For young viewers of early Dr. Who, the most famous track created by The Radiophonic Workshop will always be inextricably linked with memories of peeking out at Cybermen from behind their sofa. The pulsing rhythms of Delia Derbyshire’s theme tune went on to represent the beginnings of The Workshop’s unique form of early electronica. This pioneering music studio had been set up by a group of BBC employees as demand had grown for innovative synthetic music and sounds for radio and television. Through developing these sounds The Workshop would go on to inspire musicians from across the world and create a new genre of synthetic soundscapes.
Well, it’s obviously not the end of the Information Age, if such a thing truly exists. Although I am marking the end of my personal journey into building the Science Museum’s brand new Information Age gallery, and heading off to pastures new.
When I started at the Science Museum back in 2010 as an assistant curator, the museum had just been told that they had been awarded a pot of money to develop a potential new gallery, then known under the working title Making Modern Communications. It looked likely that I would get to help. What I didn’t anticipate then was a trip to Cameroon to acquire mobile phone related objects, some of my writing appearing alongside pieces by David Attenborough, Stephen Baxter and Martha Lane Fox in our accompanying book, or witnessing the Queen sending her first (and perhaps last) tweet. The last four and a bit years have been long, but extremely rewarding.
So for everybody outside the museum the gallery has just started its life as a public space, meanwhile for the large team who put it together we look to what comes next. I’m about to embark on another long journey. I’m beginning a collaborative PhD with the University of Cambridge and the Science Museum, looking at the development of Ohm’s law and the wider history of electricity in the nineteenth century. I’ll be using museum collections as the starting point for recreated experiments, following in the footsteps of my supervisor, Hasok Chang. I also have every intention of being a more regular blogger, so watch this space!
Twenty years ago, on 16 August 1994, the Bellsouth IBM Simon hit the American market. Weighing in at a hefty half a kilogram, and looking rather like a grey brick, the Simon was advertised with a not-so-snappy slogan declaring it to be “The World’s First Cellular Communicator”.
Although the slogan was a bit of a mouthful, the Simon really did break new ground. It took some of the best technology that the handheld computing world had to offer – personal digital assistants (PDAs) were all the rage in the early 1990s – and combined it with a mobile phone.
This blog post was written for the Science Museum’s blog. To read the full blog post click here.