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ICON Magazine article on vapourware

Icon-April-00-14-pOFC-REV1[1]April’s issue of ICON magazine has a six-page article featuring examples of vapourware from my book ‘Delete: A Design History of Computer Vapourware’

If you can, get hold of a copy of the original magazine, but if not, you can downlaod an individual copy of the article here: Icon-April-00-14-p070-REV1.


3D Printing – the Craft of the Future?

I gave the keynote lecture at a public presentation last week (5 March) in Vienna, Austria to the city’s Chamber of Commerce. The subject was 3D printing and the likely impact that the new technology might have in economic, social and ethical terms.


The evening event was held in the impressive conference room at the offices of Vienna’s largest bank, Erste Bank, and was organised by Creative Industries Austria. It was very well attended, with all three invited speakers getting a ggod response and a lot of questions. The networking event that followed the talks was very useful too..

You can access the webpage hosting a slideshow of the lecture here

And the video of the talk itself is on youtube

Eye Magazine listing of ‘Delete’

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Eye Magazine has listed ‘Delete’ on its website:

web image of actual cover

Delete: A Design History of Computer Vapourware (Bloomsbury, £24.99) recalls the many failed prototypes of early computing. Author Paul Atkinson clarifies the problematic term ‘vapourware’ and the marketing conventions that surround it, before taking a thematic look at  unrealised examples of design. Ad campaigns, in their fully realised nonexistence, add further spin to this alternate reality.

Delete: A Design History of Computer Vapourware

delete cover

An advance copy of ‘Delete’ has just arrived in the post this morning from Bloomsbury. The printing quality is excellent, and I’m really happy with the way the book has turned out. Thanks to everyone concerned who helped with this project. Advance copies have been sent to various magazines, so hopefully reviews will start appearing soon. The bulk of the print run arrives with Bloomsbury in a few weeks time, and its official release date is 29th August in the UK and 24th October in the US.

Initial reviews of ‘Delete’

“Paul Atkinson’s DELETE is a veritable design museum of what might have been in computer products. The abandoned concepts and prototypes that serve as his well-chosen exhibits attest to the evolutionary nature of technological development, complete with failed experiments and extinct species from which much can still be learned. In all, Atkinson makes a compelling case that the word vaporware need not always be considered a pejorative.” –  Henry Petroski, author of The Evolution of Useful Things and To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure and Professor at Duke Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, USA,

DELETE is a stunning addition to the literature of the history of technology. This book is the first to engage with the important topics of industrial design and product failure in the computer industry, although its lessons have a much wider resonance. Deeply researched and lavishly illustrated in colour, it is a pleasure to read and to browse.” –  Martin Campbell-Kelly, emeritus professor of computer science, Warwick University, UK,

“For Delete: A Design History of Computer Vapourware, Professor Paul Atkinson brings together his extensive knowledge of design practice and design history.He has an eye for exploring new and important narratives and its one of my favourite books for 2013.” –  Catherine McDermott, Professor at Kingston University, London,

More details can be found on Bloomsbury’s website.

Paperweight Radio: The Ghosts of Visual & Material Culture

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On the 15th March I travelled down to London to take part in a radio interview on Resonance FM, the London-based Arts Radio Station to promote the new book. The programme was a pilot for a new regular show hosted by Juliette Kristensen to tie in with the excellent publication Paperweight, the newspaper of Visual and Material Culture. As it turned out, it was a really pleasurable experience!

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Fot this pilot episode, the theme was ‘Ghosts’ (tying in with the second issue of the newpaper, in which I had an article titled ‘Ghost in the Machine’, describing what ‘vapourware’ is). In all there were four guests: myself talking about the ghostly computer products that are Vapourware, the parageographer James Thurgill on haunted places; the collector and curator Brad Feuerhelm on occult photography; and ninteenth century literature and culture scholar Clare Pettitt on the nineteenth century telegraphic imaginary.

A recording of the whole programme (1hr) is available through soundcloud – although the first section, in which I discuss Delete and  the concept of Vapourware, is 16 mins long. If you have a few minutes to spare, have a listen….

Delete – advance publicity

I haven’t posted for a short while, as I’ve been really busy getting the manuscript for my new book finished and off to the publishers. Now it’s with them it takes a year to go through all the production process stages before its printed and ready for purchase, so it should be in the shops in August 2013. The cover is designed, though, and advance notice for the book has been released by Bloomsbury:

Delete: A Design History of Computer Vapourware
Paul Atkinson

While most historical accounts of the development of computer design focus on specific computers or manufacturers, examining the success stories of hardware and operating systems, Delete: A Design History of Computer Vapourware creates a completely new narrative by investigating the machines that didn’t make it.
Fascinating, full-colour images of computer designs, many of them previously unpublished, are accompanied by the hitherto untold stories of their planning and development, the pitfalls and successes in their creation, the market and competition at the time and the reasons why they never finally appeared for sale.
Appealing both to a broad audience and to a more specialist one of designers and computer historians, Delete, with its unique collection of prototypes that never made it to the market, depicts a technological world that might have been.
The full details can be found here at Bloomsbury’s website.

Retro Gaming Weekend

There’s some serious retro gaming fun to be had this bank holiday weekend if you’re going anywhere near Coalville, near Leicester. (We drove a couple of hours and it was well worth it). The Retro Computer Museum has taken over a couple of rooms of the Snibston Discovery Museum in Coalville and has about 60 or 70 computer systems running for visitors to try out. If you remember a particular system or game, then it is probably on display here. Children from tiny tots through to adults remembering their first gaming experiences  meant that there were smiles all round the rooms, as well as some surprised comments that some of the systems were there at all, particularly fully functioning!

photo by Bernie Cavanagh

The event is staffed by volunteer members of the Retro Computing Museum, who have an incredible amount of knowledge of these increasingly rare systems, and they deserve to be fully supported in this important preservation activity. If you get a chance to see for yourself, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

In addition there are a couple of stalls selling old computers, games, books and magazines, much of which would be difficult to find elsewhere.

You really don’t need ultra powerful kit, huge monitors and stereo sound – Playing Pacman on a 5″ screen on an old Commodore Portable, trying an early 3D device called the Nintendo Virtual Boy and racing Mariocart at a seriously low resolution, all just seems to add to the fun!

Parsec playing on a Tandy Ti994/A

Rory playing Pacman on a Commodore 'portable'

Serious Concentration!
(photo by Bernie Cavanagh)

photo by Bernie Cavanagh

photo by Bernie Cavanagh

Isaac trying the Nintendo Virtual Boy

Rory and Isaac playing Mariocart on an old Nintendo Game Cube

Thanks to Bernie for the use of his photos

For more information, please see the Retro Computer Museum’s website

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