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An Old Git Looks Back At Tech

old git tech titleAs the only old guy in the office, positive discrimination in action, I’ve been patronisingly chosen to pen this article looking back at technology.  Which is fair enough really…

Born on the cusp of the baby boomer generation, though it’s being more bust than boom for me, I’ve seen plenty of technological breakthroughs from men walking on the moon (allegedly) to tiny smartphones with amazing functionality.  I am surrounded by tech which would have yesteryears presenters of Tomorrows World swooning in disbelief.

 

I remember old money and when I was a lad (please reread that sentence in a broad Yorkshire accent) the telephone at home was a party line.  In other words you shared the line with someone else in the same neighbourhood.  So, technology wise, things have certainly moved on a bit.  Which does make me uniquely placed amongst a sea of twenty-somethings to have a look back, but not in anger, at tech.

 

So, I’m going to take a short stroll down Memory Lane and have a look at some of the technological innovations I’ve seen (or at least the ones I can remember) and how they have evolved along the way.

Personal Computers

Of all the changes in technology I have witnessed first-hand over fifty plus years the evolution of the home computer has been the most momentous

evoloution of tech image

The first home computer, or least the first anyone could afford, was the Sinclair ZX80 though at £99 it was a still a big whack in 1980.  And it didn’t really work; just tended to overheat and melt into a puddle of plastic.  A few months later though the ZX81 arrived on the scene and I well remember the excitement as my dad and I sat down to examine this niffy little box of tricks which was released on my 18th birthday.  Boy, was that a wild party.

 

Half the price of its predecessor the ZX81 had a whopping 1KB of memory, expandable to 16KB with the addition of a plug-in pack the size and weight of a house brick, a cassette tape storage system, and a membrane keyboard; though the ‘keys’ were more like pressure pads.  The Z80 CPU generated 3.25MHz so power was pretty limited.  Display was the family TV.

 

Despite its limited power the ZX81 introduced many people to computing and plenty of programmers cut their teeth on Sinclair BASIC.  Games-wise two stick in my mind.  An impossible to complete Flight Simulator, which was basically just a few lines to represent the horizon and a runway, and a fully functioning chess game which was a work of absolute genius.

 

It’s fair to say the ZX81 was the first mass market PC, selling over 1.5 million units, though it was quickly overtaken by rivals including the BBC Micro, Commodore Vic 20 and the Acorn Electron.  But then, of course, came the Sinclair Spectrum.  The first machine which could really be labelled a gaming computer.  But that’s another story.

 

Games Consoles

old git tech gamingXBOX One and PlayStation 4 are amazing machines providing fast gaming and unbelievable, movie-quality graphics. Today’s gaming generation are fed a constant diet of breathtaking games and enjoy battling with opponents on the other side of the world.  But it was a bit different back in the day.

 

Pong was the game which really catapulted the gaming industry into the mainstream and the home versions of the arcade machine were available in the late 1970s.  The Atari 2600, released in 1977, was the first real console with joysticks and cartridge games but my first gaming machine was the cheap and cheerful TV Master from Binatone.

 

With paddles as joysticks and four variations of the classic tennis game; singles, doubles, squash, and football many an hour was spent gaming (in black & white of course) while marvelling at this incredible invention and wondering “just what will they think of next?”  But console gaming, in the guise of trying to hit a pixelised blob with a stick, had arrived.  We loved it and played the thing incessantly.  That’s right.  The late seventies for me was a hedonistic mix of football, punk music, and…..Pong.

 

Mobile Phones

We all have a smartphone.  Even old duffers like me are welded to the blasted things day and night.

