Thursday, 6 October 2011

Farewell, Flexible Friend

cundy and rollettWhen I was at school, my maths teacher, Mrs Gosling lent me this book- Mathematical Models by Cundy & Rollett. I was fascinated, and eventually got my own copy.

I was particularly intrigued by the flexagons – polygons of flat card, hinged by their edges to form loops, which can be manipulated by further folding to display hidden faces. I spent hours drawing, cutting, and folding strips of equilateral triangles to make these models[what a geeky teenager I was]

flexagon model

Then in 1971, when I was visiting the Royal Norfolk Show, the ICL  company had a stand, encouraging people to go and study computing. They were giving away sheets of card printed with hexaflexagons. I took one and made my model when I got home.

DSCF2503I have had this for about forty years!

I have flexed and folded it, and it has survived a dozen house moves, degree and postgrad studies,

DSCF2504marriage, motherhood and so much more.

Here are three of its six faces.

When we were at the National Museum Of Computing a fortnight ago, one display cabinet DSCF2506 housed a collection of computing advertising ephemera. Pens, and badges etc. “But nobody has kept much of this stuff” said our guide.

So I have decided that I really do not need to keep my ICL flexagon anymore. [ICL was taken over by the Fujitsu Corporation in 1990]

I am posting it to Lin and Stephen at the NMC. I had such a brilliant time at Bletchley Park, and it is good to think that after my Mum’s work there during the War, now there’s an opportunity for me to contribute something. Now I must make a return visit, just to check that they have put it in on display.

[Anyone else with a fondness for flexagons, or is it just me?]


  1. That is just the kind of thing I love! So much fun! ~Liz

  2. Yes, I too recall them... never actually owned one though. Great idea to send your to the museum where it will entertain and enthuse others

  3. I remember a school visit, circa 1964, to ICL, then housed near Hyde Park Corner to see if any of us could work in the fledgling computer industry.

    Not sure how we were tested, but I was told that there was no way I could be involved in computers in any career.

    I became a librarian, specialising in cataloguing and indexing, learnt online cataloguing in the early 80s, worked in a school library with JANET, worked on databases, and our family were early users of computers and the early internet.


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