Swindon Museum of Computing: A byte sized day out

I had a morning family shopping expedition all planned out at the weekend, but plans fall foul when you have a strong willed, stubborn 8 year old hermit. So it ended up merely being me and my biggest minion hitting Swindon town centre at 9am on a sunny Saturday morning. To make the most of our unexpected alone time I decided an impromptu trip to the Swindon Museum of Computing was on the cards as she has been asking for some time.

I had to ask Google for some information as we had not previously visited but luckily enough it has an excellently laid out website with loads of info on times, prices and extras like special events. For the minion and I it was £5 altogether which I thought seemed pretty fair. It didn’t open until 0930 so we milled about doing mundane shoppery type things then headed up. There is parking virtually next to it at the law courts/Wyvern Theatre car-park where I abandoned my Yeti. Parking is usual Swindon prices.

When we got in the staff were very friendly and helpful. The desk is laid out with information on events and plenty of Lego Pac-Man ghosts made by previous small (and large) visitors. The layout takes you on a trip from from the earliest days of simple calculating machines such as Abaci all the way to the consoles and computers we use today. My ten year old was fascinated by floppy disks and the first apple computer, while I was quite impressed by showing her the difference between the first hard drive used for a computer compared to today’s models and learning where the term ‘computer bug’ came from. There are plenty of information boards about famous pioneers such as Alan Turing and about the machines themselves to read as you go round. If you are a nostalgia geek from the 80’s there are Amstrads and Ataris to drool over and there is even a Commodore ready to play with a small racing game, the name of which escapes me, but I’d be willing to bet somebody reading this is shouting it at the screen. There is also a display of the more bizarre computer creations which is quite fascinating and a selection of toys older visitors will recognise like the Tomy Omnibot and Roboraptor.

The displays have plenty of hands on elements as well as the displays in glass cabinets but there are 2 interactive areas. The first has a selection of Lego and instructions to build a variety of computer game themed characters like Mario or Pac-Man as well as some typewriters and paper. The second is probably where you will linger the longest as it is the game console area. There are displays of Game Boys and other famous handhelds, but the real draw is the selection of games to play from Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64, Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation or Sonic on the Mega Drive. We were held up for quite some time once I discovered Duck Hunt was available and spent some considerable time obliterating ducks whilst I ‘showed’ the minion what to do.

On the way out my daughter was quite proud to hand in her Pac-Man ghost to join the desk top display of invaders and the staff again were excellent. I can safely say we will pop back more than once, as it might not be large in size but there is a sizeable amount to take in so I’m sure we will spot something new next time. And that second to last pesky duck ruined my perfect score and I am in need of revenge…

Lovely for a planned visit or a quick spontaneous one. Thank-you to the staff for making it such a great experience.

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