Last night I had the privilege to attend the opening of the Museum of Computing based in Swindon. Or should I say re-opening as the museum has actually been closed for a year while looking for new premises. Swindon Council have provided a place right next to the theatre and walking distance from the town centre. On display last night was just a small selection of museums collection and it plans to change the exhibits on display every six months.
I was able to re-acquaint myself with my first ever computing experience – the good old Teletype. The school I attended was lucky in that it had access to a computer housed at Harwell which was reached by this teletype – I was hooked from the day that I saw it, aged 11. The school then acquired a Research Machines 380z, which sadly wasn’t on display yesterday but the first computer I actually owned was – the Sinclair ZX81. My next door neighbour had built a ZX80 from a kit but that was beyond me so the ZX81, coming prebuilt, was perfect and my life in IT was sealed.
Next stop was the Sinclair Spectrum and by this time I was happy to open up the box and tinker a little. I installed my Spectrum inside a full sized keyboard and had dual microdrives (yes, dual!), an interface 1 and 2 and a printer. On the back of my Spectrum knowledge I secured a Saturday job working at Selfridges in Oxford selling them. I got 1% commission on everyone I sold and like the Apple iPods of today the Spectrum required little selling and I made a packet.
There were a host of other machines on show including some Macs, a Next and an Osbourne 1 and you can see some pictures below. All in all it is an impressive collection and the new space should allow them to attract more people to the site and understand just how far we have come in such a short space of time.
The only thing missing from last nights event was Stephen Fry, it would have been right up his street!