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Haverhill’s Computing History Museum Attracts National Media

By Elaine Collins on Wednesday, 19th March 2008.

Media star Peter Snow, of 'Tomorrow’s World' fame, was in Haverhill recently filming at The Centre for Computing History...

Raw Television is currently making a new science/history series for Channel 5 and the History Channel presented by Peter Snow. The series is all about great British scientists and engineers who were the unsung heroes behind some of the most remarkable feats of British technology in recent decades. Episodes will include the first mobile phone network, the Lotus 25, the Intercity 125 Train, the Harrier Jump Jet, Black Arrow – Britain’s first home-launched satellite and Elite - the first 3D role playing computer game.

The Centre for Computing History was contacted by Raw Television in their quest to locate the vintage computers they needed to make the programme on Elite. They certainly didn’t expect to find everything they required in one place but the Haverhill’s museum was able to provide the lot - a BBC Micro, Acorn Atom, Apple 11 and other items from the Elite era of the early 1980s.

Acornsoft Elite was the first in a new generation of 3D space games featuring interstellar travel in a distant cluster of galaxies in the outer universe. Described by many as the seminal space trading game, Elite created a new genre in computer games. It was arguably the first home computer game to use 3D vector graphics with hidden lines removed. It came with a novella that set the scene and gave insight into the moral and legal codes within the game.

Written by David Braben and Ian Bell, two undergraduates at Jesus College in Cambridge, Elite was released for the BBC Micro in 1984 and sold over 150,000 copies.

A 1980’s office set was created at the Centre for Computing History for Peter Snow to use. This office immersed him in computing history with items like old computers, gadgetry, discs, cassette players and keyboards from the early to mid 80s. The centre was even asked to program some of the machines. Luckily one of the directors, Jason Fitzpatrick, possessed the appropriate skills to create instructions in BASIC and assembly code for the BBC Micro.

In fact the team were so impressed with Jason’s familiarity with the subject that he was interviewed by Peter Snow and will feature in the final programme.

Peter Snow said: “The Centre for Computing History is an inspirational initiative. It is a wonderful idea and an extremely valuable resource, especially as most of the machines work! What an impressive and quite remarkable collection; and how forward thinking of this group of people. Jason’s knowledge of the subject is outstanding!

“I have asked to be kept informed of future developments and will be taking a keen interest in the centre’s progress. I wish it every success.”

The finished series will be televised later this year.

To find out more about the progress of the Centre for Computing History and influence future exhibitions visit www.computinghistory.org.uk. The website also provides information about how to donate to the museum’s current appeals and future fundraising campaign.

Haverhill Online News

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