The Imitation Archive

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The Imitation Archive – the sounds of seven decades of computing

The sounds and ecology of 70 years of computing is the focus of a new Arts Council funded project at The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC). The public will be able to listen in as the project unfolds and later in the year a series of extraordinary new musical compositions will be published.

Award-winning sound artist and composer Matt Parker will start his project, The Imitation Archive, this week and he will produce a permanent sound archive of the restored and recreated working machines at the Museum. The archive, the first of its kind, will represent the phenomenal progress of computing over the past 70 years and will be lodged in the British Library as well as TNMOC.

Once recorded and archived, Parker will use the audio material to create a series of interlinked musical compositions that will reflect the development of computing from the code-breaking Colossus computer up to the present day. Other machines that are expected to be recorded include the wartime Robinson and Tunny code-breaking equipment, the world’s oldest original working digital computer the Harwell Dekatron / WITCH, the large systems of the 1960s and the mainframes that followed.

Sneak previews of the work will be made available on the TNMOC website, and the Museum’s Facebook, Google+ and Twitter accounts.

Cheryl Tipp, Curator of Wildlife & Environmental Sounds at The British Library, said: “The British Library is delighted to be involved with The Imitation Archive residency project. The preservation of sounds that are threatened or have disappeared from our society altogether is an extremely important aspect of our work and we look forward to providing a home to the sound recordings generated during the course of this project.”

Matt Parker said: "The sounds of handheld devices are all around us today and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to look back to where modern computing began, in Bletchley, and trace the rapid growth of technology through an original sound archive. I want to explore the sonic impact of computing within contemporary society. The National Museum of Computing offers a truly unique place to hear these sounds across the decades."

Welcoming the arts project TNMOC Chairman Tim Reynolds said: “Our Museum carries a message that is relevant to everyone. We are delighted to see rapidly increasing interest and enthusiasm about our work from commerce and education, arts and media and of course individuals and families. We very much look forward to Matt Parker’s take on the audio history of computing.”

The archive is being produced with support through Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts Scheme and will be made available to visitors at the museum as well as through The British Library Sound Archive ensuring the global dissemination and conservation of the hugely significant heritage working machines at the Museum.

Matt Parker will be giving a talk on his work at TNMOC on Thursday 16 April 2015 at 7.30pm. See to secure a place.

Previous artistic work on a computer theme at TNMOC include the HTML Patchwork by Ele Carpenter and the musical composition Obsolete? by Matthew Applegate of Pixhel8.

Main picture Matt Parker recording the Harwell Dekatron at TNMOC
Gallery Picture: Matt Parker recording recently at an Icelandic data centre. Photo by Sébastien Dehesdin.

Notes To Editors

About Matt Parker

Matt Parker is a sound artist and composer based in Birmingham, UK. He was awarded the Deutsche Bank Creative Prize in Music in 2014 for his project The People’s Cloud, an investigation into the ecology of the internet. He has recently produced audio pieces that have been heard at The Science Museum London, The V&A, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, The Melbourne Fringe Festival, and has performed his music all over the world.
For more information on The People’s Cloud, visit
For more information on Matt Parker, visit
To find out more information about the British Library Sound Archive visit
To find out more about Grants for the Arts, an Arts Council England programme, visit
Follow Matt Parker on Twitter @earthkeptwarm

About The National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing, located on Bletchley Park, is an independent charity housing the world's largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus, the world’s first electronic computer, and the WITCH, the world's oldest working digital computer. The Museum enables visitors to follow the development of computing from the ultra-secret pioneering efforts of the 1940s through the large systems and mainframes of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and beyond.

A pledge by an individual benefactor of £1 million if matched funding is found means that every pound or dollar donated to the Museum will count double. Previous funders of the Museum have included Bletchley Park Capital Partners, Bloomberg, CreateOnline, Ceravision,, Ocado Technology, FUZE, 4Links, Google UK, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, and BCS.

The whole Museum is currently open to the public on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12 noon, spring and summer Bank Holidays and increasingly during school holidays. Colossus and Tunny galleries are open almost every day. Guided tours are available at 2pm on Tuesdays. There are often additional opening times for the public -- see the website or the iPhone app for updates. Educational and corporate groups are very welcome and may be on any day or evening by prior arrangement.

For more information, see and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook and Google+. A TNMOC iPhone App is also now available from the iPhone App Store.

Media Contacts
Stephen Fleming for The National Museum of Computing
01635 299116

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