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

SHARE:
TOPICS: After Hours
1

 |  Image 4 of 11

  • Thumbnail 1
  • Thumbnail 2
  • Thumbnail 3
  • Thumbnail 4
  • Thumbnail 5
  • Thumbnail 6
  • Thumbnail 7
  • Thumbnail 8
  • Thumbnail 9
  • Thumbnail 10
  • Thumbnail 11
  • Anamartic wafer memory

    Anamartic wafer memory
    One of the ironies of computer memory is that multiple chips are made on one silicon wafer, expensively cut up and packaged, and then used next to each other in large numbers. Why not wire the chips together on the wafer, linking past ones that don't work, and just use that? That was the thinking by Ivor Catt, a British inventor, who sold his idea to Sinclair Research — thence a company called Anamartic, which got the results into production.

    Unfortunately, by the time the product hit the market in 1989, the cost of individual chips from the Far East was so low that there was no advantage in using what had proved to be a reasonably expensive way of doing things and Anamartic closed three years later.

    Photo credit: Rupert Goodwins

  • BT Merlin Tonto

    Tonto
    The Tonto was a rebadged ICL OPD — One Per Desk — an unusual project that saw UK mainframe company ICL take the internals of a Sinclair QL and rebuild them in a desktop computer that included telephony and a 1200/75bps modem. The idea was that this would be a universal office PC, with built-in Psion XChange software — word processor, database, drawing and spreadsheet functions — and microdrive data storage.

    The end result was surprisingly usable and on paper had a very good chance of establishing itself as a useful system. However, poor marketing and general bafflement saw it relegated to history's footnotes. Perhaps its most endearing feature was a voice synthesiser designed for answering machine messages; it had a vocabulary of a couple of hundred words with an office theme, but it was possible to make it say mildly racy things — "I am having my secretary under the table. Please call back".  

    Photo credit: Rupert Goodwins

  • Bubble memory

    Bubble memory
    For a couple of years in the mid-1970s, bubble memory seemed to be the way ahead. It works by shuffling tiny magnetic domains around a sheet of orthoferrite — an iron/rare earth/oxygen compound — by putting current through the sheet. It was denser than other memory systems, very robust, reasonably low-power and cost-effective. The bubble memory shown here is Intel's 7110, a 1Mb device, that saw use in a few laptops and embedded systems in the early 1980s. The unit here was made in 1984, towards the end of the technology's relevance.

    Ordinary solid-state memory developed faster than bubble memory and soon saw it off; it was always much faster, but soon became denser, cheaper and lower-power. 

    Photo credit: Rupert Goodwins

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.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

Talkback

1 comment
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Always pleased to see news about Bletchley. I was going to visit (again) this holiday period but the weather was too good!
    Tezzer-5cae2