Nicola Foley finds out more about the Centre for Computing History, Cambridge’s incredible archive of vintage tech
The story of this awesome archive of techy paraphernalia began with Jason’s modest personal collection, some of which was stored at his web design company’s office in Haverhill. “I had a Spectrum up on a shelf of BBC Micros, as artwork really. It didn’t matter who came in, everybody pointed them out, and we’d waste the first half an hour of meetings reminiscing”, he remembers. “Even younger people that didn’t use it remembered it from their parents having them, and it just seemed to me that everybody had an interest – so, I thought, well maybe there’s an exhibition we could do?” Jason moved into a larger building with space to showcase the collection, building a website to get the word out – and, rather unexpectedly, “People just kept showing up with more stuff!” he laughs, shaking his head. Soon enough, the burgeoning collection attracted the attention of Neil Davidson, co- founder of Redgate Software, who told Jason he ought to consider moving the museum to Cambridge and offered to make introductions to help secure the necessary funding. “He was involved in Cambridge Network, so he introduced us to some companies and we managed to get some sponsorship money together. We got Arm, Redgate, Microsoft Research, RealVNC to all put in some money,” recalls Jason. “We opened up day one with some tables in a warehouse with nothing else in it, and invited people to come in and see the stuff for four quid.”
f it’s something vaguely related to computers, we collect it,” grins Jason Fitzpatrick, founder
of the Centre for Computing History, motioning around him at 1980s arcade cabinets, blinking servers and bulky monitors from bygone decades. With almost 40,000 artefacts to its name, this Coldhams Road museum is home to one of the largest and most significant collections of vintage computers in the world, featuring everything from an Altair 8800 – which changed the game for personal computing back in the 1970s – to a PlayStation 4 Pro, via countless mobile phones, calculators, some 12,000 games, 10,000 computer- related magazines and approximately 6,000 books.
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