Six excellent ideas for a geek bank holiday weekend
The weather's looking like it's going to hold for the bank holiday weekend and you need to think up some last minute excursion ideas. But there's no time to look down every one of the intertubes for inspiration, so we've done it for you and added an appropriately geeky theme to the list. Pocket-lint guarantees that they'll be something on here that you haven't already tried.
Brand new on the tourist scene is the walking tour with a difference - Camera Trails. Simon Brown and his team take six members of the public at a time on a four and a half hour sight seeing snapping workshop of London. It's aimed at the beginner to intermediate photographer and you'll need bring along your own camera which can be a compact, if you wish, so long as there's a manual option. There are three different tours to choose from - Monumental London, South Bank Tour and Urban East Tour - and each promises an original look at the capital without a cheesy postcard shot in site. "We will try and ensure that each and every participant will leave having taken some quality photographs of perspectives not normally captured on film”. Sounds promising. Tours cost £70 per person and book up very fast.
The London Eye
Yes, even the big wheel itself has gone geek of late with the addition of a 4D cinema adventure before you take the 135m high round trip above the streets of London. The three minute short is screened in a purpose-built 3D theatre with the addition of a series of special effects machines that blow smoke, wind, bubbles, snow, spray water and even emit fireworks smells into the audience throughout the production to bring the movie to life. That's the added dimension. It sounds a little gimmicky, and it is, but it doesn't stop tingles down the spine, hairs standing on end and even a few tears in your eyes at what is really a lovely little addition to an already great attraction.
Museum of Computing
After its eviction from Bath University premises, The Museum of Computing, the UK's first dedicated computer museum, is running once again and welcoming in the crowds every Saturday from 9.30am to 5pm at its new home in Swindon. There's 2000 hardware exhibits (85% of which are in full working order), 2500 software items and around 1500 books, manuals, specialist magazines and sundry items. The latest show "traces the evolution of computing beyond the mainframe; through desktop PCs at work and at home, portables, arcade games, games consoles, handhelds and mobile devices".
There's also the "Pong to Playstation" Zone, allowing visitors to try their hand at working vintage games consoles with Pong, Pacman, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros and Space Invaders. Unusual items highlighted as on display include a 1989 Nintendo Power Glove with early motion-controlled sensor tech, Intel's full-size, real-life surfboard with an inbuilt tablet and touchscreen computer and a Science of Cambridge Mark 14 with a calculator style LED display, the first computer designed by Sir Clive Sinclair. Admission fees are £7.00 for a family ticket, £3.50 for adults and £2.50 for kids. Children under 5 go free.
Another museum of computing can be found at Bletchley Park along with a great deal else for the geek tourist and family. There's 50 personal computers dating from the 1960s to the present day including a PDP8 from the USA dating from 1965, a BBC B micro, the Dragon 32, the Sinclair ZX80 and the Amstrad PC1512. The estate was, of course, also the home of the WWII cryptanalytical team who managed to crack the Enigma code. You can see the machines there, listen to stories of espionage and experience life as it would have been at the time. Best of all, the mansion stands among some lovely Buckinghamshire countryside which should be just right for a picnic or spot of tea outside somewhere according the weekend's weather.
Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum
You've been to the London Science Museum and million and one times and it's going to be rammed over the weekend. So, do yourself a favour and hop on the train to Birmingham to check out the award winning Thinktank. There's over 200 hands-on displays, Spitfires and submarines from WWII, eMo the emotional robot and the oldest steam engine in the world. It's also your last chance to catch the BBC Walking With Dinosaurs Exhibition which closes after the weekend. If that's not enough, Thinktank has its own digital planetarium and an IMAX theatre currently showing Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 3D as well as a few more educational features. Once you're done, you can always grab a balti before heading home. It's open every day except Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day from 10am to 5pm.
If your co-tourists are less geekier than thou, you can always add your own tech spin to some fairly standard theme park proceedings with the Thrill Seeker app for iPhones and iPod touches. It has complete information on Alton Towers, Chessington World of Adventures, Drayton Manor, Thorpe Park and Walt Disney World with details of rides, attractions and the facilities nearby. It'll tell you where your nearest cash machine or eatery is and provide intelligent directions to them through your GPS system. It also gives you all the geeky facts about each ride - how high the drop on Oblivion is, how much steel went into making Space Station Zero etc - as well as tell you about typical queue length and any height restrictions there might be. It costs £2.99 and offers free updates of all the other theme parks as soon as they're added.
Good luck and have a lovely weekend.