64 Bits Exhibition – A journey into the Web’s lost past

Think back and you might remember when Apple computers looked like bright plastic bubbles or when webcams had wires or maybe even floppy discs. If you can remember, then you need to catch the 64 bits Exhibition!

But what you’re less likely to recall is Susan Kare, the woman who gave Macintosh its icons, or Alan Emtage who invented the search engine.

 

‘64 Bits: An exhibition of the Web’s lost past’ aims to set the history of the internet straight and pay homage to its pioneers many of whom are not widely recognised from the days of the first search engines. The interactive show is now open at ‘Here East’ a cultural space located in the corner of London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

In the 64 Bits Exhibition Visitors can interact with the timeline of outdated machines on display, each of which are set up to showcase a different piece of historic technology. Ordering a pizza on the world’s first transactional website or creating your own digital city sounds like fun, but the reality of using old technology when you’re used to an iPhone is painful.

Not only do things happen at snail pace but getting them to work involves more brain power than the instant finger-swiping we’re now so used to. While Millenials may end up tempted to smash in the 1980’s computers visitors can learn to code on, the digital artworks up on the walls will make most crack a smile.

Leon Harmon and Ken Knowlton’s 1966 ‘Computer Nude’ occupies a key spot. The work was a result of a prank the pair played on colleague Ed David, Director of Research at Bell Lab. While he was away on business they decided to cover an entire wall of his office with a huge picture of composed of small electronic symbols, concealed within which was a naked woman- and so one of the earliest examples of computer art was born.

Humour prevails in the vast cityscapes of pixel art legends eBoy and it seems artists working in digital mediums at this time may have been less inhibited than their traditional contemporaries. It is this era of early computer artworks that 64 Bits Exhibition curator and digital archaeologist Jim Boulton is fighting to save.

A key part of the exhibition is an open-door digital media archiving service, supported by the British Library.

The 64 Bits exhibition invites artists and designers with work stuck on old floppy discs or other obsolete media to bring them into ‘Here East’ where on 8 April a team from the British Library will excavate the files and transform them into a modern format. The best works will then go on display as part of the exhibition.

Boulton hopes to develop ‘64 Bits’ into an international project by taking it on tour. He said: “An exhibition offers a hard deadline for people to go rummaging through the boxes in their attic – otherwise it’s an easy job to put off!  A touring exhibition means the collection evolves each time the exhibition is staged.”

WHEN: 30th March to 21st April 2017, Monday to Sunday 12-6pm, until 8pm Thursday

WHERE: The Press Centre, Here East, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London E20 3BS

COST: London Art Show free and open to the public

MORE INFO: 64 Bits Exhibition

64 Bits Exhibition – A journey into the Web’s lost past – words Frederica Miller

 

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