Which is all a bit different from my first mobile.  I can’t even remember the name of the thing but it weighed a ton, was ugly as sin, and cost a fortune on a pay as you go tariff.  It only had a tiny mono display and, of course, it could only make phone calls and send text messages but to me this was the future; Star Trek had arrived.  This was it.  How on earth could this be improved?

old git tech mobile

I took proud possession of my first mobile one Christmas in (I think) the mid-1990s as did many of my mates and many others judging by the groups of people stood around in clusters in the pub on Boxing Day comparing their shiny new toys.  Back then mobile phones were a novelty.  Unless you were a brain surgeon on call, why would you really need one?  Nowadays, of course, smartphones are indispensable and there are plenty of teens (and older) who would willing lose a limb rather than be separated from their phone.  But, as a grumpy old git who frequently shakes his head at how reliant people are on their phones, I have to say a modern smartphone is simply bewildering.  And I just don’t get it.  Literally.  My colleagues in the office had to set my phone up for me.  Now, apparently, I can video chat with someone on the other side of the world, whilst ordering a pizza, and downloading a movie to watch…on my phone.  Why?

 

Televisionsold git tech tv

Honestly.  You young ‘uns don’t know you’re born.  What with your fifty inch flat screen ultra-High Definition TVs and 932 different channels.  Back in the day it was just a fuzzy picture on a black & white screen the size of a postage stamp with the choice of three channels once BBC2 was launched in 1964.  By 1969 both BBC and ITV were broadcasting in colour and having a colour TV in those days guaranteed you bragging rights over the entire street.

 

Watching television was certainly different back then.  And not just because of the dearth of choice presented by three channels.  Broadcasting schedules were thinly populated and many an impatient child spend hours staring at the BBC Test card whilst waiting for Andy Pandy to put in a belated appearance.

 

Nowadays, of course, we more-or-less have around-the-clock programming but that wasn’t always the case.  Usually around midnight the end of the day’s programmes would be marked by a cheerful “thanks for watching” message from the announcer at BBC Television Centre followed by a (not very) rousing rendition of the national anthem which gave way to a white dot in the middle of the screen and an ear-piercing tone that seemed to go on for ever.

 

If programming schedules have changed, the televisions themselves are now ridiculous.  Flatter, bigger, and brighter today’s TVs bear no resemblance to the valve driven, tube, and capacitor laden feats of engineering which once graced the nation’s living rooms.

 

Watchesold git tech watch

The changes in the humble wristwatch over the last few decades has been astonishing and the most notable of all innovations for how prices have tumbled as the technology has progressed.

Over forty years ago the first commercially produced digital watch was released in the USA.  With a price tag of over $2000 it wasn’t cheap but digital was cool and exclusive enough for James Bond to wear one in Live and Let Die (1973).  Yet within a few years everyone was wearing a digital watch as prices crashed as manufacturers flooded the market with cheap, and often nasty, imports.  My first digital watch was a rather snazzy number from Casio which set me back £25; roughly my weekly wage at the time.  Poundland has better quality watches now.

 

It has to be said wearing a wristwatch dropped out of fashion for many people, unless you could afford a Rolex, but they are now back on trend thanks to the advent of the smartwatch.  The technology packed into these devices is incredible, you can even send emails or answer calls on them for goodness sake, and makes them incomparable to the tacky digital watches of the late 1970s.

 

The Interwebold git tech wires

So there you have it just a few of the changes in tech I’ve seen over the years and I haven’t even mentioned the Internet.  Although, let’s talk about the Internet for a moment.

We have this incredible resource that brings the whole world into our homes and makes all knowledge known to mankind accessible to all.  And what do we use this amazing creation for?  Watching porn and updating our status on (anti) social media. To be fair I suppose it’s the application of tech rather than the technology itself that I should be annoyed about.  But, overall, the advances I’ve seen, and will hopefully continue to see for a few years yet, are amazing and something a child of the sixties couldn’t have possibly dreamed off.  No matter how much I believed in Captain Kirk.

Author- Craig Ellyard

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Craig Ellyard

Token old guy in the office and lifelong Hull City fan with all the psychological issues that brings. To relax I enjoy walking my two Labradors, as well as running and cycling. Set in my ways I like reading, abhor social media and just don’t get Game of Thrones.

