Museum of Computing launches video series

June 16, 2008 | 08:22

Tags: #dec #digital-equipment-corporation #pdp-8 #videos #youtube

Companies: #bletchley-park #the-national-museum-of-computing #tnmoc

The National Museum of Computing has officially launched the first in a series of videos introducing a small selection of their hardware via perennial video-sharing favourite YouTube.

The Museum, which is based at Bletchley Park – home of the team of codebreakers responsible for the creation of the Colossus system for breaking German Enigma ciphers during World War 2, and the spiritual birthplace of modern computing – has been slowly preparing itself for flinging its doors open to the public, and this selection of videos created by its staff is a key step toward its official opening. Currently, visitors to the codebreaking museum at Bletchley Park are allowed limited access to certain exhibits as a bonus on their entry fee.

The short videos, available on the Museum's official YouTube channel cover the ins and outs of entering programs into a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP8 minicomputer system ready for a rousing game of chess. Younger bit-tech readers will be bemused by the lack of monitor, curious at the presence of a strip of tape seeming to hold the chess program, and completely flummoxed by the fact that the chap presenting appears to be typing into a printer; if you're of a 'certain age', however, it'll all bring back some nostalgic memories of a different era.

The Museum is also working on a second series, due for uploading some time this week, which will cover the Elliot 803. These videos are made possible by the Museum's staff being able to restore machines to full working order: not content with creating a building filled with relics gathering dust, the team aim to have every single exhibit within the Museum fully-functional and completely interactive.

It's good to see the team at the Museum producing these videos and allowing a generation of computer enthusiasts who can't imagine a life without a mouse and a 24-bit colour display to see what life was like back at the bleeding edge of the computing industry, and I personally look forward to the day when the doors are opened as a museum in its own right rather than as an annexe to Bletchley Park – and I'll be there, ticket in hand, ready to beat all comers at a game of SpaceWar.

Do we have any bit-tech readers who remember the days of punch-tape – or even punch cards? Did any of you build an Altair from kit form – and have it work? Share your experiences of the early days of computing over in the forums.
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