2016: computer museums

During previous year I visited some computer related museums. Not every I planned to but still there were a few of them.

Faculty of Information Technology, Brno

In February, during Devconf.cz conference, I visited their small “IT Museum” where several machines used in Czechoslovakia were presented.

There were mainframe setups, several storage units and operating memories from different decades.

80s (and 90s) called with several ZX Spectrum clones, PMD-85 with it’s clones and some other microcomputers from this side of Iron Curtain.

It was nice place to visit even just to see all those computers made in Czechoslovakia.

For more photos please go to my “2016-02 devconf.cz it museum” album.

Technical Museum, Warsaw

In April I came to Warsaw for OpenSource day conference. And visited Technical Museum there to see some Polish computers of mainframe era.

There were many interesting machines. One of them was AKAT-1, the first transistor-based differential equation analyzer:

Other was K-202 — first Polish 16bit computer. Never became popular due to being shutdown by goverment.

Few years later Mera 400 was released. It used K-202 technology:

There were also few Odra systems:

For full resolution photos go to my Muzeum techniki w Warszawie album.

The National Museum Of Computing, Bletchley Park

May came. I went to UK to visit Bletchley Park. Awesome place to visit. And right next to it is The National Museum Of Computing (TNMOC in short).

Inside there is history. I mean HISTORY.

By mistake I entered museum through wrong door and started from oldest exhibition. It was showing the story of breaking Lorentz code used by Germany during second world war. And hardware designed for it. Contrary to Enigma there was no Lorentz machines in Allies possession.

Rebuild of British Tunny Machine:

Rebuild of Heath Robinson machine:

Next to it was room with working replica of first computer: Colossus.

And here you can see it running:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4UTrfv0HwI]

There were several other computers of course. I saw ICL 2900 system, several Elliotts and PDP systems, some IBM machines and others from 50-70s.

One of them was Harwell Dekatron Computer (also known as WITCH). It is oldest working computer:

Then there was wide selection of microcomputers from 80s and 90s. Several British ones and others from anywhere else. There was a shelf with Tube extensions for BBC Micro but it lacked ARM1 one:

For full resolution photos check my The National Museum Of Computing album.

The Centre for Computing History, Cambridge

This museum was on my list for far too long. When I was in Cambridge few years ago it was closed. Next time I did not managed to find time to go there. Finally, during last Linaro sprint, we agreed that we have to go there and we went during lunch break.

For me the main reason of going there was my wish to see ARM1 cpu. It was available only as Tube (extension board for BBC Micro) and only for some selected companies which makes it quite rare.

The first thing I saw after entering museum was “Macroprocesor”. Imagine CPU in size of 70s mainframe with LED on each line, register bit etc.

Next room was arranged in a form of British classroom. Set of BBC Micro computers arranged with monitors, manuals, programs.

And then I went to look around. There were many different computers shown. Some behind glass, some turned on with possibility to play with them (or on them). It was opportunity to see how design was changing through all those years.

There were also several Acorn machines — both ARM and 6502 powered ones.

As most of computer museums that one also has some exclusive content. This time it was NeXT workstation which was used as first web server by Tim Berners-Lee:

And Apple Macintosh SE 30 owned by Douglas Adams, author of “Hitchhiker Guide to the Galaxy”. Note a towel on top of computer:

Other interesting thing was comparison of storage density through all those years. Note 5MB hard drive being loaded into plane in top right corner.

And again — for more pictures and higher resolution visit my The Centre for Computing History album.

2017 plans

In 2017 I would like to visit Computer History Museum in Mountain View and museum in Paderborn. Maybe something more 😉

I saw so many computers at Pixel Heaven 2013

During weekend I was in Warsaw at Pixel Heaven 2013 retrocomputing event. It was interesting but I had no idea which machines I will see there as normally on such events in Poland you can see some Atari, Commodore 64 and Amiga computers. But here we got far, far more.

All computers were provided by Stowarzyszenie Miłośników Zabytków Informatyki with few exceptions. I have to visit them in Katowice one day and look at rest of their machines.

Main room was filled with Commodore machines on one side:

CBM PET CBM PET - 2KB? VC 20 (aka VIC-20) Different cases of Commodore 64

Commodore +4 Commodore 116 Commodore 116 Commodore SX64

As you see from PET line though VIC-20 to C64 (in nearly whole range of cases) and it’s portable SX64 version. Then C16/116/+4 line. There was also C128D but crowded for most of time so I did not took a photo.

I always though that C16/116/+4 line was disaster one. But one of guys doing C64 pixel graphics told me that they had 121 colours (compared to 16 on C64) so it gave him more possibilities.

Next set was from Atari:

Atari Video Computer System (aka 2600) Atari 400 Atari 600XL Atari 800XL Atari 1040ST

There were also 130XE, 800XE for which I do not have photos. Too bad that Atari 400 got wrong monitor — picture was snowing due to NTSC output instead of PAL (this was description from owner of same model). And each time I see TOS on Atari ST I want to run away screaming…

Wide line of ZX Spectrum compatibles:

Timex 1000 and ZX81 ZX81 with other keyboard ZX Spectrum ZX Spectrum+

Timex 2048 Timex 2048 with AY and DivIDE ZX Spectrum +2 ZX81 clone from Hong Kong

The green one was bought by my friend V0yager. It had names like “Basic 2000” or “Lambda 8300” and probably many others…

Speaking of ZX Spectrum… We got Polish computers based on Z80 as well:

Meritum Elwirka Elwro 800 Junior

First one (Meritum) was compatible with TRS-80. The second one was closer to ZX Spectrum (there was some compatibility iirc) but was extended with networking and was supposed to be used under CP/J (version of CP/M with networking and shared drives). That piano in the middle was a toy produced earlier by same company so they reused a case (including note holder).

Of course such event should have Commodore Amiga computers as well:

Amiga 600 Amiga 500 Amiga 4000

Amiga CDTV Amiga CD32 Amiga 4000: PCI daughterboard

Amiga 500/1200 were present as well as another Amiga 4000 desktop.

600 was my first own computer (had Atari 65XE before) so I took a photo. Then we have revision 3 of Amiga 500 mainboard. Lot of things done different then in later ones — such as expansion connector. Amiga 4000D was property of my friend. It had PCI daughterboard inside (with network, usb 2.0 and VooDoo3 cards) and was powered by Cyberstorm PPC card. You can see cards on the last picture.

Some selection of strange IBM PC and compatibles:

IBM PC XT Canon all-in-one Unknown PCSchneider EuroPC

Second one had touch screen, phone, fax and printer…

Other ones:

Vectrex Sharp MZ-700 Spectravideo SVI-738 X'Press Universum TV Multi Spiel 2006

Vectrex (the first photo) is machine with vector graphics only, then Sharp MZ-700 with tape recorder and printer, Spectravideo SVI-738 X'Press and then German clone of Atari Pong.

But none of them gave me such joy as line of products from other British company:

BBC Micro BBC Master Acorn Electron Acorn A3010 Acorn A3020

From left:

  • BBC Micro
  • BBC Master
  • Acorn Electron
  • Acorn A3010
  • Acorn A3020

I spent some time playing with RISC OS on A3010. It had some crazy ideas like AppDir but was fun to play with. Managed to drop down to text mode but it’s shell was too strange for me. Same with ARM BASIC. But it was great fun being able to play with one of first ARM based computers. Too bad that later someone change graphics mode to one incompatible with monitor ;(

It was great selection of old computers. I want to thank David Alan Gilbert for his comments on my Google+ posts related to British computers.