MAY2013EVENT8 July 2013Robot Themed Party atSwindon Central LibrarySponsored byThis year sees the ten yearanniversary of t...
IT HAS BEEN A FABULOUS10 YEARS!SIMON WEBB, CURATORWhat an astonishing 10 years ithas been. We have created avibrant intera...
KID’SCLUBEDUCATIONBEGONIA SEPAThe Children’s Club has beenextended, and they now have aSaturday afternoon group. Theclub i...
PROMOTIONVICTORY AT SEAJAMES CARROLLDIRECTORiEVILGAMESWhen I was a seven year old mybrother and I received a ZXSpectrum 48...
PROMOTIONVICTORY AT SEA (cont.)I sat on the train watching a film onmy iPod touch screen thinking if thisscreen was a bit ...
PROMOTIONVICTORY AT SEA (cont.)also enables developers tospread the risk over severalsmaller titles rather than go allout ...
RETROGAMINGBEYOND EMULATIONSIMON MORGANEmulators are great. Theyvebeen created for pretty much allthe classic consoles and...
RETROGAMINGBEYOND EMULATION (cont)thing. In fact, Id argue its better,as programs load in an instant andyou avoid the reli...
SCREENPRINTINGUNDER THE MICROSCOPEFLEUR PERRYHere we have a small, light-weight circuitboard of the kind regularly found i...
LOOKINGBACKUSING OLD PROGRAMMINGLANGUAGES - BASICComputers of the late 70s hadsmall memories – for example theCommodore PE...
LOOKINGBACKCONFESSIONS OF ACARTRIDGE JUNKYI generally consider myself a logicalperson who makes decisionsrationally, espec...
ADDICTIONSCONFESSIONS OF A CARTRIDGE JUNKY (cont.)“tantrums” and the future wasbeing defined from moment tomoment with eac...
REVIEWAN INTRODUCTION TOTHE OCULUS RIFTMATTHEW O’HARA-BALLThe Oculus Rift is a new, head-mounted kit, which couldpotential...
REVIEWAN INTRODUCTION TO THE OCULUS RIFT (cont.)headset. The Oculus alsomanaged to get featured on apopular American telev...
REPORTSWINDON HACKSPACE15JESS ROBINSONHackspace, hackerspace (n):A place where people withcommon interests, usually incomp...
REPORTSWINDON HACKSPACE (cont.)16hackspace groups (Bristol,Oxford, Southampton), andsetting up a discussion group anda Wik...
QUIZPUZZLEWORDSEARCHFind:The museum sponsors?What anniversary is the museumcelebrating in 2013?Where is the museum to be f...
PUZZLEWORDSEARCH18ANSWERSWho are the museum sponsors? BCSCIX ForumsClark HoltDatalibriumDenisIntelPC TeachredheadPRShepher...
ABOUTUSGET IN TOUCHMUSEUM OF COMPUTING6–7 Theatre SquareSwindonSN1 1QNE: magazine@museumofcomputing.org.ukT: 07834 375628V...
