Ooh look kids, I used one of those...
The PC Gallery with ‘computers’ from the 1970s to the present is a real favourite with visitors and a trip down memory lane for many. It clearly demonstrates the Museum's aims of putting working computers on display and for use by visitors wherever possible. Nostalgic for some, it's a real eye-opener and a favourite for students on educational trips.
Innovative designs from well known companies like Sinclair, Amstrad, Apple, Atari, Commodore and others from Europe and the USA, many of them working, are on display to trace the development of personal computing.
The Gallery also has timelines of the development of hardware and operating systems as well as a timeline of computing set in the context of world events, politics, culture and science.
The BBC Micro
Did you know that our very own BBC (yes that's the British Broadcasting Corporation) was instrumental in commissioning mass-market computers in the early 1980s?
One of the most iconic home computers of the eighties was the BBC Micro, which found its way into the homes of over 1.5 million people by the time it ceased production in 1986. Starting out as an educational tool for the BBC Computer Literacy Project, it soon evolved into a popular games machine (Elite anyone?), allowing you to build and control a wheeled mouse, to being a fully fledged Domesday laser disk archive system. It is also reported that as late as 2004, a BBC Micro was still being used to steer the 42ft radio telescope at Jodrell Bank.
It found more uses than probably any other system of its time and many a computer programmer of today started with BBC Basic, and dare I say, some still use it today.
That's Sir Clive Sinclair, an eminent inventor and entrepreneur of the 70s and 80s. He was one of the first pioneers of the home computer business by designing and selling a computer for under £100 - the ZX80. Soon after other computers arrived including the ZX81, Spectrum and QLs. He even tendered for the computer to be used by the BBC, but lost out to Acorn. He also designed the first electronic scientific calculators and the famous red led watch. But his most infamous design was the Sinclair C5 electric 'car', but the less said about that the better. We have a number of Sir Clive's inventions on display for you to play with (this does not include the C5 I'm afraid).
But while he was a good inventor, he was not a good businessman and eventually sold his business to Amstrad.
Amstrad (You can call me Sir Alan)
Another of those British success stories was Amstrad, a company founded by Sir Alan Sugar, who introduced the first British designed and built IBM-compatible(ish!) computer for under £500 - the Amstrad 1512 - in 1986. Unlike the IBM, the Amstrad was aimed at the home market rather than the office and, when first released, they could not make enough to satisfy demand. We have several Amstrad PCs on display and available to use.
And there's more.....
Yes, many more systems are on display for you to view and use, including a static display of systems from the rest of Europe and the USA and a nice display of portable (luggable!) computers right up to present day PDAs.
And yes, we also have arcade games
While not actually in the PC gallery, we also have two 1980s period arcade games near by; Space Invaders and Crazy Taxi.
Along side the arcade games, are some of the more popular home games consoles from Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, Atari and others which always prove popular with the kids (both large and small!).