The Retro Computer Museum is a voluntary organisation dedicated to the preservation of early home computers, consoles and arcade games. They hold regular hands-on meetings in accommodating venues where visitors can play the old machines, lovingly restored and maintained by the small team at the heart of the organisation.
The Third Retro Computer Museum Open Day, 15 November 2009
The location: a village hall in Swannington, near Coalville, Leicestershire. The atmosphere: a cacophony of bleeps, whistles, pings and assorted other electronic music.
Restoration of Ataris, Amigas, Commodores and Arcade Game Consoles
A group of retro games fans were milling around inside the hall, which was filled to bursting point with a variety of Commodores, Amigas, Sinclair Spectrums, Ataris and Acorns. In one corner, the youngsters were playing driving games on Nintendo consoles and Sega Dreamcast consoles; on the stage, there was a knockout challenge underway involving a Japanese game called Bomberman projected onto a side wall. Arcade games hulked in the opposite corner from the Nintendos, nestled alongside a small machine running an early version of Galaxians.
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Working BBC Micros on Show
Working in conjunction with a small group of like-minded BBC Micro enthusiasts, the RCM team had managed to fill all three rooms of the hall with technology: in one side room were more arcade games and in the other a range of BBC Micros displaying various tweaks and modifications – one had a music sound card which caused the music to display as coloured bars on the screen, another was set to show Biorhythms and one was blank so that those who wished could recall their BASIC programming and make the machine do what they would.
Classic Early PC Games Appeal to All Ages
Games on show included Manic Miner, Jet Set Willy, various incarnations of space invaders (including Zap, Kristal Konnection and Galaxians – in its original pre-upgrade version) Wolfenstein, Lemmings, Drop Zone, Pac-Man and Doom. There was a sprinkling of driving games, a slew of shoot-‘em-ups and a variety of maze games.
The visitors were mainly 30-something males, although there were a few girls around as well as the children of gaming couples. Mid-afternoon a delegation of students arrived from Leicester de Montfort University and the noise and crowding levels hit uncomfortable volumes for a while whilst everyone adjusted to suddenly having 30 extra people in the room all at once.
Unlimited Gaming Combined with Healthy Home-Cooked Food
The joy of hiring a village hall is that all the facilities are in place to provide healthy home-cooked food to numbers of people and a small team of ladies had colonised the kitchen, turning out jacket potatoes with a variety of fillings, wheat-free muffins, and industrial levels of tea, coffee and squash to order. There was also a good supply of canned drinks, crisps and chocolate for those who needed an extra boost.
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There was a small charge to enter, as well as a raffle to raise further funds towards the group’s stated aim of opening a retro computer and console museum and wheat-free tearoom somewhere in Leicestershire. There is a small range of merchandise available (T-shirts, mugs, pens) through the website and at most of these gatherings a bring-and-buy style stall where items for donation can be left and computer-related items sold in aid of the cause.
A fun day out, full of simple pleasures and friendly people. Recommended retro entertainment for those who remember it first time around and for enthusiasts to show their children. If something as big and involved as the Vintage Computer Festival would feel like too much, this would make an ideal starting place to revisit the early days of computer games.
This article originally appeared on Suite101.com on 25 June 2010. It was removed at the writer's request in February 2013, and appears here with slight revision and additional photographs.