Cambridge museum of Computing History
I hear about it through an online programming forum I visit. After having my interest piqued I checked out the website http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/. Being a geek I couldn’t help but decide to visit.
I don’t have the best sense of direction, and I did manage to drive straight passed it once, so I’ve posted a map at the end of this review to help anyone else who gets lost from time to time.
Parking was easy enough, there’s about a dozen parking spaces, and if that’s full, then you could park at the Beehive centre as it’s only a five minute walk away.
On entering, I was greeted by the staff member on the till, managing to keep my eyes from wandering around straight away I paid the £5 entry fee and stepped into the first room. It’s an entrance hall that comprises of a shop selling T-Shirts, Mugs, and other retro
computer bits and pieces, even some books on more modern things like Facebook. On my right was a TV setup with a Sega Saturn and a sofa to sit yourself down on and have a play. The basis of the museum is for everything to be available to play around with, which is brilliant. Except for a few things, like the original Atari Pong machine or the Altair. Other items in the front room include a Commodore CD32, a 1982 IBM PC, an original Apple Mac and a row of old classic arcade cabinets including Street Fighter 2. Coming off the front room is a canteen offering hot drinks and snacks, the main museum and the 80’s Classroom.
The 80’s classroom is a genius idea. It has two rows of BBC model B computers all setup as they would have been in a mid 80’s school classroom and School trips can visit the museum to receive programming classes in BBC basic just like 25 years ago. It takes the distractions out of the way, no flashy graphics, no mice, no internet, just simple shapes and text, focus on the basics of programming, which really haven’t changed at all in 25 years or more. Aside from the BBC’s, they’re also a set of desks with Raspberry Pi’s running on them, ready for learning some more modern programming
techniques, using Python or maybe (NAME LANGUAGE) School parties currently visit on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
They also have some interesting computing related displays on Mobile phones, calculators and even a Sinclair C5 Electric Car.The main room is huge, and currently, with the museum not being completely set up has plenty of room to exhibit more items. Right now, you’ll see computers like the Amiga 1200, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Dragon 32, Amstrad CPC 464, Acorn Archimedes, MSX, Commodore PET, Amstrad Mega PC and a ton of others. There’s plenty of consoles to have a go on too, including but not only the Sega Dreamcast, Megadrive, Mastersystem, Nintendo NES, N64, Gamecube, Sony
Playstation, Playstation 2, Atari Jaguar, I could go on. Let’s just say you’ll find something you like.
On talking to the curator, he told me there were over a hundred boxes of items upstairs needing to be sorted and catalogued, with many more systems needing to be cleaned up and put on display.
I was there around an hour and a half but could have easily stayed much longer just to play some of the old games available. If you’re nice to them, they’ll even go get you a game to play from upstairs if you want and they have it in stock.
There’s plenty more they could do, and no doubt will do. I’m sure they have their own plans for what to do from here onwards and I’ll be visiting again soon to see how it’s developed.
My idea would be to setup something like a walkway going up and down the main hall starting with the earliest computers and games machines working through to the present day. Applications on one side of you and games on the other. Video screens could be mounted above each machine showing other game, applications and events from that machine’s passed (such as videos of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates unveiling the software/hardware at trade shows). But that’s just my idea.
I did ask whether they accept donations as I have a father with an old Amstrad CPC 6128 somewhere in his garage covered in dust, and it’s be much better to see it put on display for new generations to use rather than wasting away in that garage. They informed me they’re very happy to accept donations as they always need spare parts for the old computers and consoles.
Another way of donating is hard cash. They are running what they are calling the 128k campaign, to improve the museum and install several new features (like better toilets), so please donate what ever you can.
Let’s be honest, this is a museum for geeks really, but if you’re like myself and grew up with 8 bit computers and graduated through different eras in technology until finally arriving at today’s multi-touch HD hand held quad core tablets, you’ll appreciate what they are trying to do in archiving the history of Computing and showing how vast the changes have been in only a few decades.
You can find the Centre for Computing History here:
The Centre for Computing History