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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Look back in wonder with 1973 time capsule

Items to go on display as it opens for 3rd time to mark Science Centre's 35 years
The Straits Times - November 28, 2012
By: Feng Zengkun
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Look back in wonder with 1973 time capsule A visitor getting a close look at items in the time capsule at the Science Centre yesterday. Buried in 1973, the capsule was opened in 1983 and 2001, with new mementos added each time. The exhibition ends on Jan 31. -- ST PHOTO: ASHLEIGH SIM

SOME were futuristic inventions that fizzled out, like a wristwatch with a miniature television screen. Others showed the way to come, such as the first handheld scientific calculator in the world.

Yesterday, the Science Centre Singapore opened its time capsule for the third time, calling up snapshots of the country's science and technology past.

The centre kicked off its 35th anniversary celebrations and will exhibit more than 100 items from the capsule until Jan 31 next year.

Buried in 1973 to commemorate the laying of the centre's foundation stone, the capsule was opened in 1983 and 2001, with new mementos added each time.

For older Singaporeans, some of the capsule's contents will seem like bygone friends, among them a cassette recorder, portable television and dictaphone entombed in 1973.

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, the guest of honour, yesterday recalled using the ground-breaking Hewlett-Packard scientific calculator.

"It was introduced in 1972 and sold for US$395 at the time," he said.

"Today, there are many different scientific calculator apps which one can download onto a smartphone or tablet - for free."

Others were considered potential game-changers at the time, but eventually lost their way in the marketplace.

For the 1983 round-up of new items, Seiko contributed its revolutionary television watch, which had live broadcasts on an LCD screen embedded in the watch face. It is now regarded as a curio.

The Science Centre's chief executive Lim Tit Meng said the items were selected based on their impact on Singaporeans' lives.

He said: "We ask industry partners, companies and schools to contribute items, but we have to be selective and not everybody responds to our call. The item should be something quite common that impacts our daily lives, or a gadget that is touted as quite innovative."

Other keepsakes commemorate Singapore's icons or give a flavour of the times - sometimes literally, as in the six cans of curried beef and Sarsi bottles included in 1983.

Next year, about 60 items will be added to the capsule, including models of a concept car from BMW Asia, a StarHub mobile broadband USB stick, and the packagings of two ice-cream flavours invented by Nanyang Polytechnic students.

Associate Professor Lim said he was happy with the new haul. The only items that he wanted but did not get were a Singapore-invented thumb drive and a detection kit for Sars. The outbreak of the virus here in 2003 was among the country's worst health crises.

Mr Teo said science and technology had played a key role in Singapore's economic development in the past 40 years, and the capsule was intended to capture its "scientific progress and technological achievements".

"I hope that among our young people studying science and technology today, some will become the innovators and inventors of tomorrow," he said.

Prof Lim said that some items may have to be removed from the 1.5m-by-1m capsule in future to make room for new memories.

"But the capsule is supposed to be a record of our civilisation, so we will have to think carefully about it," he said.

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