DISCOVERMUSEUM OF COMPUTINGSPONSORS20
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Museum of Computing Newsletter May 2013

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Newsletter from the Museum of Computing Swindon

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Museum of Computing Newsletter May 2013

  1. 1. MAY2013EVENT8 July 2013Robot Themed Party atSwindon Central LibrarySponsored byThis year sees the ten yearanniversary of the Museum ofComputing. To mark the occasionthe Museum is launching a brandnew exhibition, Robots Revealed.Running from July to January, theexhibition aims to bring to life theexciting world of robotics, showingits progression from Science-Fictionto mainstay of the modern world.From the robot that builds your carto the robot that mows your lawn,the mechanical men have arrived!Featuring the best of the museum’scollection and incorporatinggadgets from some of the world’stop robotics companies, theexhibition will allow the public toboth see robots in action and take ago at controlling them themselves.And that’s not all. With a plannedseries of talks and learning activitiesANNIVERSARY EXCITEMENT ATTHE MUSEUM OF COMPUTINGrunning alongside the exhibition,the museum is hoping to buildawareness of the latestdevelopments in robotics,encourage the programmers oftomorrow and put Swindon atthe forefront of the robotrevolution.As July approaches, the museumwill be calling on supporters toparticipate in a series of robot-themed events to mark the startof the exhibition. Watch thisspace for further details!ELI DAWSON1
  2. 2. IT HAS BEEN A FABULOUS10 YEARS!SIMON WEBB, CURATORWhat an astonishing 10 years ithas been. We have created avibrant interactive museum,which is run by an enthusiasticteam of volunteers. We haveengaged with the community andassisted with the education oftoday’s generation of computerenthusiasts. Every year there areseismic changes in technology,and we have captured animpressive catalogue ofhardware, documenting itsincredible development. This isgoing to be a fantastic year forthe museum with a hugeamount of activity and growth.We look forward to exhibitingtoday’s cutting edgetechnological developments.A CALL FOR ASSISTANCE!Volunteer wanted to manageonline shop. We have an AmazonAssociates shop on the museumwebsite, if anyone buys anythingfrom Amazon via our website,the museum gets a smallpercentage. Weve got someretro computing goodies onthere, but really need somebodyto manage it, look for newproducts, update it and try topromote it. Its probably a coupleof hours a week (a bit more to startwith) and can be done from homeso it doesnt matter where you areas long as you have an internetconnection! If anyone is interested,drop me an email:info@museumofcomputing.org.ukThanks!OPINION2
  3. 3. KID’SCLUBEDUCATIONBEGONIA SEPAThe Children’s Club has beenextended, and they now have aSaturday afternoon group. Theclub is open every Saturday andis run in two sessions – 10am to12 and 13 to 15pm. The groupsare limited to eight childrenaged between 8 and 13.The initial activity is Scratch,where the children learn toprogram without having tolearn a structured language.There are also a variety ofactivities: Mindstorm, GoogleSketchup, Photoshop,Wordpress, Office Open Source,and Minecraft. With the help ofthe volunteer instructors, thechildren built a computer andmade some flipbooks, whichgave them a goodunderstanding of animation.The children also have accessto Raspberry pi sessions, andbuild robots. By the time thechildren are adept at thesepractices, learning astructured computer lang-uage should come with ease.Although the sessions havebeen extended, there are stillchildren on the waiting list,and of course, the museum isalways on the lookout for newvolunteers, particularly tohelp with the club. Most ofthe volunteer teachers haveIT/engineering backgroundsand all of the teachers areCRB checked. If you feel thatyou would enjoy sharing yourknowledge of technology withthe children, please get intouch with Simon Webbeducation@museumofcomputing.org.uk3
