My Galway Computer Museum Visit

Hello and welcome to my second blog post…no, seriously, please, hold the applause…**waits for applause to die down**.

So, I have a few posts already written which I am pretty excited to share because they involved venting and giving off about some modern stuff which annoys me, but I wanted to share this one first because it ties in with the Amiga Ireland Meetup which I’m going to this weekend, which I’ll briefly get to soon.

This Blog Post as you will have deciphered from it’s title is about my visit to the Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland which is in the Insight Centre for Data Analytics in the DERI Building of NUI Galway. Which if you’re unsure of, it’s at the traffic lights on the way out of Galway on Moycullen Road, opposite the Westwood Hotel, or here in google maps to make it simpler!

Computer and Communications Museum of Ireland

I initially visited the Museum with a friend Jarlath, who is also into retro computers, specifically Commodores and Amiga’s. I grew up with Jarlath and among the many things we had in common was the fact that we both had Amiga’s! He set up and runs the Annual Amiga Ireland Meetup which is like it says on the tin; a meet up of Amiga lovers which meets annually.

This years event is on this weekend in Prince of Wales Hotel, Athlone and tickets are still available here if you are interested in going.  Last year was great fun, and this year there’s lots happening such as a Sensible Soccer tournament, Stunt Car Racer tournament, tutorials on  on coding in Basic, tutorials on making music on the Amiga, instructions on how to connect your Amiga or C64 to the internet (yes that is possible) as well as special guests such as ex-Commodore UK MD David Pleasance and A-EON founder Trevor Dickinson, whose company are still making incredibly powerful Amiga machines today! It’s a great place to meet other gamers or Amiga lovers, or have fun hanging out. One of the special guests is none other than Brendan Smith, curator of the museum, who is an absolute mine of knowledge when it comes to all kinds of computers.

Which brings me back to the computer museum, it’s amazing! The below picture gives a brief idea of what it is like. There are sections for all types of computer.

Jarlath and I first went there to spread the word about the Amiga Ireland 2017 meetup, and we arranged to meet the above mentioned museum curator Brendan Smith, who is an incredibly generous person. He has a full time job, he runs Coder Dojos for kids and adults who want to learn coding, he curates the Museum always adding new sections to it, and there is a huge amount of voluntary work he does also, yet he still took the time to talk to us and show us around when we called in because he could see we were interested.

Brendan Smith, museum curator

I was amazed at the huge amount of computers they have in the museum, from early era to modern day gaming consoles. Obviously as an Amiga owner I gravitated to the Commodore section where there’s a huge amount of cool stuff!

Whoa! 16k of RAM!!!!! Boo-yahh!

Commodore Pet

This is the Commodore Pet, released in 1977. I can’t say I know much about the specs, but I will say the PET 2001, was the third personal computer ever made available to retail consumers, after the Apple II and TRS-80. My friend Wikipedia reminded me of that little fact. This is a Commodore 64, a few mates had one and I can remember playing with it as a kid. The tape cassette used to particularly do my head in! It seemed like anything could stop the loading process. Blinking or moving suddenly was a big no no. Even looking directly at the cassette might upset it.

I can remember playing a game on a C64 with a friend Dara and his older brother and they were playing some two player game and I was just watching. So out of pure boredom I reached out and touched a key on the keyboard. Suddenly their game ended. They looked at me shocked, asking what I did. I said “I just pressed the “E” key.” (keys are not the actual ones I pressed, I can’t remember the exact details). They roared back at me “E is for End Game!” So they gave me a scowl and started a new game and after a while, I got bored again, and this time reached out and press “F” on the keyboard, thinking it would be safe. I was kinda playing Russian Roulette. It was my way of feeling like I was part of the game. Suddenly the game ends again. I know I’m in trouble now. “What did you press!!”  “I didn’t press E, I pressed F!” They both roared at me “F for Finish game!!!”  It seemed as if every key was a shortcut to end the bloody game! I was wondering what other shortcuts are there? S for stop. W for Whoa there now. N for no more. O for  Okay I’m finished. etc.

Anyways, I recently bought a C64 as part of a package when I bought an Amiga 500 on I never had a C64 myself as a kid, but it’s still nice to have that time capsule of a machine. The games they developed on that were incredible when you consider the limitations they had!

Commodore 64

Fun fact, ex Mayor of Galway, Niall Ó Brolcháin wrote the first ever commercially sold computer game in Ireland and it was for the C64!  It was called Hitman! This is the Amiga 500, for me it’s amazing. I couldn’t tell you anything about the specs to be honest. All I know is that it played some epic games and I spent half my early teens on it! I’m not sure I can put into words what the Amiga means to me, because it’s not just a computer that I had, it’s something more than that. I might have a think about it and try to do it justice at some point. But just the thought of it beings me back to childhood, I’m sure everyone has that about something in their lives.

Amiga 500

As well as the Amiga section, it has early Apple’s, Compaqs, Digitals, Amstrads, everything you could imagine really! I obviously was not very impressed with Apples at the time because I got very few photos of the various other machines, as you can see! So, you’ll have to take my word for it, or go visit for yourself!

I also love the fact that Brendan has embraced the gaming side of computers also. It may seem obvious but it would have been easy to keep the museum for purely Personal Computers and ignore the gaming consoles which have developed over the years. And the selection they have is amazing and you can actually play them all! All are in working condition which is brilliant!

There is also a section in the museum dedicated to showing the development of the modem, man, it is eye opening to see how far technology has come over the years to the point where we are all on mobile and using the internet and basically carrying around small PCs with us. It’s a really great way to see the progress of technology in the museum.

Just looking at this modem is giving me anxiety!  How slow must it have been! And how many variables are in it which can go wrong!!

I’m about to finish up now, but just want to reiterate the impressiveness of the Museum and I really want to encourage you to go and visit them to find out more and to see what activities they put on there.

It really is a hidden gem in Galway, which is nice in a way because it’s niche but at the same time it really should be discovered by more people who may have an interest in it.  So if you know someone who may be interested, send them on this blog post, or send them on the info about the Museum from the info above.

Or if you yourself are interested in visiting, get in contact with Brendan to arrange a visit. His contact details can be found on the Museums’ Facebook About me page here.

If you’ve got this far, thank you very much for reading this! You can follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook also. Any follows, retweets, shares or feedback are appreciated!

I will leave you with a picture of a telephone in the shape of Ireland.


2 thoughts on “My Galway Computer Museum Visit

  1. Iarla Ó'Riada says:

    That was an amazing article! I couldn’t stop belly laughing at the bit about the C64 game in your friends house either. Very thoughtful and deep but also very witty. Looking forward to reading more.

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