Bletchley museum treasures vintage tech

Bletchley museum treasures vintage tech

Summary: ZDNet UK took advantage of a recent visit to Bletchley Park to uncover some of the thousands of items of IT heritage that the National Museum of Computing has in store

TOPICS: After Hours

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  • Psion Protea Prototype

    Psion Protea Prototype
    There's a huge story to tell about Psion, one of the UK's most innovative consumer electronics companies and one of the few that could outdesign anyone on the planet. Protea was the codename for the Series 5 PDA, which remains one of the benchmarks for elegance, functionality and plain fit-for-useness.

    Running an ARM chip from two AA batteries that lasted up to 20 hours, it had a half-VGA resolution backlit greyscale LCD and an utterly charming slide-out keyboard that, in the opinion of many, has yet to be bettered in anything this size. The operating system, EPOC32, became Symbian, and came with built-in spreadsheet, word processing, database, diary and contact management.

    It was never actually produced in yellow. Shame.

    Photo credit: Rupert Goodwins

  • Psion Series 5

    Psion Series 5
    Another variant of the Series 5 which was never commercially available — this time with a translucent case that brought your correspondent close to actual aggravated theft.

    The Series 5 was developed in under two years, including new silicon, software and casework. Psion was especially proud of its software: the word processor could embed graphics and spreadsheet, had a spell checking, outliner, multiple format options and was near instant in operation — and it took 20KB of memory, less than an empty Microsoft Word document. There's an excellent article on this and more by Andrew Orlowski of The Register.

    Photo credit: Rupert Goodwins

  • WS2000 modem

    WS2000 modem
    The favoured modem of the early British hacker, the WS2000 was an approved modem from the early 1980s that packed just about every contemporary standard into one box. It was nevertheless quite a simple design, based on the AM7910 World Chip single chip modem from AMD (yes, that AMD), but was clever in the way it allowed the host computer to control the modem's functions, including autodial and answer, by pulsing various control lines.

    Although UK telecom approval forbade the use of the Bell American modem standards, the WS 2000 had them — and got away with it by having an end-stop on the rotary switch that prevented their selection. It was the work of a moment to remove that stop.

    Photo credit: Rupert Goodwins

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Topic: After Hours

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Always pleased to see news about Bletchley. I was going to visit (again) this holiday period but the weather was too good!