetfighters or Super Mario Brothers. In stark contrast, these simple games included a variation of Pacman called ‘Hare and Wolf’, car-racing, ski-ing (similar to ZX 81 games), and Carnival (shooting ducks). Westerners may find it harder to relate to games such as a man chasing butterflies or Deerhunt, which may have a cultural significance for East Germans. Another game, ‘Catch the drips in a bucket or drown’, makes one wonder if the residents of state-owned apartments ever found themselves in a similar predicament!
Curator, Simon Webb comments ‘The Poly Play is a real coup for the Museum of Computing. It’s incredibly rare and genuinely priceless making it a great addition to this exhibition. One other surviving machine is on display in the Museum of Computing in Germany, the other is held by a private collector. The owner bought this machine as part of a job-lot and had it in storage but we’re both really pleased its now on display here’.
One fifteen year old from Hreod Parkway Secondary School in Swindon said ‘I was quite surprised I liked playing it. It’s old and simple but the games are still fun.’ Jeremy Holt, Founder of the Museum of Computing says ‘Our current PC Gaming exhibition draws enthusiastic visitors from as far afield as Japan and it has been extended until mid-September. People can try out the Poly Play and 90% of our other gaming exhibits at our Saturday morning ‘hands-on’ sessions’.
See www.museum-of-computing.org.uk for details.
The Museum of Computing is housed in the business library of the University of Bath in Swindon, Oakfield campus. For directions go to www.bath.ac.uk/swindon/getting-here/ Open during library hours. However, for the hands-on experience of the gaming machines, Curator Simon Webb is on hand most Saturday mornings from 9am to 1pm.
Museum of Computing Profile
The museum is devoted solely to the history of the development of computers. It is adjacent to 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 has a growing collection of exhibits and accepts donations of suitable machines. 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. www.museum-of-computing.org.uk
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