Silicon Dreams and the Vintage Computer Festival Mark II - the Update: Six Weeks and Counting

by WordChazer

Preparations for Silicon Dreams and the Vintage Computer Festival at Snibston Discovery Museum in Leicestershire in July are ongoing, so it's time for an update.

Having had a chance recently to catch up with the organisers of Silicon Dreams, I think an update is in order. It might be six weeks away yet (5-7 July 2013) but as ever with events from this team, a great deal of effort and thought is going into the planning, timing, organisation and execution of this homage to the power of the silicon chip and all it has done for us. Guests are being announced and the keynote speaker was recently confirmed as a name many will recall from the days of the BBC Micro.

Just some of the machinery you can expect to see and play at Silicon Dreams

Chuckie Egg, running on an Einstein - a rare one this! (Pictured at Revival, Wolverhampton)
Chuckie Egg, ...
Paula Thomas,...
A tabletop Munchman console (Pictured at Revival, Wolverhampton)
A tabletop Mu...
Paula Thomas,...
A Speccy and a Beeb (Pictured at Revival, Wolverhampton)
A Speccy and ...
Paula Thomas,...

Silicon Dreams: Planning Now Well Advanced

Since the original Silicon Dreams article a few months ago, the organisers, Chimera Events, have put a vast number of hours into refining the basic plans. They have engaged speakers, found exhibitors and generally drummed up interest by publicising the event in many different locations.

At Easter, the main Saturday night entertainment was announced, and in mid-May, the keynote speaker was confirmed.

In the meantime, the nitty-gritty of such events has been addressed. Hotels have been booked for the event staff, a dress code is being formalised for us, and the question of suitable catering has not been forgotten either.

Visitors will be able to see and use all of Snibston's existing excellent displays as well as those specific to Silicon Dreams and the Vintage Computer Festival GB. It promises to be an unmissable weekend for fans of all kinds of technology, that much is certain. Many of the talks and presentations have been meticulously scripted, but there is always room for a surprise or two, as this footage from Beeb@30 shows.

ARM Microprocessor Designer Professor Steve Furber Shows he's No Slouch on the Bass Guitar Either

A Variety of Events to Suit All Interests

The entire location has been hired for the weekend, so anyone who comes to Snibston during that time will also have the chance to see what's going on with Silicon Dreams and the Vintage Computer Festival GB in the price of the entry ticket.

There will be exhibits scattered throughout the museum space, talks in the theatre and a ticket-only meet, greet and concert with a well-loved 1980s musician and friends on the Saturday evening.

So imagine this, under the aircraft hanging from the rafters, a display of 1980s computing equipment:

The aircraft in the rafters at Snibston Discovery Museum

A BBC Micro computer









Boys' toys of all sorts, whatever your taste. The girls need not fear either, as there is always the Fashion Gallery to retreat into when the menfolk are safely engrossed in a game.

Education and Workshop Days

Schools and families will not be disappointed

Friday and Saturday daytimes will feature events targeted at schools and families.

The Friday will showcase special events and workshops suitable for school classes and family participation.

Several speakers have been invited to give talks and presentations in the Century Theatre over the course of the weekend. If the breadth of knowledge is anything like what was shown at the first Vintage Computer Festival GB at Bletchley Park or the Beeb@30 event in Cambridge, then these will be fascinating, instructive and funny by turns, and are not to be missed if possible.

According to what I've been hearing, plans include, but are not limited to, 'hands on' experience of programming in Python and Scratch, games design and web development in HTML and CSS.

(Come to think of it, that's not such a bad idea for adults wanting to design their own websites, either. If I wasn't staffing the event, I'd be right there learning along with the classes.) 

It is hoped there will also be exhibitions featuring innovative uses of the Pi, which is an adaptable little machine in the right hands.

An Evening with Martyn Ware

Yes, that's Martyn Ware of Heaven 17

Once the museum itself is shut for the night on Saturday, the lucky 200 with tickets can adjourn to the theatre, there to enjoy the musical treats being promised by An Evening with Martyn Ware. This is guaranteed to be an evening not to forget in a hurry, including food, a talk from Martyn Ware, live music from electronic duo Northern Kind and to top it all off, an appearance by Heaven 17.

Northern Kind? I hear you ask. This is a duo who have supported or played alongside most of the 80s greats such as Gary Numan, Midge Ure and Boy George, so they're in good company with Martyn Ware. Their songs have topped download charts all of Europe and they will be performing tracks from their third album.

After all the music, there will be a chance to meet and greet the musicians in the bar.

Northern Kind/Heaven 17


The Keynote Speaker is a BBC Micro Veteran

The keynote speaker for the weekend is Professor Stephen Furber, one of the designers of the BBC Micro. Steve is also a reasonable bass guitar player, as he demonstrated at Beeb@30, when he took to the stage unannounced, with a borrowed bass, to play with one of the bands (see video earlier in this article).

Professor Furber is almost frighteningly intelligent, with a long list of achievements to his name which was kicked off when he joined ARM on the acquisition of his PhD in 1980. Since then, he has been widely awarded for both his research and his past computing achievements, with significant research backing by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). He also holds Fellowships of the Royal Society, the British Computer Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Institution of Engineering and Technology. In 2007 he was awarded the IET Faraday Medal and in the 2008 New Year's Honours List he was appointed a CBE. He has won numerous other awards and accolades for his development of the ARM microprocessor, found these days in around 95% of smartphones.

The audience will be guaranteed an interesting and informative keynote speech on Sunday, that's for certain.

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Extra Hands Always Welcome

Now, it has to be said that the team are becoming rather good at this event-organising lark. However, they can always use additional help.

Offers of sponsorship and volunteering assistance over the weekend should be directed to the organisers, Chimera Events. I know at one time there was a need for a couple of minibuses and drivers to help run us staff around from Snibston to our hotel, as well as a comment from the videographer that video editing was a long and labour-intensive process. If you feel you have expertise in any particular area, the Event Manager would be pleased to hear from you.

Event staffing is fun and exhausting. It can be a strange mix of receptionist, tour guide, security guard, retail assistant and Problem-Solver-At-Large, but the chances of meeting people and seeing places you never would as a paying visitor are endless. It is also a very inspiring role for a writer or artist to take on, as it allows for a large amount of people-watching and interaction.

It promises to be a great weekend at Silicon Dreams and the Vintage Computer Festival. We look forward to seeing you there.

Updated: 12/25/2013, WordChazer
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WordChazer on 06/09/2013

Thanks Mike. Just on Twitter with the organiser at the moment, updating myself on what's been happening while I've had my head in Centre for Computing History mode these last few days. Hopefully have an update soon.

MikeRobbers on 06/09/2013

A fascinating festival and an interesting article, WordChazer.

WordChazer on 05/29/2013

Oh, it's going to be a blast, Sandy! I'm really looking forward to it, just hope that I can people watch more than I have to people manage. Because geeks en masse can be a bit like herding cats at times! I'm sure there are such events near you; I know there is a digital arts scene stateside.

sandyspider on 05/29/2013

Wish that there was a computer festival near me. This looks like fun.

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