Computer and video game enthusiasts will feel nostalgic and excitement at the hands-on games and lab experiments. Jeju’s new Nexon Computer Museum (NCM) will leave an impression on everyone.
With a remarkable (and growing) 4,000-item collection of computer and video game equipment and games from the 1970s, 80s and 90s, NCM’s crown jewel is a functioning Apple I circa 1976. It was purchased last year from Sotheby’s for $374,000 (4억원) and is one of only six in the world that still work.
But it’s not just Silicon Valley which features in the four-story, $15 million museum, a project which started four years ago as the brainchild of Nexon founder and Korean billionaire Jay Kim.
“Our target demographic for this museum are Dads who experienced playing with computers when they were young. Those who are now in their 40s who remember the Yongsan electronic shops in Seoul,” said Solip Park, International Relations Coordinator for Nexon Computer Museum.
Park added that the chairman, whose office is just next door in the Nexon HQ, falls into that demographic as “one of the first in the generation of the computer industry in Korea” and his vision for the museum is influenced by his younger days and a sense of nostalgia for those games he played.
Kim’s vast experience and hands-on approach informs the NCM team about acquisitions and the classification of newly-acquired items.
Among the big names in computer history like Apple, Amiga, Commodore, Nintendo and Compaq, one of the museum’s most popular attractions for Korean visitors is the emphasis placed on Korean computer and video game consoles from the 1980s and 1990s. Many of these are completely unfamiliar to a Westerner, as are some of the U.S.-made machines which Korean consumers could not purchase here.
“In the first floor exhibition area, there are a couple of Samsung, Daewoo, Goldstar manufactured computers. They are icons of the [Korean] computer generation as computers people actually used back in the 80s,” Park said. “We occasionally get [Korean] visitors here who aren’t aware of NES or Commodore, but who [know] the Daewoo IQ-1000, so depending on the region you come from, you may have a completely different experience [at the museum].”
These Korean computers and video game consoles are harder to find than their Western counterparts because Koreans had less space in their homes and so just got rid of their old gear, Park explained. As a result there are relatively few private collectors in Korea. In the U.S., on the other hand, people could keep old computers in good condition by storing them in their garages, and then sell them on eBay decades later.
This is why the museum seeks to archive and preserve this valuable piece of local Korean technological culture and history.
The museum, which opened on July 27, received input and support from American and European computer institutions and museum such as the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, the German Computer Spiele Museum in Germany, and Queens Museum of Art, among others. Park said that the permanent preservation of computer and video game equipment and software in museums is a relatively new development worldwide. The Smithsonian, for example, has held such exhibitions in the past, but those were temporary.
NCM has special workshops (including Lego Mindstorms) and a daily “Open Storage Sneak Preview Program” at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., during which visitors can get an up-close view of two different computers featured by NCM staff. For the moment these programs are conducted in Korean only. There is also a daily typing competition, with prizes for those with the fastest fingers. All the video games and other activities for visitors are included in the price of admission.
The museum’s English Web site will be online soon. For information in Korean, go to www.nexoncomputermuseum.org.
Hours are 10 a.m., to 8 p.m., from May to October and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. November to March. Admission is 8,000 won for adults, 7,000 won for students and 6,000 won for children. Kids under the age of 7 must be accompanied by an adult, and those under 3 are not permitted in the exhibition area. Jeju residents and foreigners with an ARC card get a 50-percent discount. The museum is closed Mondays, the Lunar New Year (Seollal) and Autumn Harvest Festival Day (Chuseok).