Thanks go to Chris Mog for this great guest post!
In Summer 2014 Get Caerphilly Online (an initiative of the Welsh Governments Communities 2.0 digital inclusion programme) came up with the fab idea of running a retro tech exhibition.
The work to date had been all about getting people online in order to reap the social benefits plus of course address issues around social justice and poverty but what if we got a load of old tech and engaged people that way? Thankfully there were a few key people within the initiative (alone music and harri80 particularly) who had experience of running this kind of thing as well as a perhaps unhealthy interest in all things retro…
Anyway, we went ahead and asked people in the community to have a dig around their attics and see if they had anything that might be of interest – the response was frankly astounding – old atari consoles, spectrums, C64s, handhelds, cameras, projectors, walkmans (walkmen?), BBCs, Acorns, Binatone consoles, proper old mobile phones to name but a few.
Our aim was to get as many of these machines working so the exhibition could be as hands on as possible complete with lunchtime talks on the history of handheld gaming, home computing through the years and chiptune. The great thing about this event in the end was seeing families turn up with their kids and saying to them with massive smiles ‘See? We had cool technology too!’
For me, interactive type stuff had been on my mind since I had been lucky enough to learn about Conducttr at a hack week in Cardiff as part of the PlayArk game festival in 2013.
So I thought to myself ‘Wouldn’t it be good if people to ‘talk’ to some of the exhibits?’…and thats we did.
Using Conducttr and Twilio we were able to get 5 of the machines to text and make voice calls to visitors with information about their history as well as music from some of the ‘classic’ games they played. This was a great addition to the exhibition especially as we were able to give the machines a human voice that told their story about their place in the history of computing – especially when we could make the C64 a bit uppity with its ‘superior graphics and sound’.
All round great fun and a really nice way to engage communities, families and multiple generations in technology! I do think my favourite talking exhibit was the Compukit UK-101 from 1979 donated by a member of the community. An awesome bit of kit computing with a huge 8K of RAM plus a ‘rub out’ key as opposed to DELETE.
As a result of this exhibition and the interest that has been shown by other communities here in Wales we’ve set up a new collective called HELOWORLD (thats not a typo, its Welsh!!!!).
We’re hoping to provide more creative and interactive experiences for communities here in Wales and the wider UK including work with national bodies to create immersive and interactive experiences based around place, heritage and culture.
As for the retrotech exhibitions, the next stage is to start looking at how we can continue to use Conducttr (especially the API functionality) to trigger events within the exhibition!!!
We would like to thank Rob and the team at Conducctr for providing us with the opportunity to try out a new approach in the community that lends itself so well to the work that we do and offers so much potential in terms of digital community work!
Last thing…..we also made a vid of the event thats worth a watch just to see the smiles!!!