  4. 4. PROMOTIONVICTORY AT SEAJAMES CARROLLDIRECTORiEVILGAMESWhen I was a seven year old mybrother and I received a ZXSpectrum 48k computer forChristmas and nothing was everthe same again. Sitting in ourbedroom and taking it in turns toplay games such as “Way of theExploding Fist”, “Renegade” and“Barbarian” a whole new worldwas opened up to us and it tooka short time to work out whatthose possibilities held for ourfuture.We didn’t mind that some gamestook 10 minutes to load and thatthe loading screens wereessentially blinking brightprimary colour’s and high pitchscreaming audio that could beused to torture people, or thatthey frequently crashed and youhad to sit patiently whilst it did itall again. We didn’t mindbecause we knew at the end of itlay the next adventure.We didn’t think things could getany better, but they did, with anonslaught of technology thatseems to exponential grow in it’sspeed of release. I rememberhaving the early iPod andthinking this would be cool if itwas one large screen so I couldwatch films on it but knew thatwould involve touch controls. Ifirmly believed that this sort oftechnology was in the distantfuture, however in under 5 years4
  5. 5. PROMOTIONVICTORY AT SEA (cont.)I sat on the train watching a film onmy iPod touch screen thinking if thisscreen was a bit bigger that wouldbe amazing!It is ironic that the huge Americancompanies that made it impossiblefor indies to thrive are the samecompanies that have now made itpossible for small developers to gettheir games straight to market,without having to run it past oldpeople with suits on. We knowseveral developers who createdgames in the 80s and 90s who havenow flourished in the app gameworld and have said they didn’tbelieve they would ever get thechance to do this sort of thingagain.And now nearly 30 years since ourfirst computer the mobile gamingindustry feels the same. People cansit in their bedrooms and develop amobile phone game that can makesignificant sums of money. Howeversince the launch of the app storethings are getting tougher for smallfish to carve out a career as the bigboys have moved in and areputting serious sums of moneybehind development andmarketing. As the processingpower of mobile devicesimproves this has enableddevelopers to improve graphicsand make games larger, whichin turn increases developmentbudgets. When we first starteddeveloping on the firstgeneration of the iPod touch wehad to be very creative withpoly counts, textures sizes andaudio file size, as it would crashif you breathed on it. Althoughwe still don’t have as muchroom to play with as AAAdevelopers, things havechanged and are changing fast.However despite this there isstill room for innovativedevelopers to make their markand stay ahead of trends. Afterall not every game has to haveInfinity Blade teams behindthem. The endless runner genreis booming and is an incrediblycost-effective way to develop, it5
  6. 6. PROMOTIONVICTORY AT SEA (cont.)also enables developers tospread the risk over severalsmaller titles rather than go allout on one brand.The biggest difference betweenmodern mobile games andgames in the 80s and 90s is nota difference of technology butrather one of complexity anddifficulty. Many publishers anddevelopers we work with haveone rule – it needs to be easy.Games in the 1980s and 1990stended to be more complex anddifficult to complete, in fact Irecall SAS Operation Thunder-flash on the spectrum was sodifficult I always died after a fewseconds and to complete anygame was a real achievement.Mobile games tend to be simpleto use and endless, manypublishers want you to playtheir games forever which ofcourse gives you many oppor-tunities to buy. What next forthe industry? We believe it willgo the same way consolegaming has gone but with atwist, while games with biggerand better graphics will heraldthe birth of each new device,users will still be happy to pickup and play a simple, fun gamewhilst waiting for the bus. Be itcutting ropes of throwing birdsat pigs the simple game willalways have a place in ourhearts and on our mobiles.www.ievilgames.comhttps://www.facebook.com/ievilgames6
  7. 7. RETROGAMINGBEYOND EMULATIONSIMON MORGANEmulators are great. Theyvebeen created for pretty much allthe classic consoles and homecomputers and thesecommunity-created efforts aregenerally made freely available.Combine an emulator with abunch of downloaded disc, tapeor ROM images and you can bereliving the gaming memories ofyour youth withinminutes. However, no matterhow painstakingly accuratelythey can mirror the behaviour ofyour fondly-rememberedmachine, they are intrinsicallylimited: theyre not the realthing. Whether its the rubberysquidge of a 48k Spectrumskeyboard or the tone that a BBCMicro games sound effects onlyacquire when played via theoriginal speaker, there arecertain nostalgic itches that canonly be scratched by ditchingyour emulator and going for thereal deal. Its probably a step toofar to talk about smell, but Iveyet to find an emulator that cansimulate the aroma of vintageelectronics once theyve been upand running for a few hours.Re-acquiring your machine ofchoice neednt be difficult orexpensive in the eBay era(although perhaps more-so thanin the days of its predecessor:the car boot sale), but do youreally want (or have the spacefor) the clutter that goes withit? A BBC Micro is easy enoughto house, but its another matteronce you consider floppy drivesand several giant hinged boxes of5.25" discs. Thankfully, the urgethat has driven people to makeemulators has also inspired theirhardware-savvy counterparts to7
