25 June: CT Activity

  • On my “Monday visit” for this week I …
    Replaced a few of the captions in the Floor 3 display cabinets (what had been the Floor 6 cabinets, before CompSci moved to USB). Some of the items had been removed for display in the new CompSci Reception cabinet, in the USB: I am replacing these with appropriate items, and changing the captions if they are no longer accurate. I also took the opportunity of editing a couple of the existing captions.
    Why bother with these displays, with NUIT moving in (or before) October? Because this is a public display-in-waiting, and it behoves us to take good care of it as such.
  • Which raises another important point: we will have to move those cabinets in the next few months, before Estates come thundering in with their bulldozers. In a masterpiece of moving, two of our favourite porters (supervised or rather watched by me) moved them down from the 6th Floor in October last year: it was an amazing feat. Next time they move, they will have to be disassembled, and the pieces very carefully wrapped in acres of protective materials: I would guess that this will be at least a whole day’s work for two people.
  • Next today, I did a reconnaissance on an item belonging to the Museum which is in CT 111: this is a Memorex 3680 disk drive, which weighs about 160 pounds (70kg). It is sitting on a metal cabinet, which I discovered for the first time today is something called a Xerox Fury (disk drive): I couldn’t find this in Google today; it isn’t mentioned in the catalogue as far as I know.

    So just for the record, I have a place in mind to store this in the SB; again, it will require a team of people – preferably three I think – and will take about 1/2 hour. I’m expecting to do this when I return (see below).
  • Finally, I made more solid progress in catalogue verification, though only had half an hour to work on this.
  • Finally finally: CSH-SIG Committee members should be alert to the fact that Estates are already moving into CT (it was depressing to see stickers on doors in the Basement today). I have made very small steps to establishing liaison with Estates, and will make a bigger effort after I “return to work”. Now that we know we have Michelle on at least one of the relevant committees, this should be a lot easier.
  • One thing that occurred to me today: we need to get our spare keys from Reception before they move to Black Horse House, because when they do move, all their keys will be given to Estates.

Finally finally finally: I am now away until Monday 16th July. I’ll be in Canada, and so won’t welcome any phone calls or texts; however Whatsapp works, and I’ll be reviewing email now and then.

The name of the MOCA

“The museum” refers to the Roger Broughton Collection of Historical Computing Artefacts.  When we started this project [see below], we called it MOCA (in imitation of MOMA – a name familiar to us arty types) – Museum of Computing Artefacts; hence the ID being used to write these blog posts – nmoca.

The name has changed through usage in the last 18 months, partly to fit in with the general thrust of the project [see below], which is to preserve and to celebrate the history of computing, particularly at Newcastle University, and particularly with regard to educating those who wish to know.

For all I know, the name may change again, but one thing will not change: the inclusion of “Roger Broughton” in the full title. To learn more, see Roger’s original website, the intro to which explains all.

Somehow, we need to include another name: that of Professor Brian Randell of the School of Computing, who has not only donated or loaned dozens of valuable artefacts himself, but who has been the formidable driving force behind the entire project, since long before some of us joined it, in December 2016. However we haven’t yet found a way to name this “REBBRMOCA”.

The project“: a group of 6 or 7 people, some full-time University staff, some retired (and therefore even more busy), are making a sustained effort to consolidate and to “curate” Roger’s collection, in his lamented absence. Thanks to help from the University’s computing service (NUIT) we have some space for the repository; thanks to the School of Computing we have display space in their new building; thanks to generous financial help from the School, NUIT, and not least the Catherine Cookson Foundation, we have been able to make considerable progress this year (2018).

If you have questions, please email comp-artefacts@ncl.ac.uk

Finally, for my own experimentation, here is a picture …

A-blogging we will go

John Law here: I’m going to try and blog my sessions in the museum, instead of sending out emails at (what has become) random intervals.

In adition to blogging, I hope to record the story of the museum so far, since I became involved in December 2016, so that we have a record of what has been done, and therefore what may have to be done again in the future!

“Telling the story” will necessarily be brief highlights, and I think is probably going to be held in files rather than the blog, which will otherwise become cluttered with “old news”.

Small updates, with more yet to come

I have been (very slowly) updating this site to try and reflect the ongoing interests and activities within the School. I’ve just recently expanded the Data Recovery page. The elephant in the room, however, is the Historic Computing Collection, which is at present completely unrepresented here. Interested readers should head over to The Roger Broughton Museum of Computing Artefacts dedicated site. This has been adapted from Roger Broughton’s personal pages and should hopefully be a permanent home for that material going forward.

Lots more exciting stuff to add here soon!