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Centre for Computing History seeks cash for Jupiter auction

Centre for Computing History seeks cash for Jupiter auction

The Jupiter Ace was not a commercial success, but is an important part of the UK's history - and the Centre for Computing History needs donations in order to secure an archive of company materials for public display.

The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge has launched an ambitious fundraising campaign in an effort to secure the most complete collection of material relating to the iconic Jupiter Ace microcomputer in the world - but has mere days in which to complete its herculean task.

The Jupiter Ace was the product of Jupiter Cantab, founded by frustrated former Sinclair staffers Steve Vickers and Richard Altwasser. Designed to address perceived limitations in Sinclair's ZX range of systems, the Jupiter Ace eschewed the popular BASIC language of the day for FORTH - with the result that, for those who were willing to put in the time to learn the language, programs written for the computer could run an order of magnitude faster than on the rival machine.

Sadly, the machine's lack of colour graphics and sound capabilities at a time when a large proportion of purchases were being driven by the burgeoning games industry spelled disaster for the machine. Jupiter Cantab entered receivership in 1983 and was acquired by Boldfield Computing in February 1984; efforts by the company to improve the machine's lot resulted in increased popularity with a niche market near-exclusive to the UK. It was enough to justify a tour of Europe to buy up unsold machines for conversion and resale, but not to resume production - making the Ace one of the rarer machines from the UK microcomputing boom of the 80s.

Paul and Claire Downham, the original directors of Boldfield, have now launched an auction to sell the entire assets of Jupiter Cantab as they exist today, as transferred to their personal ownership in 2005: original unsold stock of Jupiter Ace machines, master tapes for its software including titles that were never released, internal documentation and company records, and even total ownership of the Jupiter Cantab and Ace brands themselves. That's a proposition that the Centre for Computing History can't pass up.

Sadly, the Downhams aren't selling the the above cheaply. They have launched an eBay auction which opens the bidding at an impressive £10,000 - and it's this figure that the Centre for Computing History is looking to raise.

The charitable organisation has launched a JustGiving fundraising effort to raise at least £10,000 - the minimum permissible in order to place a bid on the auction. At the time of writing, however, it had managed just £520 - and with only four days left on the auction, the group hasn't got long to find the funds if the Jupiter Cantab collection is to become a permanent part of its Cambridge-based vintage computing museum.

All funds raised will go to the Centre for Computing History, with JustGiving taking its fees out of the additional money raised through Gift Aid tax claims; if the total isn't reached in time, or the Centre is out-bid at auction, the funds will be ring-fenced for the purchase of a future exhibit.

11 Comments

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Retro_Gamer 14th May 2014, 10:26 Quote
I have never managed to get down there for the day with being up in the North East, think I need to rectify this in the next year or so.

I really hope they manage to raise the funds for this, it may not be as iconic as the Spectrum or C64 from the 80's but it does deserve a place in the museum.
Corky42 14th May 2014, 10:45 Quote
Not that it probably matters, but following the link from the eBay auction to the about us page says...
"the currently trading Boldfield Computing has no knowledge or connection at all to the Jupiter ACE project"

I originally wanted to know if the people selling it needed the money, or the likelihood of it coming up for sale again at a lower price if they didn't get the asking price.
Gareth Halfacree 14th May 2014, 10:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Not that it probably matters, but following the link from the eBay auction to the about us page says...
"the currently trading Boldfield Computing has no knowledge or connection at all to the Jupiter ACE project"
That's 'cos the original directors aren't part of Boldfield Computing anymore - which I might not have made clear in the article. The auction is being run by the original directors, who were directly involved in the Jupiter Ace. From your link: "[...] including the Jupiter ACE assets, were transferred to the directors personally at a pre-sale stage in 2005."

I've edited the piece a bit to make that clearer!
Corky42 14th May 2014, 11:04 Quote
Sorry for being a wee bit dense then :o
Does that mean the money would go to Steve Vickers and Richard Altwasser ? I only ask as I'm wondering what the likelihood of it coming up for sale again at a lower price if doesn't sell.
Gareth Halfacree 14th May 2014, 11:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Does that mean the money would go to Steve Vickers and Richard Altwasser?
As far as I'm aware, no. Vickers and Altwasser founded Jupiter Cantab, which went bust in 1983 when nobody bought the Ace; the company was bought by Boldfield in February the next year. The Jupiter Cantab assets currently belong to the original directors of Boldfield, now known as either Cambridge House UK Limited or Boldfield Limited depending on which company registry you're querying. Its current directors are listed as Paul and Claire Downham, and given the "Contact Us" email address on the site starts "pauld@" I'm guessing they're the ones making the sale.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
I only ask as I'm wondering what the likelihood of it coming up for sale again at a lower price if doesn't sell.
I would imagine there's a very good chance; they're not going to want to scrap it if it doesn't sell at £10K when there's a chance they could walk away with £5K. The question, of course, is: will anyone make the minimum bid in the next four days?
Corky42 14th May 2014, 11:33 Quote
Thanks for clarifying things ;)
So are you going to make a bid Gareth ? We all know you would love to add to your vintage computer collection :D
Gareth Halfacree 14th May 2014, 11:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
So are you going to make a bid Gareth ? We all know you would love to add to your vintage computer collection :D
A: How much do you think I get paid, and 2: I'm planning to do the opposite when I get a chance. I miss having a floor in the office - never mind work surfaces...
Corky42 14th May 2014, 12:00 Quote
Well sorry if it didn't come across that i was joking, I guess it's best if i don't try entering into a little light hearted banter in the future unless I'm certain it will be taken as such.
Sorry
Gareth Halfacree 14th May 2014, 12:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Well sorry if it didn't come across that i was joking, I guess it's best if i don't try entering into a little light hearted banter in the future unless I'm certain it will be taken as such. Sorry
Oh, the irony: I understood it was a joke, and was attempting some light-hearted banter of my own. Damn text-based communication! (Seriously, though: I really need to set some time aside to sort out this office. It's absolutely chocka.)
Corky42 14th May 2014, 13:17 Quote
Opps, yea i guess text-based communication isn't great :)
There is always the loft, that is if you have one and it isn't already full of bit's 'n' bobs.
Or get a man cave, aka a shed :D
Retro_Gamer 14th May 2014, 13:59 Quote
Most of my stuff is setup in the converted loft, there are also 3 machines in the bedroom and another coming in July, think the July machine is going on the TV in the front room or find a space in the bedroom!!
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