Tech

Completed Netflix? Indulge your inner nerd with a virtual talk from a computer museum

The UK’s halls of computing geekery continue to be shut thanks to the ongoing pandemic. However, virtual tours and talks are on offer for those seeking a diversion from streaming platform bingeing.

Museums have endured a tough time since restrictions were first imposed. As well having to close in response to government guidelines, the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge suffered a burst water main, which flooded much of the museum’s ground floor in the latter part of 2020 (although did not damage the hardware on show).

Suffice to say, things are difficult. Many establishments depend on visitors or outreach (such as education) for revenues, all of which have pretty much dried up over 2020.

The National Museum of Computing, located on the Bletchley Park estate (although independent of the Bletchley Park Trust), did manage to reopen in September. It is now closed once again but is running a variety of talks and virtual tours while the doors remain shut. We took a spin from the safety of our shed last year, and would recommend the guided version of the tour (one of which is due to take place this weekend) just to bathe in the nerdy detail on offer.

After all, who doesn’t like a deep dive into the workings of heritage hardware. Not just us, surely?

Other events coming up at TNMOC include chats on computing in air traffic control and a talk on vintage computer emulation by ALGOL 60 and Elliott 803 botherer Peter Onion.

The Centre for Computing History has similarly kept things ticking over. Those following its Twitter feed are treated to regular gems from its collection although, as with TNMOC, in-person visits are not possible.

A representative told The Register the team were working on some “behind-the-scenes projects” while waiting for the lifting of lockdown. Also like TNMOC, online resources are available to keep children amused.

Those enjoying (or who have enjoyed) careers in IT likely owe it all to some piece of hardware or other, now preserved in museums such as these, and a bit of support seems to be in order to tide them over, either through virtual events or by picking up a knick-knack from the museum’s online stores. We’re rather partial to the Commodore PET 2001 “Icon of Beige” poster from the Centre for Computing History.

An alternative approach is sponsorship. Far be it from us to suggest that some of the tech giants enjoying a boost to their revenues thanks to the shift to remote working might want to splash some cash on one of the packages on offer.

Otherwise, there are the inevitable Patreon options, or perhaps a simple donation in lieu of an in-person visit.

We note that the JustGiving campaign for the Centre for Computing History stands at 97 per cent of its target. The cost of a new iPhone is all it needs to reach the hundred. ®




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