[SIGCIS-Members] Research project on the material culture of computing (plastics used in electronic artefacts in information and telecommunication technologies)

Ulf Hashagen u.hashagen at deutsches-museum.de
Thu Apr 2 07:18:35 PDT 2015

  Dear members of SIGCIS,

we plan to hand in a research project about the plastics used in 
electronic artefacts in information and telecommunication technologies.

Two topics are being researched:

     a) based on selected artefacts from two museums in Munich 
(milestones of the technological development) we aim to characterise the 
plastics used in the production of personal computers and of radios. We 
intend     to understand the reasons why plastics were selected for 
production or for changes in their choice. The plastic selection can be 
based on some or more of the following reasons: design, function, costs 
of production, properties of the plastic in question (weight, 
workability, colour, resistance to shok, resistance to heat, ...), 
historical reasons as availability or non availabilty of raw materials 
during war or post war periods, etc.
         - What were the advantages and disadvantages of past used 
plastics in the production of electronic artefacts?
         - Why were some plastics preferred in a certain period and 
substituted later on?
         - Which development similarities do we find between the 
production of personal computers and radios?
         - What were the main reasons for the selection of plastics in 
which period of the twentieth century?

     For the investigation of personal computers we are identifying the 
plastics by means of infrared spectroscopy of the following elements:
         - housing
         - power cables
         - operating elements (push buttons)
         - printed circuit board (e.g. mother board)
         - integrated circuits

     Below your find the a pre-selection of personal computers dating 
from 1975 to 2000:

Personal Computer
	 Production date

Heimcomputer "MITS Altair 8800" 	1975
Personal Computer Apple II IA2S2 	ca. 1980
Personal Computer Osborne 1 	1983

Personal Computer Apple Macintosh 512K 	ca. 1985

Personal Computer Macintosh Plus 1 Mb 	

Personal Computer, sign.: Commodore 64 	1992
Notebook Apple iBook SE 466 	2000

     b) based on a condition survey of personal computers and radios 
from two museums in Munich (several hundreds of objects in storage) we 
aim to identify the main decay patterns of plastic materials (yellowing, 
         discoloration, desintegration, loss of plasticizer).
     After identifying the main weathering decay forms, we will analyse 
the plastics, so that we can correlate material and decay. For instance, 
until now we have noticed that ABS is prone to yellowing, plasticized 
PVC is         prone to loss of plasticizer and tha rubber is prone to 
desintegration. By identifying the amount of objects at risk in the 
collection we can establish priorities for the active or passive 

We would like to ask you whether you find this topic interesting and 
kindly ask you to discuss with us our aims and methodology.

Best wishes

Dr. Marisa Pamplona-Bartsch (& Ulf Hashagen, who forwarded this Email of 
his colleague Marisa to sigcis)

Objekt- und Restaurierungsforschungsabteilung
Conservation Science Department
Deutsches Museum
Museumsinsel 1, 80538 München, Germany
tel + 49 (0)89 / 21 79 512
e-mail:m.pamplona at deutsches-museum.de

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