By Wendy Maloff
Slide rules, knotted strings, Altairs, Osbornes and the Abacus. Although it may seem a random sampling of objects, these items share common ground. They are all considered computing devices and will be on display at The Nickle Arts Museum.
Located on the University of Calgary campus, the museum is presenting the exhibition Of Mice and Men: a history of personal computing. The exhibition will present an opportunity to see how computing has progressed, to see some technological wonders for the first time or to revisit old favorites, such as the original video game Pong.
"I would like people to be aware of where this stuff came from," explained John Hails, the exhibit’s curator. "It’s the result of a long process of a whole bunch of people working on these computing devices. It’s a combination of private enterprise and research as well as the sheer force of individual personalities that has brought it all to where it is today."
The exhibition includes everything from telephone technology to recording devices, calculating tools to ancient computers.
"The area of computers has shifted from being the playthings of people with a science background to becoming possible for nearly anyone to have one," mused Hails.
Several rare finds will also be on display such as the Quipu, a communication tool used by the Incas.
Quipus conveyed information coded on a series of knotted strings.
"Quipus varied in complexity, size, colour, shape, number of strings and number of knots," said Hails, who added that the version in the exhibition is approximately 800 years old and on loan from the Glenbow Museum in Calgary.
"They really liked the idea of it being in a computer show because it’s about the same sort of thing as computers," explained Hails. "They demonstrate that ideas never die, they just change."
The exhibit is able to draw upon many areas of communication technology because of the speed at which personal computing has advanced.
"[Personal computing] changed so fast because of the technology," speculated Hails. "But at the heart of it is individuals. I think there’s a number of people who are very astute at predicting the future in ways that a lot of people never saw, there were a few people who really jumped on the bandwagon."
Of Mice and Men includes screenings of 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix and features several hands-on exhibits. There will also be guest presentations hosted by the gallery, the first of which will be from Dr. Michael Williams, who played an important role in the advances of computers at the U of C. Williams is currently the curator of a computer museum in California.
Of Mice and Men runs from Oct. 26-Dec. 20. More information can be obtained by contacting the Nickle Arts Museum at 282-4742.