61 comments

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  1. Phil 10 December, 2015 at 11:11

    Sounds like we’re of similar ages, after 30 odd years in I.T., I think I’ve seen all of those things and more! I just managed to get real money for my first games console (Atari 2600) and my Vic 20 -and if I can find the Acorn Atom I built in 1980, I believe it’s worth as much as I paid for it now!

  2. Robin 11 December, 2015 at 11:52

    Great fun to compare my Memory Lane to yours! Let me take you back to 1968, when the University 1909 was kept in two locked rooms of over 200ft^2 (20m^2) plus another large room which contained a motor generator set to provide so-called clean power, essentially using a flywheel to smooth out the mains! Very impressive to a newly-arrived student. But when I finally got an Atari ST, plus 20MB HD, in 1988 it had somewhat more storage and processing power than the monster that ate cards!

    And now the jolly mobile phone, which costs much less, and one can pop in a pocket, outclasses them all—except in sheer awkwardness!

  3. Anonymous 12 December, 2015 at 10:23

    An amusing read, but no Craig, we don’t ALL have mobile phones. I am heeding HMG’s advice and steering clear of them as I can’t see the point in just using one for two years.

    And I still wonder if I honestly have the same amount of real fun on my PC as I did with my Commodore 64.

  4. andy 12 December, 2015 at 10:55

    My first use of computers at work was the office Wang which did structural analysis. I bought a 286 12.5MHz for home use in 1990, upgrading to a self built 486DX33 in 1993. Since then the humble PC has sort of taken over the third bedroom :) Pre-internet and pre-windows, building and running PC’s on tiny amounts of RAM and storage was more an intellectual exercise so more of a kick.

    I never really adapted to the mobile phone except for making and taking calls, and then as few as possible.

    I love my turntable So I am still a bit stone age at 63.

  5. Paul 12 December, 2015 at 14:05

    The best post I’ve seen on here for a long, long time. I guess all the posters so far (including me) are of a similar age.

    In some respects, I think we’ve gone backwards. Yes, the technology unquestionably, is fantastic and beyond our wildest dreams from when we were kids. But speaking of kids, many of them never play any more. They don’t interact with their peers and learn social skills. Many that I’ve come into contact with are incapable of holding a reasonable conversation. And if they try, it’s often unintelligible. They’re so glued to their phones or tablets, that if it doesn’t appear on a screen, they’re lost.

    I go to a Linux computer group (I’ve been using it for over a decade) to help others who want to try it and we have several very, very bright youngsters there – university educated, or about to go. But there’s only one out of four that can hold a conversation down. And he’s of foreign parents! What does that tell you?

    Note for any one interested: no you don’t need anything like a University education to use Linux today. These kids just happen to be very driven and want to learn everything they can.

    One, who I had a conversation with the other week (with an equally old fogy who I call a friend) who afterwards I asked, “did you understand that”? “Not a clue was his reply”, which was sort of reassuring, because I was beginning to think it was me.

    They speak in a clipped, garbled language that I no longer recognise as English.

    If that’s where technology is leading us, I fear for the future.

    Technology is here to stay and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But it needs to be used sensibly along side old skills that form a coherent society.

  6. Bill 12 December, 2015 at 14:38

    I also enjoyed your post and the replies. It does seem rather depressing at times that these children and young people are the future of the country!

    For over twenty years starting in the early 70’s I used to own a consumer electronics distribution company (brown goods they were called then). About 16 or so years ago I took daughter no.2 on a day visit to the Science Museum in London. I was quite shocked to discover a whole display of the things I used to sell, now museum pieces! Worse still, I remembered all of the model numbers and many of the prices!

    Ho Hum, keep breathing!

