There’s something quite sci-fi about these photos – but the computers depicted in them are real mainframes and components that worked and whirred and chirped from 1950 to the mid-1970s. They appear to be from the likes of 2001: A Space Odyssey or Star Trek because they look brand new – not the worn museum pieces you might see in the Science Museum or their detail marred by the grain of film photography and poor lighting in news stories from the time.
Their modern-retro appearance is due to the talents of photographer James Ball (aka Docubyte) and retouching studio Ink, who’ve produced shots of each that resemble present-day product photography. The cleanness and clarity of these shots are a wonderful contrast to the vintage stylings of the analogue hulks, which sit on colour tones picked from the computers themselves or are representative of the decades they were produced.
1950: Pilot Ace
Designed by Alan Turing – though completed by the National Physical Laboratory after he left – the Pilot Ace was a prototype computer that was powerful enough to find use performing scientific calculations for the lab’s boffins. It’s currently at the Science Museum in London.
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