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Centre for Computing History Review

October 29, 2013 1 comment

Cambridge museum of Computing History

 

I hear about it through an online programming forum I visit. After having my interest piqued I checked out the website http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/. Being a geek I couldn’t help but decide to visit.

 

I don’t have the best sense of direction, and I did manage to drive straight passed it once, so I’ve posted a map at the end of this review to help anyone else who gets lost from time to time.

pong+odyssey

The original Pong Console and a Magnavox odyssey

 

Parking was easy enough, there’s about a dozen parking spaces, and if that’s full, then you could park at the Beehive centre as it’s only a five minute walk away.

On entering, I was greeted by the staff member on the till, managing to keep my eyes from wandering around straight away I paid the £5 entry fee and stepped into the first room. It’s an entrance hall that comprises of a shop selling T-Shirts, Mugs, and other retro

computer bits and pieces, even some books on more modern things like Facebook. On my right was a TV setup with a Sega Saturn and a sofa to sit yourself down on and have a play. The basis of the museum is for everything to be available to play around with, which is brilliant. Except for a few things, like the original Atari Pong machine or the Altair. Other items in the front room include a Commodore CD32, a 1982 IBM PC, an original Apple Mac and a row of old classic arcade cabinets including Street Fighter 2. Coming off the front room is a canteen offering hot drinks and snacks, the main museum and the 80’s Classroom.

entrancehall

The entrance hall

The 80’s classroom is a genius idea. It has two rows of BBC model B computers all setup as they would have been in a mid 80’s school classroom and School trips can visit the museum to receive programming classes in BBC basic just like 25 years ago. It takes the distractions out of the way, no flashy graphics, no mice, no internet, just simple shapes and text, focus on the basics of programming, which really haven’t changed at all in 25 years or more. Aside from the BBC’s, they’re also a set of desks with Raspberry Pi’s running on them, ready for learning some more modern programming

techniques, using Python or maybe (NAME LANGUAGE) School parties currently visit on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

 

bigroom

Loads of room to expand the displays

They also have some interesting computing related displays on Mobile phones, calculators and even a Sinclair C5 Electric Car.The main room is huge, and currently, with the museum not being completely set up has plenty of room to exhibit more items. Right now, you’ll see computers like the Amiga 1200, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Dragon 32, Amstrad CPC 464, Acorn Archimedes, MSX, Commodore PET, Amstrad Mega PC and a ton of others. There’s plenty of consoles to have  a go on too, including but not only the Sega Dreamcast, Megadrive, Mastersystem, Nintendo NES, N64, Gamecube, Sony

Playstation, Playstation 2, Atari Jaguar, I could go on. Let’s just say you’ll find something you like.

On talking to the curator, he told me there were over a hundred boxes of items upstairs needing to be sorted and catalogued, with many more systems needing to be cleaned up and put on display.

I was there around an hour and a half but could have easily stayed much longer just to play some of the old games available. If you’re nice to them, they’ll even go get you a game to play from upstairs if you want and they have it in stock.

There’s plenty more they could do, and no doubt will do. I’m sure they have their own plans for what to do from here onwards and I’ll be visiting again soon to see how it’s developed.

My idea would be to setup something like a walkway going up and down the main hall starting with the earliest computers and games machines working through to the present day. Applications on one side of you and games on the other. Video screens could be mounted above each machine showing other game, applications and events from that machine’s passed (such as videos of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates unveiling the software/hardware at trade shows). But that’s just my idea.

amiga+atari

An Amiga sitting alongside an Atari ST!!! What ever next!

 

Donating

I did ask whether they accept donations as I have a father with an old Amstrad CPC 6128 somewhere in his garage covered in dust, and it’s be much better to see it put on display for new generations to use rather than wasting away in that garage. They informed me they’re very happy to accept donations as they always need spare parts for the old computers and consoles.

Another way of donating is hard cash. They are running what they are calling the 128k campaign, to improve the museum and install several new features (like better toilets), so please donate what ever you can.

laptops

And I complain my laptop’s heavy!