  7. trigga 12 December, 2015 at 15:01

    Thank you yes that it the best post ever made at this site ive been into tech for 40 year only to get hammered on here from stupid imature kids its nice to go back down memory lane and to all the ignorant baffoons who said 4k cant be done at 60 fps in you’re face nasty little 30 year old some things !!! Any how i think you should take over doing the articles because the orther guy makes loads of mistakes and hence a flame war starts its really nice to see people my own age who i can relate to much much better than the usall guy the one with the ginger hair extensions i might acutely start reading all these articles if you take over though Craig you sound nearer my age half a century. Just because were old dose not mean we have write walk and talk all in a certain way and ive found that HERE you get judged by that CRAIG . Just waiting waiting for the grammer whores to come out cant stand them if people cant keep up with current writing and how the lingo is your loss this is not the 1800s where we use old English stupid ignorant old farts

  8. Jerry 12 December, 2015 at 15:18

    Cannot type a lengthy reply,that would require pen and paper.However I agree with other respondents.I have yet to see a TV with a better picture than my old CRT model,and will not be brainwashed into thinking DAB is an improvement on FM.

  9. N Cook 12 December, 2015 at 15:53

    Yes, great coverage of technological changes & their impact. I learnt Basic on a DEC PDP with teletype & paper-tape puncher, then got my own Video Genie micro (Tandy Trash-80-alike) with cassette storage, Went onto program commercially for 18 yrs. And the sight of couples on sunbeds round a swimming pool both texting/interacting independently on their mobiles, or couples walking down the street doing the same, or a guy standing urinating whilst texting “with the other hand” is bemusing. I certainly wouldn’t steal his mobile phone.

  10. andy 12 December, 2015 at 16:01

    well i loved reading this page,you have no idea how many wonderful memories you brought back to me and i did nothing but have a huge grin while you sent me back in time and so much fun and joy,…it might seem odd or maybe a cowincidence but i have a working casio calculator watch in it’s box…..while trying very hard to sort out all my stuff after a fire,the recovery team opened and packed everything including boxes and drawers that had not been opened for years…..so unwrapping everything piece of property down to pens and pencils there it was…had totally forgotten i still had it…anyway i am selling up to go and live with my mother who needs help while she battles cancer,so if you are interested do you want to buy it.???? ….have not thought of a price but i even have a working olympus trip camera to…from david bailey if that is a memory that i can remind you of…just a thought bud..let me know what you think just a thought bud.. :))

  11. andy 12 December, 2015 at 16:05

    just looked at all these other posts and you really have cheered so many people up with this fantastic blast from the past , i have never seen so many long and positive comments ever…well done bud as others have said ” the best page ever ” … :))

  12. andy 12 December, 2015 at 16:16

    JERRY…totally agree, i had a £400 crt 22″ iyama weighed 27.5kg but the FLAT screen was amazing and even then there was no graphic card on the market for about 3-4yrs that could even challenge the massive resolution…totall beast but it creamed high def and even now the resolution on a flat screen you would still have to pay £400 today….even had a 19″ samsung syncmaster and the rich colors and again flat screen and about 2 feet from front to back lmao….so many people who saw it were just amazed and now my 26″ samsung has the equivelent resulotion….

  13. Sean McHUgh 12 December, 2015 at 16:19

    Just to add to the chorus of old gits…

    I started with a Commodore PET in 1978 and stayed with the IT bit from then on. But I doubt we have come as far as you marvel at.

    All the tech you point at is gadgets except for the internet – and that started in the 1960s with Darpa and didn’t flourish until the Web and HTML in the 1990s.

    Otherwise we nearly all live beside roads and streets engineered in the 19th century or earlier for horse-and-cart delivery, in houses made out of baked clay (tip of the hat to Ancient Egypt) living off flat-earth farming, and using energy from dug-or-drilled-out-of-the-ground fossilized sunlight.

    Despite the fact that we do not need to go into work in order to get things done we still stream in our millions in and out of cities at the command of the clock.

    And we are still ruled over by people whose only claim to fame is a funny accent and even funnier hats.

  14. Chris 12 December, 2015 at 17:09

    Another old fogey here who enjoyed the article.

