Situated an hour from the city of Toronto, and two hours from the Detroit/Windsor border lays a very unique museum designated to the history of personal computing. The Personal Computer Museum located at 13 Alma St, Brantford, Ontario Canada is home to an interactive display of over 50 functioning computers, with over 1000 total in storage, over 25,000 pieces of software and thousands of peripherals – including printers, disk drives, and monitors. Founded by the self-titled “Local Computer Guru” Syd Bolton in 2005, it is now home to the largest interactive computer collection in Canada, as well as home to one of the largest private video game collections in North America. It is also home to a large collection of CED Videodiscs boasting over 5,000 disks for the audio/video fans out there. The museum is responsible for various computer and gaming events throughout the year including an interactive history of video games and computers exhibit at the London (Ontario) Comic Con in October, and the previous PacMan tournament in November 2016. The Personal Computer Museum is also planning a large gaming event in February 2017 in Toronto, and a History of Computer merchandise exhibit in March. The museum is open to the public one Saturday each month for free admission; however, a donation is encouraged and Monday evenings are reserved for allowing volunteers to get together and work on various projects, and for the public to drop off unwanted electronics.
The Museum is housed in a two-story building behind Syd’s house. As you first enter the museum, you are greeted with a large area with over 50 fully functional computers on display ranging from the Apple Lisa to the newly added iMac G4 Cube. On display near the stairs is a short history of processors, and a comparison between various hard drives ranging from the mid-1970’s to the early 1990’s, and even a fully working IMSAI 8080. The walls of the building are adorned with boxes for various hardware, but the first wall that usually catches visitor’s eyes is the wall of software consisting of about 5000 different pieces of software from a wide array of computers. When going upstairs, visitors are greeted with a central gaming location with a projector and couch that is used for various gaming events – the most recent being the demonstration of the PlayStation VR in the December open house, which was a mix of new and old technology. The upstairs is home to the large collection of computer magazines from Amazing Computing, BYTE, Rainbow, and Compute – all, of course, are open to the public to flip through and remember the various articles and reviews from their past.
The museum’s website is set up to act as a single point of interest for those who are not able to visit in person. On the website, one is able to navigate through brief histories of every computer in the collection, as well as read a brief description of software that includes a Google map of their historic head office, as well as other games that were created. The website’s top results for computer information include the Ontario used educational computer ICON, and the Hot Wheels and Barbie PC’s from 1998. Additionally, one is able to look through hundreds of computer brochures, posters, and books/magazines covers on their website. Online users are also able to “adopt” any machine in the museum by contributing to the “care and feeding” of this machine for $10 Cdn a year. Syd explains that each computer consumes electricity and/or requires storage space, which all cost money. Online users who are not able to donate to keeping the museum running directly through donations and visits can help by adopting one of their favourite machines such as a Commodore 64, Apple II, or even a Trash-80.
The Personal Computer Museum is responsible for giving out refurbished computers as donations to those who can show that they are in need. They offer school tours and special events. If you are in the area and have some unwanted electronics, or just want to have a nice night out and play some Lode Runner on an IBM 5155, then the Personal Computer Museum is a must-see destination. If you’re unable to attend personally, I suggest checking them out on social media (Facebook and Twitter) and at their website at http://www.pcmuseum.ca/.