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9 May, 2011 - 11:43 By News Desk

Microsoft backs Cambridge computer museum

Ken Wood - deputy managing director, Microsoft Research with Jason Fitzpatrick - Centre for Computing History

Microsoft Research has agreed to sponsor a drive to create a new world-class Cambridge Computing History Museum. It follows support from ARM and Redgate Software.

Ken Wood - deputy managing director of Microsoft Research in Cambridge said: “Many of the instrumental developments in computing technology have their roots in Cambridge and we are proud to contribute to the wider appreciation of the history of what is now an important aspect of everyone’s daily life.”

The Centre for Computing History was established in Haverhill in 2006 to tell the story and explore the impact of the Information Age. Ambitious plans are now in motion to relocate the museum to Cambridge, in the city where so much of this story has unfolded.

The hunt is on for a building in Cambridge to house this internationally significant collection of vintage computers, memorabilia, artefacts and associated documents.

With over 12,000 items, including historic machines like the Altair 8800 -the first home computer - the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64 and the Acorn Atom, space is an issue.

The museum needs around 10,000 sq ft of rented accommodation, within walking distance of the city centre, to showcase the collection and provide storage. This will facilitate the next stage of the project prior to the eventual creation of a permanent, purpose built home.

Jason Fitzpatrick, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said: “Microsoft’s generosity and reputation will play a crucial role in helping us realise the museum's vision.”

This latest development follows hot on the heels of the Centre for Computing History’s recent success at The Gadget Show Live 2011 at the NEC in Birmingham. As a result of the huge interest in its display last year, the centre was commissioned by The Gadget Show to put on a major interactive exhibition at this year’s event.

The arrangement of four quadrants, representing the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s attracted a great deal of interest from bloggers, TV programmes, tech writers and radio shows as well as the general public. The museum’s second stand was a retro arcade with classic games to play from Space Invaders and Pacman to the later Street Fighter and X-Men games.

Fitzpatrick said: “As the centre’s display was the complete antithesis of the rest of the exhibition, our retro nostalgic experience was hugely appreciated. As usual, the Sinclair C5 electric car always sparks lively debate.

“We were overwhelmed by the excitement and engagement generated, constantly hearing exclamations of ‘I had one of those as a kid!’ and ‘I remember dad having one of these!’. However, overhearing, ‘I think Granddad used this type of computer’ whilst pointing at the Apple II did make me feel prematurely old!

“Very importantly, this recent success demonstrates the huge interest in the subject; coupled with Microsoft’s decision to sponsor the project it has reinforced our ambition to bring the museum to Cambridge

“The story of the Information Age and of all the engineers, innovators, inventors and creative visionaries who made it happen is inspirational. It is still waiting to be told in this country. Cambridge played an integral role in that story. If we can turn our vision into reality the Centre for Computing History will be another gift from Cambridge to the whole world.”

The Centre for Computing History is a registered charity. If you can help with funding, have other suitable memorabilia – or if you have a suitable building for the museum – please get in touch with Jason Fitzpatrick on 01440 709794 or via email: info [at] computinghistory.org.uk

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