    Let’s not forget analogue audio- the vinyl album that has recently made something of a resurgence as more and more people discover that such a crude contraption as a record deck, which ‘reads’ data by wobbling a little stick about in a groove as the record rotates at a dizzying 33 rpm actually makes better music than its digital replacement- albeit with the inconvenience of having to turn the thing over half way through playing.

    Portable music, however, is the fault of our generation- with the advent of the Walkman personal stereo- yup, that anti-social conversation killer and irritant of public transport users started with us. Of course, any teenager these days would probably have hundreds of songs on their phone or audio device to choose from- without having to lug about dozens of cassettes (and a biro to wind the tape back in when something went wrong). Even more anti-social was the ghetto blaster, which arrogant young men would strut about town with, turned up to the max. At least smartphones are generally not loud enough when played through their speakers to fill an entire bus or train carriage- although bloody annoying nonetheless.

  15. Jimbo 14 December, 2015 at 11:50

    Great read, and brings back fond memories…. of zx81 and spectrum…. I think my most enjoyable days were eventually buying a BBC micro and a twin floppy drive wow those were the days!! Loads of great games, chuckle egg, zalaga, elite, pacman….. simple but very playable games…

    My first mobile (if you can call it that) was roughly the size of a car battery and only made calls (no text messages back then) it was a heavy beast! when I upgraded to the house brick (Motorola phone) it seemed fantastic in comparison.

    Moving on I remember a friend getting a zenith hd notebook / laptop, it had roughly 6 inch mono screen and a 20megabyte hard drive… soon after that things really accelerated, with Toshiba bringing out colour (washy out daded screens, way before TFT / LCD / LED) but having a laptop (which had to be plugged into the mains) with colour was amazing at the time… I think it had a 286 CPU? not sure…

    thanks for the article !

  16. istriggadrunk 29 December, 2015 at 16:10

    no
    he be trolling
    still karnt spell
    used a diffrent name to troll twice
    tells big big porkies
    has a thing about spotty teens

  17. steve 27 January, 2016 at 14:44

    Great article bringing back many memories, such as the Sinclair Spectrum, which is still in its box somewhere in the loft.
    The first mobile phone like a brick supplied by the employer, which was great for ringing up friends to say I was coming over 10 seconds before I knocked on the door. LOL
    The first computer was a Dragon at home and at work was an original IBM PC (10Mb hard disk), I still have my first “portable” PC which ran CPM and is the size of a suitcase.
    I can long for the pre-tech days, but could I do without my flat screen TV, smartphone, GPS, digital radio and tablet with all my music on? I think not.

  18. Nigel Kingdon 29 January, 2016 at 11:03

    Now I have Elite running on my laptop my life has come full circle 😉

    The ICL (remember them?) 1909 was rubbish unless you had a pair of 20mb FEDS. Did you know it’s internal core memory was 16K? VM(E) (nearly) was genius.

  19. Anonymous 29 January, 2016 at 11:08

    You know the same things were being said by people 100 years ago, it’s all new fangled machinery we don’t understand (threshing machines), strange language used by the young (slang), and these new means of moving around (cars/trains). The world is the world and it is what you make it. As a person of very similar age to the above I can say, I like mobile phones, they are amazing devices that can do wonderful things (they don’t for most people, but they can) oh and Game of Thrones is stunningly good :-)

    As for history I started out with a ZX81 back in about ’83 I think, then a large mainframe Vax VMS system, a Primos system, before “discovering” the 286/386’s and Windows 3, the holy grail of computing something that you could interact with without writing days worth of code. I’ve graduated over the last decade from windows through HP-UX and Solaris toward Linux the last great bastion of computing how it used to be, command line interfaces, trimmed down systems, number crunchers and power hungry grids. I feel almost like I’m back to the ZX81 days and I love it :-)

