10 things to celebrate about Swindon, No 6: The Museum of Computing
Thursday 19th August 2013
Well, yet another ‘at last’ this week. In this instance I finally managed to get beyond the threshold of Swindon’s Museum of Computing in Theatre Square. I’ve only been meaning to go in for about 5 years. Oh well, better later than never eh?
Small it may be – but it’s perfectly formed. A real little gem tucked away in Theatre Square.
I had a lovely little wander around wallowing in nostalgia as I went. Oh – the Commodore 64 – how I remember thee! My favourite game on that was Trivial Pursuit which was wonderfully animated. There was a character called TP and he stamped his foot with impatience if you took too long to answer the question. There were all manner of other animations on it too. It was well worth the pain that was sometimes involved in getting the cassette to load. Then there was the BBC Micro – oh how I coveted one of those. And all the different Macs. Or Macintoshes as they were then. Remember the translucent coloured ones? How achingly cool were they? Well they’ve got one of those. Amongst a whole host of splendid things.
There’s a lovely display and explanation of how the term ‘bug’ came into being which I’ve looked up on the internet – how fitting …
‘The term “bug” was used in an account by computer pioneer Grace Hopper,who publicized the cause of a malfunction in an early electromechanical computer. A typical version of the story is given by this quote:
In 1946, when Hopper was released from active duty, she joined the Harvard Faculty at the Computation Laboratory where she continued her work on the Mark II and Mark III. Operators traced an error in the Mark II to a moth trapped in a relay, coining the term bug. This bug was carefully removed and taped to the log book. Stemming from the first bug, today we call errors or glitch’s [sic] in a program a bug.’ Which is really rather wonderful is it not?There is though evidence to suggest that use of the term “bug” to describe inexplicable defects has been a part of engineering jargon for many decades and predates computers and computer software; it may have originally been used in hardware engineering to describe mechanical malfunctions. For instance,Thomas Edison wrote the following words in a letter to an associate in 1878:
‘It has been just so in all of my inventions. The first step is an intuition, and comes with a burst, then difficulties arise — this thing gives out and [it is] then that “Bugs” — as such little faults and difficulties are called — show themselves and months of intense watching, study and labour are requisite before commercial success or failure is certainly reached.’
But hey – I reckon I prefer the explanation that the museum gives don’t you? It’s a much more interesting and poetic explanation!
As I wandered round I saw a somewhat hysterical poster advertising a ‘Personal PC’ that was the size of a small suitcase. Hmmm. Well it all had to start somewhere eh?
The museum puts on all sorts of special events, exhibitions and activities that lets the kids get really hands on so it’s a great place to keep them entertained and stimulated for a couple of hours or more at very little expense. Theatre Square is a great location with lots of cafes close by: the centrl library cafe, Cafe Ambience and of course the Wyvern Theatre so you are easily placed for refreshments before or after your visit.
So don’t leave it as long as I did to have a look round. It’s the school holidays now so it’s the perfect opportunity to go in and say hello to Robosapiens, Furbees – my daughter had one of those till my sister murdered it – and the Sinclair C5 amongst tons of other stuff that the kids will just LOVE.
This year is their tenth anniversary would you believe – from their website:
‘This year we celebrated our tenth anniversary. Volunteers, sponsors and friends got together to look back at a decade of exhibitions, events, and activities. From a small room on the Oakfield Campus we now have a town-centre gallery and have welcomed many people from around the world, as well as from Swindon.
The theme for our birthday celebrations is robotics, and the anniversary event launched our latest exhibition, Robots Revealed. Our oldest robot, a Hero 1, is an educational robot from the 1980’s and has been refurbished for the exhibition. We also have modern robots, both domestic and industrial.’
Find em on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MuseumOfComputing and see what they are upto.
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