Making IT Work, the first-ever international conference of computer conservationists, was held last week across two UK venues which have led the world in the developing discipline.
Organised by The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) and the Computer Conservation Society (CCS), the conference was held over two days at two venues. With more than fifty participants from New York, California, Seattle, Paderborn in Germany and across Britain, the growing art and science of computing conservation was debated, showing the growing maturity of the discipline.
The first day, at the London headquarters of the BCS the Chartered Institute for IT, focused mainly on the principles of computer conservation with presentations from several of the pioneers of computer conservation including Doron Swade, one-time assistant director of the Science Museum and Andrew Herbert, formerly director of research for Microsoft Europe who described the EDSAC Replica project. Drawing on longer-established developments in transport and industrial conservation, the contentious issues of operational preservation and traditional museum practices were discussed by John K Chilvers, an architectural conservationist. Johannes Blobel and Jochen Viehoff showed how they had addressed the practicalities of attempting to meet opposing restoration goals at the Heinz Nixdorf Museum in Germany. From the United States, Robert Garner of the Computer History Museum described the restoration and exhibition of a 1960s IBM mainframe computer, while Nicholas Hekman of TechWorks! told about the restoration of a high-speed printer from the same era.
Day two, at The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park, consisted of workshops on world-renowned practical conservation projects on display including the Colossus rebuild, the Harwell Dekatron restoration and the EDSAC reconstruction.
Professor Martin Campbell-Kelly, an organiser of the event, was very pleased with the collegiate atmosphere of the conference. “Bringing together many of the leading lights of the developing computer conservation world at an international centre of excellence was very stimulating and rewarding. The discipline is barely a quarter of a century old, so debates about best practice are still very much alive. I believe we made substantial progress in agreeing the principles upon which computer conservation can progress and thereby enlighten a public that is increasingly fascinated by the history and heritage of our digital world.”
A full set of papers from the conference will be made available online via the CCS and TNMOC websites during the summer.
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.
The Museum runs a highly successful Learning Programme for schools and colleges and promotes introductions to computer coding amongst young people to inspire the next generation of computer scientists and engineers.
Sponsors of the Museum have included Bletchley Park Science and Innovation Centre, Bloomberg, CreateOnline, Ceravision, Fujitsu, InsightSoftware.com, Ocado Technology, FUZE, 4Links, Google UK, IBM, NPL, HP Labs, and BCS.
Outside the long school holidays, the whole Museum is open to the public from 12 noon - 5pm on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, spring and summer Bank Holidays and during long school holidays. The Colossus and Tunny galleries are open daily. Public and private Guided Tours are available and bookable online – see the website or the iPhone app for details. Educational and corporate group visits are available by prior arrangement.
For more information, see www.tnmoc.org and follow @tnmoc on Twitter and The National Museum of Computing on Facebook and Google+. A TNMOC iPhone App is also available from the iPhone App Store.
The Computer Conservation Society is a Specialist Group of the BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT; in association with the Science Museum in London, the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, The National Museum of Computing and the Bletchley Park Trust.
Stephen Fleming, Palam Communications, for The National Museum of Computing