On Sunday morning we visited the Science Museum and, as my other half was particularly keen, headed straight up to the Information Age gallery on the second floor before it got busy (a side benefit of arriving at opening time: you might just be able to nab one of the parking slots on Prince Consort Road, about 3 minutes walk away, which is free on Sundays).
The Information Age gallery explores how information and communications technologies have transformed our lives over the past 200 years. It’s the Science Museum’s biggest gallery to date, and is split into six zones, each covering a different type of information & communication technology: The Cable – where it all begins, looking at the early days of the telegraph and how laying cable made immediate long-distance and transatlantic communication possible – and then The Telephone Exchange, Broadcast (covering radio and television), Constellation (satellite communication), The Cell (mobile networks) and The Web.
We were first drawn to The Cell, with the kids running over to the interactive exhibit & game showing how a mobile network provides coverage in a city – two players compete to place masts in the best locations to provide optimum coverage. We enjoyed it and left realising that ‘learning through play’ works for adults too!
It also contained devices we hankered after in our childhood and hadn’t seen for decades, including the Apple Newton, Palm Pilot, the Psion Series 3, Nokia Communicator – my husband fondly remembered getting a chance to use this whenever an executive family friend visited – and the Psion Series 5mx (in the form of an Ericsson MC218).
We also saw one of the earliest examples of mobile communication – the talking drum from Cameroon. It’s still used to this day, albeit much diminished given the growth of mobile phone usage.
Going back to the earliest days of long-distance communication, the Cable zone contains a number of exhibits showing key moments in telegraph history, including several samples of the earliest transatlantic cables laid in the 1860s, as well as a number of ticker tape machines – the predecessor of the electronic stock ticker we now see in financial news programmes . Making this accessible to children is an electronic mini-theatre show about the early days of the telegraph, which also tells the story of how a murderer was caught on the same day thanks to the telegraph.
The Constellation zone includes a replica of the Telstar satellite launched in 1962, the first to relay television and telephone signals through space. As it’s spherical it makes you wonder whether it was the inspiration for the ‘Death Star’ portrayed in the Star Wars movies!
The Information Age gallery at the Science Museum is definitely worth a visit, and is a great way to get children thinking about technology and how communication methods have developed over the years – something that they probably take for granted being in a generation where communication and information has always been at their finger tips at super fast speed!
Why not try out the BT information Age quiz for yourself, to find out what your information age is!
We finished off our morning with lunch at the Deep Blue restaurant on the ground floor of the Science Museum, where we particularly like how they use light tables as restaurant tables – very cool and different!
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