An account of Researchers’ Night at the Exhibition on Computer History

The The Past of the Future - the Exhibition on Computer History of the John von Neumann Computer Society also offered a number of programmes, free of charge, to the fans of sciences on 29 September. The unfailing interest, the wide-eyed wonder and big smiles on the faces of visitors reinforced our conviction that the popularization of scientific knowledge is indispensable for every generation—and a museum can be an excellent venue for doing so.

But what is Researchers’ Night all about? The organizers of the national programme say that “there are many kinds of researchers, some of them are bespectacled, slightly absent-minded professors working in white coats in labs, while other researchers are young and dreamy or middle-aged; they can be men or women, who can (sometimes) work in a car factory or in a wheat field, in a cleanroom, in a foundry, in the savannas of Africa, in a observatory, on deck of an ocean liner or on top of a volcano.”

What we offered was an insight into the diversity of the world of computer science and demonstrated that it is a field of science that affects all the sections of our societies and economies. Visitors could join our hourly guided tours and experience the development reached in the ICT industry. They could try their hand at a relay telephone exchange (it was some experience to see how fingers used to smart phones tried to use a rotary dial phone) or could view the Ladybird of Szeged, the first Hungarian robotic animal in operation (younger visitors were reminded of a robot vacuum cleaner, a subsequent successor). The guided tour started with the first, room-sized computers and ended with MOBI-X, one of the world’s first pocket computers that was designed by Péter Gyarmati.

One third of our world-standard collection of items from computer history is on display at our permanent exhibition for the general public to view. These items magnificently demonstrate that researchers from a variety of fields in the IT world aimed to design objects that would perform various functions in a great number of areas to meet contemporary needs.

Khepera III robot

The hugely successful temporary exhibition AI and Robots, prolonged for a month, was presented and a lecture on the history of robotics was delivered by Gábor Képes, NJSZT’s senior member and curator of the exhibition, during the night.

The history of robotics so much belongs to the present that one of the items in the showcases, the Khepera III line following robot is still very useful in education. Tamás Szépe, assistant lecturer at the University of Szeged, talked about this exhibit on loan from the same university.

Gábor Képes

His presentation also revealed how line following robots would revolutionize industry and commerce and how young specialists doing research in the subject area for their thesis have contributed to the advancement of robotics with procedures and applications that can be readily utilized in the industries.

We could watch robots at work in Amazon’s fully automated warehouse and learnt how the line following method of industrial robots could become even more efficient.


Tamás Szépe

This was the Past of the Future presented at Researchers’ Night. We are already making preparations to continue next year!