Amstrad on display during SmartBar

by Siobhan
Publish date
12 May 2013
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So, it’s not as big or as flashy as CSIRAC (1949), but the real star of last week’s Smart Bar event here in the Discovery Centre was our Amstrad Portable Personal Computing device (1987).

Whilst CSIRAC has the weight of history, ground-breaking science, and several good-sized African elephants behind it, the Amstrad spoke to some more personal nostalgia for many of our visitors – sort of the difference between visiting St Paul’s Cathedral and going back to your primary school.

Spec  for spec, though, the Amstrad does outperform its big brother, inspiring this mini-comic for the #SmartBar hashtag!

Amstrad Amstrad vs CSIRAC
Image: Siobhan Motherway
Source: Museum Victoria

Just for fun, compare CSIRAC’s specs with this website’s run down on the Amstrad and then think about the cheapest wee netbook available at the local discount shop.

Obviously, CSIRAC occupies 40sqm, whereas the Amstrad comes under the category of “luggable” – it doesn’t compare to the power or portability of the phone in your jeans pocket, but at least you could haul it around one-handed whilst looking supercool – only those looking very closely would see the veins standing out and the sweat beading on your forehead.

We couldn’t match CSIRAC’s music, though, coaxing only a recalcitrant BEEP! out of the Amstrad when we asked it to do something outside of its parameters. Like, tell us the contents of the disk in the B: drive, apparently. Nevertheless, the sight of the grey plastic shell, green screen and blinking old-school DOS cursor had dozens of visitors crowding around the desk, reminiscing about their own first computers and exploits on local BBSs.

And now I’ll leave you with the most ambitious or optimistic attempt to put the Amstrad to use on the Smart Bar evening. Sorry, sir; apparently it does have an internal modem, but 2400bps and ASCII will only get you so far.

The Amstrad laptop in the Discovery Centre A valiant effort by a visitor to get the Amstrad to connect to the internet
Image: Siobhan Motherway
Source: Museum Victoria

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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.