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‘Computers’ have own soul and own history

Young people today probably wouldn’t even recognise the computers of yesteryear, which were so large and clumsy. Technology has advanced hugely in a short period of time — to an extent we never could have foreseen
By Dmitry Semenchuk

Alexander Alexandrov, a fourth year student with the Computer Networks and Systems Department of the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics, has been collecting old computer models for almost a decade, since he was nearly 13 years old.

Alexander’s ‘time machines’ are now on show at an exhibition within the university, showing the progression of technology — from home Bait computers onwards; several were donated by friends and acquaintances. Looking at the range, it’s easy to see the ‘similarity’ of the technology. Meanwhile, each device has its own ‘soul’ and its own history.

Living past

The small auditorium at the BSU is filled with all manner of technologies from the 1980s and 1990s. Alongside legendary ‘Nemiga’, ‘Bait’ and ‘Electronika’ computers are old games consoles, laptops, TV sets, programmable calculators and typewriters: over 100 exhibits in all. The oldest dates from almost forty years ago while the youngest is from just eighteen years back. Many remain in good order, allowing us to play childhood games.

Part of Alexander’s collection is stored back home, in Brest, while the rest is kept in Minsk. “Initially all my computers (about ten) were stored in our Brest apartment,” he recollects. “However, there wasn’t enough room, so my father and I converted an outbuilding for use as storage. When I moved to Minsk, I rented an apartment, and stored equipment there. I then gained a hostel place, where there wasn’t space any more. It helped greatly, 18 months ago, when I gained my first exhibition at the Union of Designers, since I was able to store my collection on separate premises afterwards.”

The 1980s atmosphere of the exhibition is supported by vinyl records hanging from the celling and music playing on a huge tape recorder.

Collection ever growing

The value of Alexander’s collection comes through the rarity of the computers he has collected: already worth in excess of $25,000. Some items have been bought, and others donated, or exchanged. Some were gifts from unknown people. Holding exhibitions helps, since people tend to make donations: one man gave Alexander an enormous ‘clever’ typewriter. It doesn’t work, but that’s not important.

Museum plans

Alexander chose his future profession long ago, having always found computers fascinating; his first appeared when he was only three years old. However, he’s yet to decide whether to create software, or whether to create software support. Meanwhile he is eager to understand all aspects of electronics — from TV sets to the latest robotics. One day, he’d like to open his own museum, filled with his ever-growing collection.
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