THEY don’t make ’em like they used to. These six hefty chunks of machinery (above and below) are part of a new art project that combines nostalgia for tech from the cold war era with the look and feel of an iPhone ad.
In their heyday, each marked the very latest in state-of-the-art computing. Now locked away in museums around the world, they have been photographed and their images digitally retouched to return them to their former glory.
Photographer James Ball (aka Docubyte) was drawn to the knobs, buttons and dials that characterised the look of early computing. “I have a love of the analogue aesthetic,” he says.
His polishing hides the fact that some of these machines are showing their age. The Harwell Dekatron (top image) is Ball’s favourite. “It is completely battered and scratched and knackered,” he says. “This is what the machine was originally, rather than what it is now.”
Also known as the Wolverhampton Instrument for Teaching Computing from Harwell (WITCH), it is an early relay-based computer, built in the 1950s. It weighs 2.5 tonnes, is more than 2 metres high and is on display at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, UK. Amazingly, it still works.Vintage Computers Take On Fresh Shine In Retro Photo Project.
Below (from top to bottom), the EAI PACE – billed as a “desktop computer” – helped with flight simulations for the Apollo moon programme. The IBM 729 Magnetic Tape Unit was used for data storage in the 1960s. The ENDIM 2000 is a tube-based analogue computer made in the former German Democratic Republic, of which only about 20 were ever produced. By the 1970s devices were getting smaller, and later versions of this classic ICL 7500 ran iconic early video games such as Pac-Man. Finally, the Meda 42TA is a Czech analogue computer, also from the 1970s.
The project is a tribute to computing’s early days. “It’s just a completely different era,” says Ball.