The 2016 Tony Sale Award for computer conservation has been won by the
Heinz-Nixdorf MuseumsForum for its evocative and educational reconstruction showing
how ENIAC, one of the first electronic computers, was programmed.
ENIAC was programmed by plugging wires and turning knobs,
a physical skillset quite different from those deployed today.
The reconstruction of part of the huge 1946 American computer has the look and feel
of the original, but has been simplified to make it readily understood and
even programmable by non-specialists.
Chair of the judging panel, Professor Martin Campbell-Kelly said,
“The HNF reconstruction captured the essence of the landmark ENIAC computer.
The panel was particularly impressed at the thought and planning that went into
making the reconstruction accessible to non-specialist audiences.
Then the execution of the ideas produced an artefact that is robust and ideal for
a hands-on museum display to demonstrate the physicality of early computer programming.
Modern audiences are bound to be surprised and captivated by the reconstruction.”
The inspiration for the reconstruction was the HNF’s Ada Lovelace bicentenary celebration
- the ENIAC was originally mostly programmed by women.
Operating six days a week in the museum, the reconstructed ENIAC accumulator
(a ‘register’ in modern terminology) is safe and robust enough
to be operated unsupervised by visitors.
Campbell-Kelly concluded, “The judging panel has been especially pleased
at the sheer variety of entries we are receiving for the
Tony Sale Award for computer conservation.
The ENIAC reconstruction is quite different to our previous winners:
Dr David Link's computer art installation, LoveLetters;
the IBM 1401 experience by the Computer History Museum;
and the virtual reconstruction of the German 1930's Z1 mechanical computer.
With such diversity and global interest, the Tony Sale Award is providing
a great benchmark for the developing science and art of computer conservation.”
Other entries shortlisted for the 2016 award included
A restoration of a 1972 PDP-12 computer by the Rhode Island Computer Museum and,
From the Jim Austin Collection in York, England, the conservation of a 1980s IBM 3084
mainframe computer and a Cadlink computer aided design machine.
The restoration of a 1960s computer peripheral,
an IBM 1403-N1 printer at TechWorks! VIntage IBM Computing Center, Binghamton, NY, USA.
This outstanding project was nominated runner-up in a closely fought competition.
The award was presented at the London CCS meeting on Thursday
17th November and was followed by
a fascinating presentation from Johannes Blobel who designed
the exhibit and led the implementation team.
The Tony Sale Award is presented in remembrance of
the late Tony Sale, one of the two co-founders of the
Computer Conservation Society which runs the award.
Tony Sale was an inspirational figure whose efforts to reconstruct a
Second World War Colossus codebreaking machine pioneered much of the
present day work of the Society.
The award is sponsored by Google to whom we are most grateful.
Johannes Blobel and Dr Jochen Viehoff (Director Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum) with
the ENIAC reconstruction at HNF.
(Photo by Jan Braun/HNF.)
A video of the reconscructed ENIAC panel being demonstrated can be seen at