The BBC’s free retro computing archive shows Gates and Wozniak in their heyday

Ah, the BBC, with its wholesome multimedia endeavours. Latest on the scene is the public unveiling of The Computer Literacy Project, a “nostalgic” historical archive, dubbed “an important milestone” in the history of computing. The collection of archival relics includes interviews with innovators-cum-household-names Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak.

The BBC’s free retro computing archive shows Gates and Wozniak in their heyday

Budding computer enthusiasts will now be able to trawl through and watch 267 programmes, explore clips by topic or text search, run 166 BBC Micro programmes, and delve through the history of the Computer Literacy Project.

It is hoped that the archive release – which inspired a generation of computer enthusiasts and coders back in the 1980s – will galvanise another generation through its charming retro intrigue. Matthew Postgate, the BBC’s chief technology and product officer, beamed: “This archive offers a fascinating and nostalgic glimpse into an important milestone in the history of computing.”

Postgate attested to the archival material’s longevity: “The hardware may have changed, but the principles still apply – which also makes it a unique resource for teaching and learning that will hopefully encourage a new generation of computer users”.


This isn’t the BBC’s first foray into computer science PR; two years ago, the agency provided a million school children across the UK with the micro:bit, a credit card-shaped piece of computing kit. The move was a timely homage to the four-decades-prior launch of the BBC Micro, commonly acknowledged by those in the industry as a bridge between old-school home computers and the traditional PCs that exploded onto the scene in the 1990s.

The Micro’s principal designer, Professor Steve Furber, has put his weight behind the BBC’s latest endeavour, stressing the importance for today’s generation to recognise that technology has not always been pervasive, and readily available to all.

“The 1980s saw the emergence of the computer from the machine room, where it was under the control of a few folk in white coats, into homes and schools where it is accessible to all,” commented Professor Furber. “The BBC Micro not only gave folk access to a computer, but it also gave them easy access to its inner working, something that has been lost with most of today’s very sophisticated technology.”

Going back to the – relatively nascent – roots via some good old-fashioned 1980s #content might just be the ticket here. Forget Palo Alto mansions and Uber-for-helicopters, this delightfully old-school archive could just inspire a new generation of coders and computer enthusiasts. 

Images: fhwrdh and Gage Skidmore, used under Creative Commons

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