August 3, 2020

UMW Converges Time and Technology in 80’s Exhibit

The University of Mary Washington is converging time and technology with its interactive “Console Living Room” exhibit, a collection of 1980’s technology on display through May 2015. Featuring more than 100 video games, movies and technologies, the exhibit is arranged within a 1980’s living room set-up. Located on the fourth floor of the Information and Technology Convergence Center (ITCC), the interactive exhibit is a space for all visitors to play with the games. Click to view slideshow. The exhibit illustrates the evolution of technology. Today most people play games on mobile phones or high end, specialized devices, but it wasn’t always that way. In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, video games were flourishing in the public spaces of video arcades, but the mass production of home media consoles led to gaming as a home family activity. “The consoles in this exhibit are a piece of our shared digital history,” said Jim Groom, executive director of teaching and learning technologies. “They’re a pre-cursor to the technology we take for granted now.” Situated in the ITCC, the site highlights the history and evolution of technology by contrasting original video games and movies on vinyl with the building’s state-of-the-art structure. “This building, the Convergence Center, is about converging information technology for the future,” said Zach Whalen, associate professor of English. “But historically, new media converged within the technological ecosystems of living rooms everywhere.” According to Groom, there is a story in the technology that is no longer around today. “A lot of this is forgotten technology,” said Groom. “Take, for example, RCA’s Selecta-A-Vision videodiscs.” He points to a bunch of over-sized vinyl video platters against the paneled walls that resemble floppy discs. “That failed format captures a bizarre hybrid of analog and digital that represents a transitional moment in consumer technology in the 80s.” The exhibit’s collection includes well-known video games like Space Invaders, Pitfall and the original Super Mario Brothers. Among the video collection are movies both on VHS and videodisc, such as the copy of Footloose vinyl videodiscs from 1984. Other institutions also have created exhibits featuring older technologies including the University of Colorado Boulder, which has a media archeology lab. For Whalen, the ability to interact with the exhibit was key to the design. “Accessibility was a key factor in designing the exhibit,” said Whalen. “We want students to be able to play the games and appreciate how far technology has come.” For more information about the exhibit or donations to the collection, visit http://www.consolelivingroom.net/. Join the conversation on Twitter with #UMWConsole.