  8. 8. RETROGAMINGBEYOND EMULATION (cont)thing. In fact, Id argue its better,as programs load in an instant andyou avoid the reliability issues ofmedia that has spent threedecades in an attic. I have a BBCMicro with what it believes is a1GB hard drive (its actually amemory card). It also has fourvirtual floppy drives that can bemapped to disc images on a USBstick. Its an authentic retro-gaming jukebox all con-tainedwithin the machineitself. Modifying a machinedoesnt have to involve dis-mantling it, though. There areCommodore 64 devices that pluginto the cartridge port and similaroptions for the ZX Spectrum thatattach to the expansion con-nector. If youre of the 16-bit era,then you can get a device that fitsin place of an Atari ST or Amigasfloppy drive and replaces the discslot with a memory card socket.Go play some games!"make what I would argue is a farsuperior choice if youre lookingfor a serious dose of nostalgia:modifications that allow thesevintage machines to load soft-ware from modern media. Itsthe best of both worlds: Onceyour chosen machine has beenaugmented with an SD card orUSB stick, youve got everythingat your fingertips. And I meaneverything; Even a modest 1GBcard is unfeasibly enormouswhen the machine only had 32,48 or, if you were lucky, 64k ofmemory. Its pretty impressiveto have what would once havefilled a wall of shelves con-tained in something the size ofa postage stamp. These devicestypically offer some sort ofmenu system or simplecommands to mount the disc,tape or cartridge of your choice,and from that point forward itsjust as if you have the real8
  9. 9. SCREENPRINTINGUNDER THE MICROSCOPEFLEUR PERRYHere we have a small, light-weight circuitboard of the kind regularly found in manycommon household items.Circuit board just twice the size of a 5p coinThis particular circuit board was originallyconnected to a small speaker, forming themost important part of a slightly annoyingtalking birthday card. In fact, this tinycomponent contains within it the voice ofYoda; and should I ever reconnect thespeaker, Yoda will be once more ready tobe heard. But why is this technologycheap enough to be used in disposablenovelties? The answer lies in screenprinting. The printed circuit board, orPCB, starts life as a simple coppersheet. A non-conductive solder maskis then screen printed onto this using atemplate to leave some of the coppershowing through. Lines of solder arethen screen printed onto the PCBalong with some white paint. Thesolder lines act as wires, whilst thewhite paint helps to ensure the otherparts are properly aligned. Thisprocess can be done extremely quicklyby automated machinery and thefinished PCBs are so lightweight thattransportation costs are low.One mystery remains: why are theygreen? The solder mask is made froma glass-epoxy mixture which is costeffective and easy to work with; andhappens to be green.From left to right: camera close-up; microscope at 4x zoom; microscope at 10x zoom9
  10. 10. LOOKINGBACKUSING OLD PROGRAMMINGLANGUAGES - BASICComputers of the late 70s hadsmall memories – for example theCommodore PET 2001 had 4K(4096 actual bytes!). Thereforeeconomical coding was vital, andone way was to combinecommands. In a lot of BASICs thecommand to clear the screen wasCLS, but the PET used controlcodes embedded in print lines tosave space. To clear the screenand print Hello you would use:10 PRINT “Hello”where the  represents the ClearScreen command (it actually is aheart symbol), and was enteredsimply by pressing it when thecursor was inside a print string.However, pressing it outside of aprint string would actually clearthe screen.Other BASICs would use:10 CLS20 PRINT “Hello”so the Commodore system wasvery intuitive when you gotused to it, as you couldembed cursor commands andmore – saving a few valuablebytes. You could also use ? asa shortcut for PRINT whentyping, and remove the spacebetween the word PRINT andthe double quote, as well asafter the line number. So thefollowing are the same.10 PRINT 2+310?2+3One final asset to the PETsystem was a full screeneditor, so if you noticed anerror in a line you just movedthe cursor up to the error,corrected it, and then pressedReturn and that was it. Othersystems required you to entersomething like EDIT 10 tocorrect line 10, and then usethe cursor keys (or even one-key commands) to correct theline, so a full screen WISIWIGeditor was a real luxury.JOHN MALCOLM10
