Centre for Computing History seeks cash for Jupiter auction

May 14, 2014 | 09:48

Tags: #auction #cambridge #computer-history #museum #vintage-computing

Companies: #centre-for-computing-history #history

The Centre for Computing History in Cambridge has launched an ambitious fundraising campaign in an effort to secure the most complete collection of material relating to the iconic Jupiter Ace microcomputer in the world - but has mere days in which to complete its herculean task.

The Jupiter Ace was the product of Jupiter Cantab, founded by frustrated former Sinclair staffers Steve Vickers and Richard Altwasser. Designed to address perceived limitations in Sinclair's ZX range of systems, the Jupiter Ace eschewed the popular BASIC language of the day for FORTH - with the result that, for those who were willing to put in the time to learn the language, programs written for the computer could run an order of magnitude faster than on the rival machine.

Sadly, the machine's lack of colour graphics and sound capabilities at a time when a large proportion of purchases were being driven by the burgeoning games industry spelled disaster for the machine. Jupiter Cantab entered receivership in 1983 and was acquired by Boldfield Computing in February 1984; efforts by the company to improve the machine's lot resulted in increased popularity with a niche market near-exclusive to the UK. It was enough to justify a tour of Europe to buy up unsold machines for conversion and resale, but not to resume production - making the Ace one of the rarer machines from the UK microcomputing boom of the 80s.

Paul and Claire Downham, the original directors of Boldfield, have now launched an auction to sell the entire assets of Jupiter Cantab as they exist today, as transferred to their personal ownership in 2005: original unsold stock of Jupiter Ace machines, master tapes for its software including titles that were never released, internal documentation and company records, and even total ownership of the Jupiter Cantab and Ace brands themselves. That's a proposition that the Centre for Computing History can't pass up.

Sadly, the Downhams aren't selling the the above cheaply. They have launched an eBay auction which opens the bidding at an impressive £10,000 - and it's this figure that the Centre for Computing History is looking to raise.

The charitable organisation has launched a JustGiving fundraising effort to raise at least £10,000 - the minimum permissible in order to place a bid on the auction. At the time of writing, however, it had managed just £520 - and with only four days left on the auction, the group hasn't got long to find the funds if the Jupiter Cantab collection is to become a permanent part of its Cambridge-based vintage computing museum.

All funds raised will go to the Centre for Computing History, with JustGiving taking its fees out of the additional money raised through Gift Aid tax claims; if the total isn't reached in time, or the Centre is out-bid at auction, the funds will be ring-fenced for the purchase of a future exhibit.
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