A crack volunteer repair team descended upon The National Museum of Computing on Bletchley Park last weekend to restore 1980’s BBC micro-computers, one of the most popular features of the Museum’s Learning Programme.
By end of the day, 36 BBC Micros had been restored and ready for use in the TNMOC Classroom by visiting student groups learning to code as well as casual visitors playing retro games and learning or reviving skills in programming in BASIC.
The team of twenty Beeb skilled enthusiast restorers, male and female, ranging in age from a teenager to seniors came from as far away as Wales, Essex and Surrey to use their expertise to help the next generation of would-be coders. They were responding to an appeal in June by the Museum for volunteers to help bring donated BBC Micros in storage back to life.
Owen Grover, TNMOC’s Technical Support Officer who organised the day, was delighted with the result: “The atmosphere was great and the results far exceeded our expectations. As anticipated, the most common fault we encountered in these incredibly robust 1980’s machines were failed power supplies.
“But we also found that many of the machines that had been donated to TNMOC over the years had been enhanced by their original owners, something that was very popular in the early days of computing when machine innards were much more accessible. So we had to remove added ROM chips and external jacks fitted for better speakers and headphones to make the machines more reliable for their second life in the TNMOC Classroom.”
One of the restorers and a life-long user of Acorn Computers, James Clephane-Cameron said: “I was overjoyed to see a chance to help the museum with their Beebs – and even more so when I got a tour of the site on the day as well. There are so many people all over the country that know and love these machines and it was great to see so many of them in the same room. The museum did a brilliant job putting the event on and I think that quite a number of us, myself included, are now looking into signing up as regular volunteers.”
TNMOC had expected about 20 machines to be restored in the course of the day, but the team was so skilled, dedicated and efficient that the Museum had exhausted its store of spare components by the time 36 had been rebooted.
The restored machines are now ready to replace any malfunctioning machines in TNMOC’s Classroom where thousands of students have an introduction to computer coding each year. The Classroom is also extremely popular with the many visitors whose first experience of computing was with BBC Micros in schools in the 1980s.