  20. Marty 29 January, 2016 at 11:11

    Jerry has a good point re new vs old tech. So with old analogue technologies (TV’s, Phone’s, Radio’s, etc) if you didn’t quite have a clear signal, you simply got a bit of interference, however with digital, if you don’t have a clear signal, you get….NOTHING. On old TV’s you’d get a bit of “snow”, on old radio’s a bit of “static”, on old mobiles a bit of “fuzz”, but on modern TV’s you get a “No signal”, on modern radio’s you get “nothing”, and on mobile’s phone’s you either cannot make a call, or you get cut off INSTANTLY. My mobile phone experience has become more of a case of “will it work” now, but in the days of analogue, at least you could always make a call!! Whilst today’s tech looks nice and has a multitude of functions that you will never need, yesterday’s tech did actually work better and more reliably! Another example. What did you used to do when your car broke down? Get your spanners out and fix it, now, you have to have a degree in electrical engineering and £20k’s worth of diagnostics just to work out what (usually electrical) component is the cause of the fault.

  21. Jim C 29 January, 2016 at 11:11

    DISC STORAGE
    In 1969 I started my first proper job as a RESIDENT computer engineer – computers were business critical, but not very reliable in those days and needed a 4 hour maintenance session every week to keep them going. Disc storage was the latest thing, replacing 2400ft / half inch tapes. I entered the IT industry at the point where the biggest “exchangeable” discs held 6mb. One of the guys I worked with decommissioned one of the earliest “fixed” discs (which was about a meter in diameter) and he took the platter out, screwed some legs onto it and made it into a coffee table.

  22. Mark Poxton 29 January, 2016 at 11:31

    Smashing, of a similar age and ilke, Had a commodore, dullest thing I ever owned, made BigTrak look like the space 1999 team had landed, on returning to computing and buying a 2nd hand 386 for a grand with DOS and Win 3.1, I stepped into a steep learning curve by formaqtting the thing the very next day… and wondering why the mouse didn’t work!…. ram upgrade 4x 1mb sticks, 2nd hand 10 quid each (and an 80 mile round trip!)

    Skip forward several years and more several thousands spent to one of my most memorable (you’ll get it in a minute) purchases, 2 x 256mb SDRAM sticks which worked out at a mind numbing 500 quid at that point in time!… ironically I still have them, but then I still have an AT keyboard and various other worthless old tat… 8mb usb stick, 850mb HDD out of the 1st NEW machine I ever bought (an old Seagate that still works :) ) on and on and on, it’s hard giving stuff up and by the time I do, it’s worthless…. all them zip discs!!… I even bought windows 95 on floppy disc so I could copy them (despite Microsofts own formatting size, of something like 1.68mb or summat!) and CDROMS weren’t the best thing since sliced bread at that point, my 1st 1x CD writer (which I think was near on 400 quid), blank discs were about 8 quid each and looked a sorry sight sitting in the bin!… not all tears of misery and spend though, had some good fun solving problems, forgot more than most know and no about to hit 50, thinking I should be retired…. looking back on the money spent, and earnt from Computers I really should be…. but no, another 20yrs to go, wonder what tech we’ll see in the next 2/3 decades???… kids dunt nor they’re born these days 😉

  23. RevJim 29 January, 2016 at 11:33

    Primos, using ‘ED’ and ‘CPL’ running a cad system, 1Mb memory and a 500Mb HDD cpu clocked at 0.7mips
    Alongside a CPM machine with an open S100 bus to program eproms. Nose pressed against Tandy windows looking at TRS-80’s

    Ah the good old days.

  24. Anonymous 29 January, 2016 at 11:36

    I remember using Xerox kit with GUI, windows, whole page display, mouse, apps including word processor, spreadsheet, fabulous graphics capability, context menus, etc. etc. at the start of the 80s, before Windows 3.
    I also remember being able to open file drawers on servers, printing at a choice of printers and communicating with USA via satellite using Ethernet.
    It’s a pity that Xerox don’t get the credit they deserve.
    Bill who?? Steve who??

