Museum Goes Back To The Future With Computer Game Show

By David Prudames | 06 January 2004
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Shows a photograph of shallow box-shaped computer games console with a small plastic box attached to it by a curled wire.

Photo: after test-marketing in 1979, the Intellivision console had sold 175,000 copies by 1980. © Intellivision Productions, Inc.

Can you remember huddling around the tv for a game of Pong, marvelling at the possibility of blasting electronic aliens or begging for a go on your mate’s handheld Donkey Kong?

In the 1970s and 80s the likes of Space Invaders, PacMan and the Super Mario Brothers were at the cutting edge of technology.

But in this age of Playstations, Broadband and i-Pods, such computer adventures have been consigned to the back of the cupboard.

However, the glory days of computer gaming will be brought back to life by High Scores, a new exhibition at the Museum of Computing in Swindon from January 13.

Shows a screenshot of the Museum of Computing website, Digital History.

Photo: the Museum of Computing opened in February 2003 on the Oakfield Campus of the University of Bath at Swindon.

From the earliest black and white tv-based video games to the first home consoles, hand-helds and Nintendo games, the show will offer a comprehensive tour through an industry in its infancy.

Speaking to the 24 Hour Museum, Curator Simon Webb explained that now the generation that played with the first computer games has grown up the originals have an enduring and nostalgic appeal.

"A lot of people are going back and playing the old games just out of nostalgia, but once they get into it they realise that the old games are very good," he said.

"These days it’s so complicated, but they had a simple charm about them that rekindles people’s memories of their childhood. During our last exhibition about home computers men around their forties would come in and say 'I used to have one of those', there seems to be an interest in how simple things used to be."

Shows a photograph of a small rectangular computer games console.

Photo: the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game system. Courtesy Museum of Computing.

With over 65 artefacts on show, there will be plenty of opportunities for reminiscing, from PacMan running on handheld and early laptop versions, to an MB Electronics Big Trak and Trailer.

For the real specialists there will be an original first edition Odyssey by Magnavox complete with all its accessories. Launched in 1972, the Odyssey was the world’s first home video game system and the example on display is the oldest exhibit in the show.

But of course, gaming fun wasn't restricted to the arcade or the front room and the show includes over a quarter of 70 different Nintendo games produced in handheld or wristwatch format.

Fortunately over 90% of the machines are in good working order and the museum will be organising a series of Gaming Days on the first Saturday of every month for anyone who fancies a spot of nostalgia.

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