Reliving Britain’s heyday in 1980s home computing at TNMOC

The heyday of British home computing in the 1980s is the focus of a pop-up display at The National Museum of Computing on the Bletchley Park Estate until 30 June 2020.

From Sinclair ZX80s through ZX Spectrums to the BBC micro, visitors of a certain age can relive their entry into computing with hands-on access to many of the original machines. Video clips also give reminders of the landmark BBC computer literacy series that introduced so many of today’s computer programmers to the fast-developing world of computing.

Paul Gent, one of the three volunteers at the museum who has curated the temporary exhibition, recalled, “I was one of those ten-year-old children who in the early 1980s so badly wanted a ZX Spectrum for Christmas. That machine was a revelation – it brought colour screens to home computing along with exciting beeping noises and video games that looked like those we had previously seen only in amusement arcades. The pace of development was breath-taking – and so much of the technology was developed in Britain!”

Visitors can relive these glory days with hands-on access to a range of 1980s machines and see some of the other lesser-known but important models of the day. They can also learn how the RISC computer developed for the BBC micro went on to become the ARM chip that today is found in almost every smartphone on the planet.

David Allen, producer of the 1980s BBC Computer Literacy Series, is looking forward to seeing the display and the excerpts of his programmes. “For nearly ten years our series explained and reported on the computer revolution. We were in the right place at the right time and anticipated technology now taken for granted — from the mobile phone to robotics to artificial intelligence.”