  25. Anonymous 29 January, 2016 at 11:38

    After reading that…….the thing that gets me is that you don’t get Game of Thrones !!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. Android 29 January, 2016 at 12:15

    My first computer was a Dragon 32 back in 1981. The year I met my wife. Still got her but not the dragon. It had 32k of ram and 16k of rom I think. It ran something called Microsoft Basic. Wonder what happened to them? Spent hours typing in program listings and then more hours searching for typos and programming errors. Happy days.

    Craig has it wrong about smartphones; for a long time I did too. They are not phones with a lot of gizmos. They are pocket computers, cameras, juke boxes, calculators, satnavs etc that also make phone calls too.

  27. Ebuyer Moderator 29 January, 2016 at 12:48

    @ Trigga

    Your immature rants and paranoid raves are not needed here. Please use another website to vent your infantile spleen. If you do, please remember to write in a coherent and sensible manner.

  28. Evan 29 January, 2016 at 13:28

    What a great article Craig! My introduction to computing was at Merton Technical College in the early 1970s where we were using an IBM 1130 machine. It was a bit different to modern computing though – there was no mouse, no keyboard and no monitor! Programming was in FORTRAN using cards with holes punched in, and the answer was via a line printer. In additional to digital computers we were also taught about analogue computers – you don’t hear much about those nowadays! My first personal computer was an Acorn Electron. I soon ditched the external tape drive and bought two floppy disk drives – a great improvement.

  29. James Makin 29 January, 2016 at 13:29

    Well done Craig – keep the flag flying for us old’uns. Civilisation still exists!
    Lovely to read the attached comments and find that they are mostly free of smelling pistakes and illogical but vehemently projected opinions.
    I won’t bore on about my own history (can just about remember using Mercury Autocoder or some such) but I did start in what can only be described as an industrial workshop boasting huge sofa-sized separate machines which punched cards, sorted them (with operator assistance) on one character position at a time, duplicated them, tabulated them, even calculated from them (that one was a biggy the size of wall with huge air-cooling out of the top). We could just about run a payroll in a day (including calculating the coinage).
    I’m still writing programs today – Old Git indeed.
    Will the old standard of gently civilised helpfulness catch on again? Here’s hoping you’ve started a new trend.
    Jim M

  30. Anonymous 29 January, 2016 at 13:42

    Having just turned 68 this month, am I the oldest (geek or nerd, whatever), to read this? I do remember all the gizmos, gadgets, watches, calculators etc. from the past. And the ridiculous prices I was prepared to pay, to be an early adopter! Ah! well, misspent youth

    Great article. At least your memory has not let you down, yet! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Anonymous

  31. Bill1949 29 January, 2016 at 14:13

    Fascinating Captain…. Great post Craig!

    Not going to state my age (but the secrets in my suffix {;o).

    Yeah, my first piece of electro techno-wonder was a red-LED digital watch (about mid-70s). Later came Dragon 64 computer (remember those?) – still in our loft (great nick) – it used cassette-tape loading & saving. Then Atari (600 I think), play-stations & an Olivetti PC (our 1st ‘real’ PC – no HDD, everything done via two 4″ floppy drives).

    My current PC is nothing special (4.2M quad-core CPU, 8G RAM), but it serves me well for flight-simming.
    Hope it’s not seen as advertising (as it’s a simple statement of fact), but War Thunder is an amazing combat sim – amazing & FREE!! What a comparison between that & Pong……

    And of course it’s these advancements in IT (all now publicly available), inc the internet, which allow us to create & respond to posts such as this – and as I understand it (tho’ I also have negative feelings regarding social media), the majority of info coming out during USA’s hurricane Sandy was via mobile phones (Twitter etc) – which I believe saved lives.

  32. RichKyle 29 January, 2016 at 17:26

    A few more flashbacks from this bygone era… I’ve been trying to educate the youngsters in the office…

    Televisions – had to warm up and cool down – the disappearing dot.

    Duplicating machines – they had one in the school office – and everything produced on it was in purple ink.

