Early Computer Showroom Chic

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Have you ever wondered what TNMOC's earliest computers might have looked like in a showroom or a catalogue? James Ball aka @Docubyte set out to explore exactly that.

James Ball has been very buy since his photographic visit to TNMOC in November last year. He has spent two months of weekend work refining images of the 1951 Harwell Dekatron (WITCH) computer to make the world's oldest working digital computer look as pristine as the day it was made. In fact, we are checking with one of the Harwell Dekatron designers and we're convinced it never ever looked as pristine as it does above!

The analogue PACE TR-48 computer at TNMOC. Relatively easily programmed to replace any of the pitch, roll, yaw and engine control elements of the standard flight control system, it became known as the "Versatile Pilot".

"From an early age, I've been obsessed with knobs, buttons, dials and the like", said James. "I've always loved the analogue aesthetic, the retro chic. I wanted to do something with CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery), but I visited TNMOC and realised I don't need to create it! It's all there! All my retro fantasies actually exist! This was the first time I'd seen it for real!"

But it wasn't that easy for James. Things like permanent display rails got in the way and that took quite some editing to produce an uninterrupted image. Inevitably, early computers have seen better days and have been bashed about a bit before finding a home in the Museum, so James has been applying the skills of his perfectioning trade to great effect.

"I wanted to put these historic computers back into showroom condition, to make them look as they would have in a glossy sales brochure. But of course many of these very early computers might never even have been photographed in colour, let alone appeared in a sales brochure. So I realised I was creating a new history, a meta twist!"

James thinks his fascination with these vintage technologies was launched by living amongst the space-age architecture of Brataslava for a couple of years and his fondness for urban exploring : "I love almost anything designed from the 1950s to the 1980s, it has such innocent retro chic charm".

ICL 7500 Series

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