Sinclair and Acorn

I have posted before on the history of computing in Cambridge, but did not mention the Cambridge Computer Museum at the Centre for Computing History.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUntil recently located in Haverhill, to the South of Cambridge, but now not far from the centre of town, the museum has a rapidly growing collection of early examples of computing hardware, programmable calculators (remember those?), gaming machines, and publicity material, from the days when computing meant either vast mainframes or a pursuit of hobbyists akin to electronics.

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Early personal computing in the UK centred around two men – Sir Clive Sinclair and Chris Curry, founders respectively of Sinclair Instrument Ltd. (Sinclair Research Ltd.) and Acorn Computing, both located in Cambridge.

Curry had worked for Sinclair for many years, nudging him in the direction of electronic calculators and then personal computing, before an acrimonious split saw them become rivals in home computing – the Sinclair ZX80 and ZX81 and Spectrum, and the BBC Acorn were the first computers that many people in this country encountered, the BBC Micro (made by Acorn)g becoming the standard school model in the early 1980s (although my own formative experiences were on this behemoth).

A BBC film of 2009, Micro Men, with Alexander Armstrong and Martin Freeman, relates the story of the rival companies, and is largely set in Cambridge – the computer hardware used as props in the film were borrowed from the Centre for Computing History.

The Centre for Computing History has a suitably homemade website here, does not accept credit cards (although they are working on it) and is pleasingly hard to find.

How to Find us The museum is very close to the Beehive Centre in Cambridge. From the Beehive Centre, take the 3rd exit off the roundabout and go over the railway bridge. Immediately after the bridge there is a very sharp, double back left hand turn. Take that turn into the commercial estate and follow the road round to your right. Just before the railway crossing, turn into Rene Court on the right and you will see us there.

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