The magnificent work done by the Bletchley Park Trust and Computer Preservation Society led to the idea of creating a specialised computing museum by volunteers from both organisations. As luck would have it, the Swindon Borough Council was receptive to the idea. Under the leadership of Jeremy Holt, a partner at a local law firm, as well as the British Computer Society and Science Museum in Wroughton, a Steering Committee was created in 2000 to explore the viability of the idea.
Three years later, with the support of the University of Bath and the new Oakfield Campus, the Museum of Computing was unveiled inside the University. The museum has since moved to the Theatre Square in city centre. To this day, the Arts Council England-accredited museum is managed and run by largely the same group of selfless volunteers.
The Museum of Computing in Swindon. Image courtesy of Neil Thompson.
The museum displays a mix of permanent and temporary exhibits. Most of the exhibits are owned by the museum, but a number of them, particularly temporary exhibitions, are loaned by private collectors and organisations. Some of the more popular exhibits here include:
• The Poly Play Arcade Game: The Poly Play was East Germany Communist government’s answer to the wildly popular Pac Man arcade game. It’s a poor imitation of the game, but it’s nonetheless a well-built device (using an internal Russian business computer and plug-in chips and cards labelled in Cyrillic) that is still working properly.
• Calculators: Back in the 1970s, calculators were considered as some of the most cutting edge business tools in the workplace. It makes sense why exhibitions involving calculators have been present at the museum since its early days. Probably the most famous calculator here is the very rare Sinclair Sovereign, a pocket calculator so far ahead its time in 1977, which deservedly won the Design Council Award.
• Retro Games Consoles: There are Atari and Amiga consoles that are hooked up and just waiting to be played.
The museum also aspires to encourage computer education for people all ages. In line with that, the volunteers here have organised various educational activities for children, students (even college level) and parents. Please contact them to discuss about a personalised tour and/or speaking/lecture session.
The museum is located in the thriving New Town half of Swindon, just next to the Wyvern Theatre, and is easily accessible by all modes of transportation. It is open to walk in visitors every Friday (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and Saturday (9.30 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
• Adult: £2
• Concession: £1.50
• Child: £1
• Family: £5
• Under 5's: Free
Please note that the Museum of Computing is a relatively small establishment, and as such, has no common facilities such as restrooms or shops.
Telephone: 0845 700 0125
Address: 6-7 Theatre Square, Swindon, SN1