Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 19/03/2002To the Anchor Tap for lunch, a nicely convoluted pub tucked away behind Tower Bridge, with various ZDNetters and gadabout freelance Manek Dubash. As we skip nimbly between the puddles and rainshowers over the faux-cobbled streets around Butler's Wharf, a familiar yet out-of-place square object catches my eye.

Tuesday 19/03/2002

To the Anchor Tap for lunch, a nicely convoluted pub tucked away behind Tower Bridge, with various ZDNetters and gadabout freelance Manek Dubash. As we skip nimbly between the puddles and rainshowers over the faux-cobbled streets around Butler's Wharf, a familiar yet out-of-place square object catches my eye. It's sitting peacefully on the kerb outside a posh shop, it has a dollop of white grease on top but nonetheless it can only be one thing. A Pentium.

We appropriate the processor and continue to the pub. After the steak and mushroom pies are consumed, the investigation continues: wiping off the thermal grease reveals a 75MHz Pentium -- probably 1993/4 vintage -- in apparently perfect condition.

How does this happen? Is it nature, red in tooth and Moore, which means that once-proud processors, at one time among the most sophisticated machines on the planet, are reduced to walking the streets? Is it some obscure Brit Art installation? We are, after all, just an amble away from Tate Modern. Was it just waiting to cache a bus?

The mystery micro is now adorning my monitor, alongside the rest of my miniature museum of electronic curiosities -- the picture tubes from two generations of Sinclair Microvisions, one of the first prototype polymer displays, a networking chip from MainLAN, and so on. It has a certain functional beauty, with its dark mauve ceramic package propped up by a sea of glittering gold pins, the chip itself hidden beneath solder seal and runic markings, but even if it works it's effectively useless.

I suppose I'll hold onto it for a few years until the Antiques Roadshow breezes into town. But if anyone has some bright ideas how obsolete blobs of sand can be given a new life of aesthetic significance, I'd love to hear them.

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