4th new cabinet

New Cabinet #4

In the last few weeks we received our fourth (and in the near future at least, final) new display cabinet. This was originally purchased for our Great Exhibition of the North contribution, but due to delivery lead times we ended up repurposing new cabinets #2 and #3 for that. We are now in an interim phase before cabinets #2 and #3 are adjusted for their intended purpose—our forthcoming IBM 360 mainframe exhibition—and (a subset of) the microcomputers are moved to Cabinet #4. During this interim phase we have extended the microcomputers exhibit into #4 (as pictured) whilst we work out the details of a particular theme, which (if it pans out) I hope to announce here very soon.

The Great Exhibition of the North is officially over in a week’s time on September 9th. Now is the time to make plans to see anything you have missed (that’s what I’m doing!)

The IBM Mainframe and interim exhibit ideas were first mentioned in this earlier post.

Exhibition bytes into the history of computers

Professor Brian Randell and Jon Dowland

The University Press Office have published an article about our display for the Great Exhibition of the North!

Sixty years on from the creation of the first computing lab at Newcastle University, a special exhibition will highlight some of the ground-breaking IT developments that have since taken place.

You can read the full thing here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/latest/2018/08/historyofcomputing/

The IBM PC joins our Exhibition

We’ve completed the final major improvement we planned to make to our display for the Great Exhibition of the North: the insertion of a custom-made shelf into the tallest cabinet. This has given us the room required to exhibit one further artefact: An example of the first generation of IBM Personal Computer.

Enormous thanks to Clive Gerrard, who designed, assembled and installed the shelf, with a little help from the committee volunteers and the Urban Science Building’s Maker Space for final alterations!

The remaining work we plan for this exhibition is the addition of more photos, videos, contextual artefacts and further explanatory text and links, rather than computers themselves.

As before, we will keep you updated here with all of our planned changes.

Another display cabinet

Mainframe artefacts cabinet

As promised, we have expanded and refined our offering for the Great Exhibition of the North. In particular, we have added a third cabinet containing several artefacts from the very earliest computer mainframes at Newcastle University, including the Ferranti Pegasus (1957), KDF 9 (1964) and IBM 360/67 (1967).

Compared to the microcomputers adjacent, the mainframe computers were enormous: each mainframe  in turn occupied half of Claremont Tower’s vast (660 sqm) sub-basement machine room (the mainframes ‘overlapped’ in time, so that as one came in, the other was being prepared for decommissioning). See Roger’s introductory page at http://moca.ncl.ac.uk/ 

As well as the new cabinet we have made a number of refinements and improvements to the signage, thanks in particular to the hard work of volunteer Nick Tones.

We aren’t quite finished: There’s more to come, watch this space!

Historic Computing at the Great Exhibition of the North

Microcomputer exhibit in “Beta”

I am very pleased to announce that we’ve been chosen to take part in the Great Exhibition of the North! This is a remarkable summer-long festival of amazing exhibits spanning multiple venues including our City’s fantastic museums. There are loads of interesting things going on as part of the programme that we strongly suggest you take a look.

For our exhibit we have curated a collection of microcomputers, from the very first Intel PC to the venerable Apple Mac Plus, as well as some fantastic examples of home computers from the 8-bit era including the BBC Micro and the Sinclair ZX81, as well as early examples of “portable” personal computers, along side some more modern pieces to highlight just how far the technology has come.

We have taken the decision to open this exhibit now, although we have plans to further develop the exhibit over the coming weeks, so please consider this to be in “Beta”. We will keep this blog up-to-date with all developments.

Where and when to see it

The exhibit can be seen just opposite the entrance to the Urban Sciences Building, Newcastle Helix, from now until the 9th September.

We are approximately 5 minutes from the Core Building and about 10 minutes walk from the Discovery Museum, both of which have Great North Exhibits worth seeing. We are also 5 minutes from St. James Metro Station. The building is open to the public from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Exhibition plans

Over the next couple of weeks we hope to fit an additional shelf in the right-hand cabinet, allowing us to display a second tier of microcomputers. We are also planning to move another cabinet of artefacts (currently on display on Floor 2, CS Reception) from the mainframe era to complement the microcomputers. Work is also ongoing to update, refresh or replace all of the information notices.

We will update this blog with exactly what extra items we will be adding as soon as we have determined them.

After the Exhibition

Once the Great Exhibition of the North concludes on the 9th September, our microcomputer collection will be expanded and relocated to a new cabinet, located just across the ground floor space from the current cabinets, for permanent display. The existing cabinets will be re-purposed for another exciting permanent exhibit, to be announced in due course.