GUEST POST BY SIMON HEWITT
It’s over three years ago now since we organised and held the first Vintage Computer Festival in Britain. The event was a lot of hard work but a huge success, helped by the star presence of television presenter Chris Serle, Acorn and ARM microprocessor genius Sophie Wilson and 80s synth legends OMD. The public demand for another festival of its kind immediately followed, and last year it was decided at last to do just that. However, things have changed within the realms of vintage computing since 2010.
First of all there are the key exhibitors. Centre for Computing History were already a registered charity, but they have expanded dramatically in three years and are opening a new museum towards the end of July. Retro Computer Museum are also now a registered charity now, and they too have expanded into new premises. Replay (which evolved from a gaming consortium called the CGEU) are now a registered business.
There has also been the introduction of the Raspberry Pi mini computer to consider. This has added a completely new dimension to computing education, which has become something of a hot topic in recent years. Moreover, the device has become a cheap tool for hobbyists and enthusiasts who want a more “grass roots” alternative to offerings from Microsoft or Apple.
All of these considerations had to be factored in when it came to deciding upon a new event. I left the National Museum of Computing in 2011, which meant that most of my supporting team (who weren’t TNMoC volunteers) followed me. This then meant that we were looking for a new venue, with a new working model. After looking at various venues, Snibston was chosen. Charities such as Centre for Computing and RCM were picked as financial beneficiaries this time – the 2010 event wouldn’t have been the same without them and now it was their turn.
Vintage is now “en vogue” and the interest in vintage technology is no different. CfCH hosted the Hall of Fame stand at Gadget Show Live for a number of years and this had always been well received. We wanted to include this to add additional appeal to families, but combining Raspberry Pi and new exhibitors such as ROUGOL too meant that were were stepping event further away from a traditional Vintage Computer Festival, or VCF. Not that we didn’t do that anyway when OMD kindly offered to give us a concert for the first event!
For 2013, we’ve come up with a new event called Silicon Dreams. As an inaugural event we’re doing it over three days, with the Friday “prequel” day being open to schools and teachers. VCF will be a part of the event, alongside everything I’ve just discussed. Snibston is an excellent visitor attraction for people of all ages which sits alongside the National Park, so we’re adding a fantastic new festival to an already brilliant visitor attraction. Steve Furber, another iconic name from the Acorn/ARM team will be joining us, as well as many names from 2010 including Dylan Smith – the brains behind the “Tweeting Spectrum”.
Aside from the main festival, Snibston Century Theatre – a charming 1930s venue with just 200 seats – will host two sub-events. Silicon Dreams : Film Night will take place on the Friday, with a screening of 1983’s War Games. This film was chosen after we held a poll through Facebook and Twitter – it commanded over 80% of the votes.
The Saturday evening will be a very special VIP event, headlined by one of the Godfathers of British synth music. Human League, Heaven 17 and British Electric Foundation founder Martyn Ware will give an inspiring talk about his career and influences in the music industry. This will be followed by live performances by local synth duo Northern Kind (who have previously supported and worked with various well-known artists), and Martyn’s own band Heaven 17. Bearing in mind that the theatre is an intimate venue this will be a VIP event and a very different experience from a regular concert – seeing a band live in such a small venue is in a league of its own. Aside from this, we’ll be providing food (inclusive) and a bar with the opportunity to meet Martyn and the bands before and after the event. This isn’t a regular gig – it really is a one-off VIP opportunity.
If you’re interested in technology, vintage, electronics or electronic music then this is the event for you. It won’t just appeal to “geeks” or techies either – because it’s in Snibston Discovery Museum there will be all of their attractions too. Not least the colliery exhibits, fashion gallery, heritage railway, transport and engineering galleries.
For more information and to buy tickets online, please visit our website at www.silicondreams.org.uk.