 

Let’s be honest, this is a museum for geeks really, but if you’re like myself and grew up with 8 bit computers and graduated through different eras in technology until finally arriving at today’s multi-touch HD hand held quad core tablets, you’ll appreciate what they are trying to do in archiving the history of Computing and showing how vast the changes have been in only a few decades.

 

 

 

You can find the Centre for Computing History here:

Outside

The Centre for Computing History
Rene Court
Coldhams Road
Cambridge
CB1 3EW

Website: http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/

Tripadvisor reviews: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g186225-d4375347-r179030532-The_Centre_for_Computing_History-Cambridge_Cambridgeshire_England.html

 

Map:

 

Sky – Now TV Box Review

October 28, 2013 2 comments

For a while now I’ve been thinking of purchasing an Android Stick computer to use it as a media center PC on my TV. I didn’t want to build a full PC and also didn’t want to pay for Virgin Media or Sky TV just to get on demand TV. Also, I liked the idea of getting YouTube and Ted talks on my TV.

However, last week I saw an online news article stating the Sky Now TV box was coming to high street stores like Currys and John Lewis. I read the article, it said it had iPlayer, and demand five, and only cost £9.99. What’s the catch??? Do you need to subscribe to something? It looks like you might, they talk a lot about Sky Movies and Sky Sports packages coming bundles with it, but it turns out you don’t need to buy any bundle at all if you just want iPlayer and the other non-subscription features. So I went online to: https://shop.nowtv.com/ and bought one.

Now TV Box

It took about five days to arrive. It arrived with this in the box:

  • Now TV Box (it’s tiny!)
  • Remote Control
  • Power Supply
  • Batteries for Remote
  • HDMI Cable (excellent value!)

Setting it up:

  1. Plug in power supply to wall and box
  2. Plug HDMI into TV and box
  3. Switch TV to HDMI and follow on screen instructions

(You might think I missed putting the batteries in the remote but mine were already in it).

Once on your HDMI input, the on scree instructions are very straight forward and ask for your wi-fi network settings and then ask you to log in using you Now TV account

TOP-TIP!!! You do not need to register for a free trial on the Now TV webpage, once you’ve selected your username and password, the page then changes to selecting a package. At this point, you can stop, as you now have an account, just enter the username and password into your Now TV box and you’ll be fine. Sky won’t like me telling you this but I wanted to test the box out before entering any payment details for anything that may charge me a month later.

Channels:

Built in channels are:

iPlayer

Sky News

Demand Five

You can add to these very easily, select the Roku store channel and you have a selection of additional channels to install, such as Ted Talks, Flixter, Spotify, Facebook and several more, currently ITV Player and 4od are not available but they are rumored to be in the works.Now TV

Picture quality:

First off….it’s £9.99. So don’t expect amazing quality that you’re going to boast about to your friends. I’m personally running it on a 28 inch TV and it’s fine, it runs at 720p with good quality stereo sound and looks great.

Extra features????

It may not surprise you to learn that people have been busy looking for ways to add extra features to this box via software. A quick search on YouTube will bring up a video showing you how to install Plex on it. This will allow you to do cool things like watching videos or picture you have on computers around the house, which if you’ve ripped any of your DVD’s to your PC like I have, is really cool. You can also browse and listen to your iTunes collection using the Plex channel too.

Can I watch YouTube? Yes! You can! (if you have an Android phone)

Simple install the Playto channel from the Roku store, then download the Playto app from the Android Play Store and you can stream online content to the Now TV box, including YouTube, you can sign into your YouTube account and play your subscriptions even!

Use your phone as a remote!

Download a Roku remote app on your Android phone and you can use this to control the Now TV box instead of using the one it comes with (note, this is really only for you if you’re too lazy to get off the sofa to use the real remote).

Conclusion:

Buy it.  It can do iPlayer, Demand Five, Ted Talks, Spotify, YouTube, Stream media from your PC, takes up no space at all! Comes with everything you need. And it’s only £9.99 including delivery!!!

Go buy it, right, now.

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