  11. 11. LOOKINGBACKCONFESSIONS OF ACARTRIDGE JUNKYI generally consider myself a logicalperson who makes decisionsrationally, especially when it comesto spending my hard-earned cash.So, why then do I spend so muchmoney on antiquated technology?At present I am obsessed withcollecting Atari 2600 carts and it’shere that I wish to question mylogic (or lack of it). I have a perfectworking Atari emulator (called“Stella”), that enables me to playevery single 2600 game known tomankind. Every alpha, beta, home-brew, licensed and unlicensedgame that is, was and ever will beis nothing more than a mouse-clickaway. Yet, I find myself night afternight spending not just my valu-able time but my valuabledwindling funds on buyingcartridge after cartridge for asystem that, let’s face it, Inever really play with. Thisdefies all logic and find myselfscreaming out for anexplanation. Perhaps theemulator is not “authentic”enough? No, it doesn’t seem tobe that. Perhaps it’s notpossible to use “genuine”peripherals? No, it’s not thateither (could it be that somegames are missing?). Ok, noneed to go on. The faulty logicis with me. So what is it that’shappening here? It’s simple. Ihave a confession to make.“My name is Mark ... and I’man addict”. I am addicted tocollecting cartridges. I want topossess each and every one. IMARK HEWLETT (ADDICT!)11
  12. 12. ADDICTIONSCONFESSIONS OF A CARTRIDGE JUNKY (cont.)“tantrums” and the future wasbeing defined from moment tomoment with each step amilestone leap of imagina-tion. Logical or not, I won’tstop collecting. It’s myaddiction “my xfloppy discs”!This is a past – that whetheryou peruse it on one of themany internet sites or soak upand “taste” it in the Museumof Technology – is a past (atleast for me) that will live on inmy heart forever and in themany ever-growing shelves ofgames that threaten to takeover my spare room wall.want to see it fill an otherwiseempty void in the cabinet. I needthe physical object itself. I need tosmell it, and feel the weight andoh ... the artwork! This is where Imelt at the knees. There’s some-thing about the early Atari art-work that just oozes a differenttime and space. A space that fromtime to time, I find myself driftinginto in those day-dreamymoments we all have when sittingon the bus or waiting in thequeue at the supermarket. A timethat was somehow moreinnocent, a time when technologywas still allowed its little12
  13. 13. REVIEWAN INTRODUCTION TOTHE OCULUS RIFTMATTHEW O’HARA-BALLThe Oculus Rift is a new, head-mounted kit, which couldpotentially revolutionize the waywe look at video games … literally.Although Oculus VR, the companybehind it all, has said thedeveloper kit will target PCs, theyfurther went on to say “We hopeto make the headset compatiblewith major consoles and mobiledevices in the future”. Whatexactly will this product bring tothe market then? Well, it couldintroduce an original immersiveexperience for gamers, allowingthem to essentially see throughthe character’s eyes and providethe capability to look around theenvironment using motionsensors to track the user’shead movement.After making its first publicappearance at ElectronicEntertainment Expo 2012, it soonlaunched a Kickstarter campaignto help fund the project. Settingout with a goal of $250,000 itraised a shocking 2.4 million tofurther develop the headset.After this unpredicted success,The Oculus Rift caught muchattention, including big names inthe game industry, which led tothem endorsing the product. Suchnames include Gabe Newell, theman behind Steam and Valve aswell as Cliff Bleszinski, mostfamous for his role in the Gears ofWar franchise, among many otherkey figures. Having theseinnovative characters backing TheOculus Rift, we can expect to seethe virtual reality headset holdingthe future spotlight.The feedback so far has beenbeyond promising. After givingvarious hand-on demonstrationsand presentations across a rangeof conferences, including therecent GDC (Game DevelopersConference), people have beenwalking away giving high praiseand holding high hopes for the13
