Stepping into the exhibition space, one is greeted by two different exhibits – a collection of classic vintage computers to the left, and a collection of vintage radios to the right. The large room smells musty, like an old museum. It’s not really an annoying smell but it is distinctive.
A trio of vintage computers greet the visitor, their gleaming CRT screens harking back to an era where “portable” PCs where the size of a large suitcase, screens were monochrome, and GUIs hadn’t been thought of yet. The aluminium and plastic exteriors looked premium and expensive, these weren’t run of the mill PCs. I knew I was in the right place, and I loved it.
The computers were brought by the Vintage Computer Club, a club founded in 1998 with the one goal of preserving computer history in a world where advanced tech is taken for granted and even the most high end devices are thrown away and discarded after a year. Quite a few iconic machines were on show, like a Commodore 64 and an Apple II, to mention a few. A few awesome games consoles were set up in an air conditioned room for visitors to try out and the exhibitors, members of the Vintage Computer Club, were on hand to provide very insightful background information and fun remarks about the history of the collection.
For me the event was less about the exhibits themselves and more about the experience I had. These computers are more than just silicon and plastic but are physical, tangible, and concrete historical milestones that we can see and touch and use!
Each and every one of those devices represents an advance of some sort. Some advances were purely technical, like offering colour instead of monochrome or increasing power, while other advances were more social. Creating the technology is pointless if you can’t get people to buy it and use it – something start up IT companies know all too well.
Playing a little Turrican on the Neo Geo really put these advances into perspective. The graphics were primitive, the gameplay simple, and the story rudimentary at best (relatively speaking, of course). But despite all of that it was incredibly fun to play and I can see myself playing it for hours on end. Video games these days have evolved, for the most part, into incredibly immersive experiences with all the drama and excitement and emotions of a big budget blockbuster – but some just miss out on the “fun” part. You can’t play for a few minutes then just leave. Then again that’s what mobile gaming is about these days, no?
What really struck me, though, was the enthusiasm of Maurizio Banavage and Ruben Buttigieg, two of the members of Vintage Computer Club Malta. They are both incredibly passionate about vintage computing, giving their collection the love and respect it deserves while gently encouraging others to do the same.
I seriously recommend giving the Vintage Computer Club a ‘Like’ on Facebook here!
The Main Exhibit
The ‘Play’ Area