The creator of the Mariupol Computer Museum finds a new vocation in wartime

0

Dmitry Cherepanov, 45, is a self-proclaimed computer enthusiast, nicknamed “Dmitry Brain”.

By day, he’s a programmer helping Ukrainian businesses create websites, but his passion for 20 years has been collecting something unusual: old retro computers.

Cherepanov said his love for computers dates back to his childhood. He collected some 120 computers and game consoles.

“Computers are another world that I can’t express myself in,” he told us in March during our first conversation. “It’s like a parallel universe without borders. I’ve always been inspired by what computers give us.

His large collection was housed in a museum he established nearly two decades ago in Mariupol, Ukraine, not far from where he lived with his family.

The museum had more than 500 exhibits from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Among them: ZX Spectrums, which were popular in Soviet times because all you needed was a circuit board and a soldering iron to build it oneself.

A collection of old retro computers inside the Cherepanov Museum in Mariupol. PHOTO: Dmitry Cherepanov

“The last time I went to the museum was March 14,” he recalls. “I was depressed and upset that I had lost everything.”

Russian shells rained down on Mariupol and Cherepanov fled with his family to western Ukraine. Cherepanov learned from a neighbor that the museum had been destroyed in the fighting. All that’s left is a digital footprint on its website.

We caught up with him again this week to talk about his new project, a website called MRPL.life, which he built and created to help residents of Mariupol find loved ones missing in the fighting and allows residents to post photos and details of their relatives or friends in Mariupol. More than 12,000 people have visited the site since its launch last week, Cherepanov said.

The interview below includes an update from Cherepanov as well as our earlier conversation. It has been edited for length and clarity, and an excerpt is available in this episode of Click here.

CLICK HERE: Tell us the news of Mariupol.

DMITRY CHEREPANOV: Mariupol is almost completely destroyed. According to the latest data, ninety percent of the infrastructure has been destroyed. I lost everything dear to me in my hometown where I lived for 45 years, complete destruction. There’s nothing left of the city, nothing of my house.

CH: Where are you now?

CC : Now we have been forced to move to the southwest of Ukraine to Kam’yanets’-Podil’s’kyi and for now we are renting an apartment here.

CH: What motivated the creation of MRPL.life?

CC : I’m just trying to help people! My job is always to help someone. So I feel better and at least do something until I have another job.

CH: Did you ever imagine that you would use your programming skills to create this type of site?

CC : I always have a lot of ideas and I create different projects, but of course I didn’t think that I would create a site that would be designed to help in the search for missing persons. This thought came to me when I myself got out of Mariupol and started looking for my relatives and friends.

CH: How does the website work?

CC : It is a service open to people. They can add pages to the site about missing loved ones. They can also message each other privately or in comments. Sometimes they write to me with questions, and I try to direct them to those who can help.

CH: What do you hope the website will accomplish?

CC : I hope this site helps people find themselves and those they are looking for. I don’t know how useful this site will be for people, but I hope it helps at least someone other than me. It is a public and private service at the same time.

CH: Before the fighting started, you created a computer museum, can you talk about it?

CC : It’s a long story! But in short, I got acquainted with computers in the late 80s, when I was eleven years old. I have nostalgia for the computers of my childhood. Since then I realized that my whole life would be linked to them, and in 2003 I decided to start collecting. It ended up becoming a whole museum.

Dmitry Cherepanov gives a tour of his museum in 2019.

CH: What do you like about computers?

CC : IT is another world in which I can express myself, create. It’s like a parallel universe without borders. I’ve always been inspired by what computers give us.

CH: What kind of exhibits did you have at the museum?

CC : Oh, there were a lot! At least one hundred and twenty computers of various makes and models. Almost the entire range of Atari, Commodore, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad computer models. Laptops Osborne, Kaipro, IBM, Compaq And many Soviet computers of various models. And many more. Almost all the computer models of my museum are presented on my website in the exhibitions section.

CH: Who would come to the museum?

CC : Children and people my age. My son was at the museum every day.

Children play video games in the Museum of Retro Computing in Mariupol, Ukraine. PHOTO: Dmitry Cherepanov

CH: What happened to the museum?

CC : The museum, along with my house, was destroyed as a result of heavy shelling and shelling of the city of Mariupol by Russian troops.

CH: Can we save something from the museum?

CC : I do not think so. There is nothing left of the city.

CH: Nothing from the city, so maybe nothing from the museum either?

CC : Yeah.

CH: Do you plan to rebuild it?

CC : I am creating a new museum in the future. It’s hard to plan right now. Our life starts from scratch. We need to find our new home, restore my business, and then think of a hobby, if there is time and energy for it. War is always destruction and death.

CH: You have updated the museum’s website. What are your plans for this?

CC : It will soon become a platform for retro computer collectors and enthusiasts. There will be a forum and a service for exchanging or selling objects between collectors. I hope it will be some kind of social network for collectors

CH: As this crisis continues, what do you want people who don’t live in Ukraine to know?

CC : It is difficult for me to say a message to the world except that war is always destruction and death.

Share.

Comments are closed.