  14. 14. REVIEWAN INTRODUCTION TO THE OCULUS RIFT (cont.)headset. The Oculus alsomanaged to get featured on apopular American televisionshow, NBCs Late Night withJimmy Fallon. This puts intoperspective how rapidly theproject has caught the public’seye.Oculus VR have sent outdeveloper kits to those whocontributed a generous amountto the Kickstarter campaign, someof which have uploaded videos toYouTube showing off what can beof the experience. More oftenthan not, they express how it’shard to believe or understandwithout trying it out for yourself.One of the more viral videos tohave emerged is of a humble 90year-old woman testing theheadset, as you can imagine, shewas absolutely astonished.At this stage in the process, thereare very few games that supportThe Oculus Rift. Some of thegames that have beendemonstrated with the kitso far include Team Fortress 2,Skyrim and Mirrors Edge. Evenwith such a small libraryavailable to test, developershave a keen eye on the virtualreality headset, so we canexpect a lot more contentbecoming available in the nearfuture.So, could this hold a future inthe gaming industry? I say yes,this is the innovation we need!With Oculus VR’s prospect ofmaking it an affordable piece oftechnology, I believe this willeventually become a commonaccessory to a gamer’shousehold.14
  15. 15. REPORTSWINDON HACKSPACE15JESS ROBINSONHackspace, hackerspace (n):A place where people withcommon interests, usually incomputers, technology, scienceor digital or electronic art canmeet, socialise and / orcollaborate.Hackspaces exist all over theworld, in the UK there are anumber of large ones, forexample in London with severalhundred members, andNottingham. More locally,smaller hackspaces exist, inBristol and Southampton.The Swindon Hackspacecurrently meets on Wednesdayevenings in the basement of theMuseum of Computing. An entryfee of £4 covers the Museumscosts for heating, electric etc,plus a contribution to theHackspace account. Tea,coffee and biscuits areprovided. Various donatedtools and electronic com-ponents are available for useof the members.Membership is charged at£10/year, and can be waivedfor the first two visits.A SHORT HISTORY OF THEHACKSPACE IN SWINDONIn August 2011, two Swindonresidents, James and myself,started looking for like-minded folks in the Swindonarea to start a hackspacewith. Despite contactingseveral of the nearby
  16. 16. REPORTSWINDON HACKSPACE (cont.)16hackspace groups (Bristol,Oxford, Southampton), andsetting up a discussion group anda Wiki, we didnt get very far.In April 2012 Simon at theMuseum of Computing had asimilar idea, and did somethingabout it. A survey of Museumvolunteers and friends producedenough people to hold a groupdiscussion. The attendees agreedon a meeting day and donationamounts, so we formed a groupand started meeting weekly fromthe beginning of June.We are about to celebrate ayear of operation, decide ona logo, and deploy a websitethat aims to describe whatour aims are. Projects andthings we get up to will becovered in the next issue.HOW TO JOIN INIf you are interested injoining us, please contact me(Jess <castaway@desert-island.me.uk>) or just turnup on a Wednesday eveningfrom 6.30pm.
  17. 17. QUIZPUZZLEWORDSEARCHFind:The museum sponsors?What anniversary is the museumcelebrating in 2013?Where is the museum to be found?Where was the museum’s previouslocation?What is the theme for thecelebrations this year?What iconic equipment can be seenat the museum’s entry door?Reviewed in this Newsletter?17Answers p.18
  18. 18. PUZZLEWORDSEARCH18ANSWERSWho are the museum sponsors? BCSCIX ForumsClark HoltDatalibriumDenisIntelPC TeachredheadPRShepherdSilentGShepherdSpacecontainedWhat anniversary is the Museumcelebrating? TenthWhere was the museum’s previous location? OakfieldWhere is the Museum to be found? Theatre SquareWhat is the theme for the celebrations this year? RobotsWhat iconic equipment can be seen at theMuseum’s entry door? SinclairReviewed in this Newsletter Oculus Rift
  19. 19. ABOUTUSGET IN TOUCHMUSEUM OF COMPUTING6–7 Theatre SquareSwindonSN1 1QNE: magazine@museumofcomputing.org.ukT: 07834 375628VISITOR INFORMATIONOpening TimesFriday 10:0 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.PricesAdults £2.00 (concession £1.50)Children £1.00Under 5 year old FreeFamilies £5.00 (up to 2 adults and 3 children)19
  20. 20. DISCOVERMUSEUM OF COMPUTINGSPONSORS20

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