The 2018 Tony Sale Award (TSA) for computer conservation has been won by a project to restore three generations of flight simulators.
The Center for Technology and Innovation (Techworks!) in Binghamton, New York, USA, has brought back to life a Second World War analogue flight simulator, a 1960s solid-state hardware version and a digital simulator from the 1980s. The public has been able to experience each of the three ‘Pilot Makers’ to grasp the pace of innovation and development of simulation technology.
Run by the Computer Conservation Society and sponsored by Google UK, the TSA has been held every two years since 2012 and each time demonstrates the growing interest in computer conservation across the world.
Prof Martin-Campbell-Kelly, chair of the TSA judging panel, congratulated the winners, “In reproducing novel computing applications which the public can experience first-hand, the Techworks! team gives us an unforgettable impression of the early days of virtual worlds. Excellent research, skilled implementation and an impactful result make this a superb example of the power and relevance of computer conservation, something that I know would have met with the late Tony Sale’s enthusiasm and approval.”
The Techworks! project was inspired by the simulation industries in its local area of Binghamton, widely regarded as the birthplace of flight simulation. The restoration of the three simulators has presented very different challenges requiring contrasting skillsets.
A commitment to continuing to improve public access to the simulators aims to ensure that the value of computer conservation and the early developments in our digital world can be widely appreciated.
Other short-listed entries for the 2018 Tony Sale Award included:
software to simulate many computer architectures
a web-based simulation of Colossus and Lorenz 1940s cypher making and cypher breaking
a reconstruction of the first scientific computer in Argentina in the 1950s
a restoration of a 1960s computer honouring a Dutch computer science pioneer.
Previous winners of the Tony Sale Award have been the Heinz-Nixdorf MuseumsForum for its evocative and educational reconstruction showing how ENIAC, one of the first electronic computers, was programmed (2016); the IBM 1401 Demo Lab, a restoration of one of the most significant machines in computer history by the Computer History Museum in California, and Z1 Architecture and Algorithms, a virtual reconstruction of the 1930’s Konrad Zuse mechanical computer by the Free University of Berlin (2014 joint winners); and David Link’s computer art installation, Loveletters (2012).