Opening doors — 16 Comments

  1. My first computer was also a ZX Spectrum back in the 80s.  Great little thing for its time. I was and still am an ardent gamer.

    • The first [and possibly only] game I bought for the Spectrum was Flight Simulator.  Never could land the fucking plane.  The only way you knew there was a mountain under you was the altimeter suddenly changed from a safe height to fuckit.  Flight sims have changed a little bit since then.


  2. I note with displeasure that The Computer Programme is now on youtube. I have been jealously guarding my copy (ripped off a dodgy vhs by an even dodgier pirate years ago) and also my copy of the series that followed…when to be a ‘computer expert’ meant having a serious beard by law.

    Nothing boring about the account, uncannily it mirrors the story of the ZX81 and the happenstance of how the BBC Acorn came about. So much back then, in the world of computing , was sheer ‘chance’ , a coin toss (and several other sorts of tossing too I should think). So much was ‘home brew’ and ‘taught myself as I went along’.

    Oh for a return to those times when serious pipe smoking men with serious beards in even more serious icelandic jumpers were GODS who walked among mere mortals…and were paid handsomely for it (ok I jest about that last bit).

    • I discovered that YouTube thing last night and was late to bed as a result.  It is amazing stuff in retrospect [showing a massive “video disk” about twelve inches in diameter and claiming that some day they might even store actual text and video].

      Oh for a return to those times when serious pipe smoking men with serious beards in even more serious icelandic jumpers were GODS who walked among mere mortals”  I have forsaken the Icelandic jumpers – do I still count?

      • I will resist the temptation to start watching them inorder to find the video disk clip because if i were to then….and anyways The Bestes Wife in the Entire World and The Galaxy Beyond wants to watch the latest instalment of “The Fisted & The Spurious” tonight on this laptop.

        But I’m guessing that Video Disk was what they stored the BBC Domesday Project on…thereby ensuring a pointed lesson in ‘data redundancy’ for future generations to harken to at night around the camp fires of burning MS Works file types (WHY OH WHY does my ol’dad insist on publishing the Parish Magazine in formats so arcane as to require my setting up a Win95 emulator? “If .ibs and .wwa-z were good enough for St.Peter”).

        And on a technical note, it is only permissible to swap Icelandic Jumpers for Xmas Jumpers hand knitted by an adoring far-too-young-for-you spouse (for the ‘bragging rights’, you understand?), and only if the jumpers are at least two sizes too big and you are, as all good geeks must be, allergic to wool.

    And that, for some reason, reminded me of the first portable hard drive I ever purchased many years ago. It connected via the old parallel port and was the size of a house brick. It probably had another power supply brick but I don’t remember. This brick had an absolutely staggering 40 megabytes of storage! And I never did fill it…

    • My first actual PC had a 40Mb hard disk and that left masses of free space.

      I just checked…… this site is 820Mb and that excludes the database which is another 173Mb [say a nice round Gigabit for the two!].  Makes the old 40Mb disks seem quite small?

      • I was amazed to find there were external HDDS made for Acorn Archimedes. I even managed to acquire one for free and even more amazingly found the software for it online. This was maybe 10 years back. It had a thumping 20, in words “FUCKING HUGE!!!11”, mb.  I imagine those early Acorneers must have felt all Capt.James.T.Kirk plugging that in back in the day …SPACE…more space than you can shake a starship at!

        I no longer have any Acorn gear -a long story involving decorating and kicking a bucket of water over. But I made sure i have a copy of the software for the HDD…one day I shall ride to rescue of some computer museum.

      • First box was a Zenith 8088 with a 20mb hard drive. State of what I could afford in 1989. Prior I had done a lot of data entry using punch cards and can still hear the sound of the hammer!

  4. I too had a Spectrum back in the ’80s – a gift from someone who had upgraded. I did a bit of simple programming on it (I think I managed to create the ‘tennis’ game or somesuch), but it never really grabbed me. I was at the time working 16+ hour days seven days a week (I had a recording studio building / refurb company in London at the time – good money, but loads of hours), so that may have had something to do with my lack of interest. By the time I got my next computer in the 90s, we were into Windows 3.1, and shortly after, W95. So I never did really get the hang of how computers work. I just use ’em. Sometimes not very successfully.

    • Apart from the fascination of being able to control what happened on a television screen, I whipped up a couple of programmes for the Daughter.  She still remembers one where it taught her to tell the time from an analogue clock.  Then I realised I could do my job on it!  I was delighted with that as the planning involved reams of tedious calculations, converting distances into signal loss, and choosing the correct equipment to go in the correct places.  I even refined it to produce a bill of materials on completion.  It cut out every tedious aspect of the planning and was a lot more efficient and accurate as well.

    • Hah!  But try and display the full brainfart [I’ll even let you skip the image]……. !

  5. Very interesting… Not boring at all for this geezer.
    What financial commitment did the Sinclair require? Weeks pay? Month? Year?

    • Good grief!  That was thirty or so years ago.  If I remember correctly it was around £130, but don’t ask what I was being paid at the time.

      I bought a Tandon 386 PC a few years later and I had to get a loan for that.  It was well over the £1,000 mark.

  6. I had a Tandy computer from Radio Shack back in the 80’s where the programs I concocted up (along with cramping up my fingers on the small keyboard) could be stored on a cassette tape as well. With help from the book of basic programs that came with the thing I could program up basic swirly type displays akin to the very early screen savers of later years, as well as analog and digital clocks and such. Eventually though I found out I was more interested in the hardware end of things as well as being fascinated by the fact I could save my work on a cassette tape and run it back to load any program I saved.

    It was at that point that I steered away from the programming end of things. I could do it, troubleshoot it and fix it but I could picture myself someday closeted in some dark corner spending 8 hours a day with my eyes glued to a monitor writing, compiling and debugging code. This did not appeal to me in the least so I veered into everything and anything that had to do with computers except programming. Worked for me.

    I was heavy into sound engineering at that point as well so my attention was a bit divided back then.

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