I am a computer


‘I am computer’ celebrates the visual character of desktop computing machines from a colourless period in industrial design.

From word processors and video terminals, to the very first desktop personal computers, these compact machines heralded a beige age, a period of microcomputing from the the 1970s and early 80s when design standards had conformed to realise a palette of neutral coloured machines throughout offices and later the home.

With the established period trend for neutral colours dominating technology, manufacturers sought subtle distinction with both angular and sculptural forms, endeavouring to unify display and keyboard, resulting in playful, futuristic designs full of character and personality. As the years progressed the character of these early designs disappeared, homogenising into the bland and indistinguishable modern PC synonymous with computing throughout the late 1980s and 90s.


As we move through the so-called post PC era, notions of computing and our definitions of it are evolving. Screen based technology is everywhere, the physical boxy forms from the past are now bland slabs, and the term ‘Computer’ is in decline – most notably in the recent Apple Ipad commercial where a young protagonist, engrossed with his touchscreen device poses the question ‘what’s a computer?’.

The machines in these images, offer a nostalgic reminder in an attempt to reaffirm their answer to that question, ‘I am a computer’.

With special thanks to the following, The National Museum of Computing (TNMOC) The Center for Computing History, Cambridge, Jim Austin Computer Museum, IBM Hursley

“My little computer said such a funny thing this morning”

Alan Turing

“What’s a computer?”

Apple Ipad Advert