Relive the excitement of the ZX81 - National Museum of Computing
From left, an Amstrad CPC 464, a Sinclair ZX-81 with cassette drive, and a Commodore Amiga, which is still a firm favourite among musicians for the sound synthetics it produced.
The personal computer gallery follows the chronological development of personal computing in Britain beginning in the late 1960s and coming almost up to date with an Apple iPod. "No-one has chucked out their iPhones yet," said Lin Jones, the museum's project leader, but she is hopeful of getting one soon.
Although the gallery creaks with old hardware, Jones has been careful to include sections on software, both systems software such as operating systems and programming languages, and applications such as Visi-Calc, the Apple II spreadsheet program which launched personal computers into businesses worldwide.
There are also sections on networking with respect to PCs, and portability, as exemplified by netbook PCs and the iPod. There is a special hands-on section where visitors can play on Acorns, a Sinclair ZX-81 (ZX-80s are very rare, said Jones), a BBC Micro, an Amstrad, and others.
Jones said she spotted a Logo turtle somewhere in the museum storeroom, She plans to exhume it and put into the show so that visitors can hone their Logo programming skills.
The earliest exhibit is a Digital Equipment PDP 8. Most pundits say the first true PC was the Altair. Jones gives the nod to the Digital Equipment PDP 8 because it was the first mass-produced computer that could work in an office without special cooling and which did not require specially trained IT staff to install and operate.
"It might not be a desktop machine, but it's definitely a personal computer," she said.
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