Computer Museum
Images in the
Computer Museum
are not to scale.
Items in the
Computer Museum
are not for sale.
Top of the Page
Top of the Page
Top of the Page
Top of the Page
Atom   BBC-B   BBC Master   Electron   Data Devices   Acorn Extras  
Consoles   CBM / PET   VIC 20   64   SX-64   16  
Plus/4   128   128D   Datassettes   Disk Drives   Printers  
ZX 80   ZX 81   16K Spectrum   48K Spectrum   Spectrum+   Spectrum 128  
Spectrum +2   Spectrum +2A   Spectrum +3   QL   Sinclair Extras   Cambridge Z88  
Acorn   Commodore   Sinclair   Computer Magazines   PCN Magazines   CBM Paperwork  
Acorn   Commodore   Sinclair   Emulators   Links      
Acorn Computers.
Acorn's first product for the consumer market was the Atom, launched in 1980. It was available as a kit or ready built. This was to be followed by the Proton, which would be aimed at the home user but could easily be upgraded for industrial or scientific use.
Also in 1980, the BBC had proposed a computer literacy project which would be based on an a single computer. Specifications were drawn up and a suitable partner was sought. The UK government owned a company called Newbury Laboratories which was developing a computer called the New Brain, but it soon became clear that the computer would not be ready in time for the project.
The Proton impressed the BBC enough for them to award the contract to Acorn and so in 1982 the BBC Micro was born. The BBC A had 16KB memory while the BBC B had 32. Both versions had more options for connecting to the outside world than most home computers of that time and there was room on the circuit board to add further chips.
While schools up and down the country acquired large numbers of BBC Micros, the price was much higher than its rivals and it was physically a big machine. As a result, a simpler, smaller version was developed in 1983, named the Electron. This sold in large numbers but 1984 saw a collapse in the home computer market and Acorn being rescued by Olivetti. Following this, the BBC Master was launched and was a success but this would mark the end of development for eight-bit computers. Acorn would go on to produce excellent 16 bit computers for home and business.
The Commodore Years.
In 1982, after months of visiting shops that sold computers, I bought my first VIC-20. I quickly realised that its limited memory and small screen would not do what I wanted and bought a Commodore 64.
This was the start of a hobby that would span fifteen years and make the computer part of my daily life. During this time I learned to write my own software and to adapt other people's to my needs.
Over the years I have collected a range of 8-bit Commodore computers and peripherals to go with them. Had I joined the computer revolution earlier, I would have bought a PET. I now have two.
My collection includes PETs, the VIC-20, the first colour home computer, the 64 in both of its forms, the SX-64, claimed to be the world's first portable colour computer, 128s and the ill-fated C16 and Plus/4.
This is by no means a definitive collection, but it provides a view of those early days of the computer revolution. Nor does it include the Amiga as I went straight from the 8-bit Commodores to a PC.
But the 1980s was the time when men in white lab coats were replaced by people working in their own homes. The mysterious world of computing was a mystery no more. These really were 'computers for the masses'.
The Sinclair Collection.
The story of the Sinclair computer range is the story of the early days of home computing in the UK. Clive Sinclair was a British entrepreneur who had produced radios, calculators and watches. Always innovative, his ideas caught the attention but were not always commercially successful.
The first computer from the Sinclair stable was the MK14 board for hobbyists in 1978 and the last was the PC200 in 1988 although neither of these was a truly Sinclair product. In between there was an exciting eight years which saw home computing transformed from an interest for the few to something few could imagine living without. The brand wasn't just popular in the UK either. In North America, Sinclair computers and derivatives were produced by Timex and in communist eastern Europe the Spectrum was copied by several manufacturers.
The MK14, produced by Science of Cambridge, was a board holding a machine code monitor in ROM, 256 bytes of RAM, a calculator style keyboard and display, and I/O ports. Although we would not recognise it as a computer in the modern sense, without it there might never have been a UK computer industry. It not only led an initially unenthusiastic Clive Sinclair to the Sinclair ZX range but the MK14 was developed by Chris Curry who left the company to form Acorn Computers of BBC fame.
From the very basic ZX80 through the millions of Spectrums to the failure of the QL, the Sinclair range found its way into the homes and hearts of the nation. Many are still there. The ones here found their way into mine . . . .
There's a bonus in the shape of the Cambridge Z88 portable computer, Sir Clive's very last computer, designed after the sale of Sinclair to Amstrad.