    Tupperware parties – women getting together for a party to look at plastic food containers.

    On the PC front, I remember the variety of brands – Dragon computers anybody? I remember these blokes coming to school to tell us about this amazing thing they were going to do to the BBC micros – something called a network – and it was called ethernet. Looked like television cables.

    And lastly – I’ve still got a Sinclair QL in my loft somewhere.

  33. Simon 30 January, 2016 at 11:49

    What happened to the young Craig. Walking home from Spiders (perhaps some dogs in tow but no Labrabdors). Social media was scrolling City graffiti on road signs. Cycling to Skirlaugh and back (the original intention to get to Hornsea).

  34. Lee Bee 19 March, 2016 at 11:19

    Lots of good stuff on here – taking the tech further, things happening in the workplace have seemed so cutting edge over the years. I worked for a bank in 1974, my first job straight from school. We boasted centralised book-keeping and communication to the computer centre was by using Burroughs TC500 terminals. They looked like the flight deck of Star Trek with all their frosted white lamps in a long row with lots of buttons, in fact if you put a piano keyboard in there instead of the golf ball typewriter it could pass as an electronic organ!

    The cash dispensers were a great innovation, imagine being able to withdraw cash from your bank account when the bank was closed? You could withdraw the princely sum of £10 in any day, if your account would stand it! The card had to be renewed after 20 uses as a dot was embossed on it during each use. Not all cards managed to make it to the full 20 uses and many were swallowed by the cash dispenser leaving the frustrated customer staring at the screen, which was a mono display with (I think) a green plastic overlay.

    Remember Telex being replaced by that great innovation the facsimile (fax) machine?

    People talked more in those days, and actually communicated less. When people did talk, there was usually an exchange of pertinent, ecessary information, not the rubbish you get on social media with people crowing about having bought a coffee in Starbucks – why bother, does everyone really need to know?

    Yes, I guess I sound old. I do use the internet, various computers, have owned many along the way, seen all the various video formats come and go (remember Betamax?), the only certainty is that we continue to change, sometimes not for the better.

    Great article, thanks for awakening the memories.

  35. Nige 19 March, 2016 at 11:51

    We are forgetting cars !!! We used to get up in the morning and pray that it would start even though we always parked on a hill !! Try and list all the changes if you can !! Now with sat nav, phones through radios, and the next generation of self drive coming in the cars are computers on wheels.
    My first experience of computers was a RM one where the data was stored on a tape which you started and went and had dinner while the cassette loaded.
    Or my first phone where the helpline told me that the blackspot was because radio waves went over my head/
    First TV. A 9 inch cathode ray with 425 lines and you had to fiddle with vertical or horizontal hold if you changed channel. A big H arial on the roof with dad turning it to shouts of hold it..yep , no go back, oh you’ve lost it .
    First calculator? A sinclair which started in price about one and a half times my mortgage payment. I bought one when they got down to a weeks pay. Now they are given away in cornflakes (not really but do you remember plastic toys in cornflakes)

  36. Chris 19 March, 2016 at 13:51

    To Chris from another Chris, now aged 67:

    You wrote “At least smartphones are generally not loud enough when played through their speakers to fill an entire bus or train carriage- although bloody annoying nonetheless.”

    Well, I’ve got a battery-powered Bluetooth ‘BoomBar’ or whatever they are called, its about 3 watts per channel, sounds quite nice, is about the size of a one-litre water bottle, and lasts about 2 hours per charge. With that and my mobile phone, I could be very annoying in a train or bus! Don’t worry though, I don’t do that sort of thing, and I won’t tell anyone…

  37. Mike 19 March, 2016 at 14:06

    “When I were a lad” we had no central heating (ice on the inside of the bedroom windows in the morning…) and exactly two (Wylex) plug sockets in the entire house, one in the hall and one on the landing. TV was a tiny B&W screen on the side of huge wooden box (dad used to buy up dead second hand ones and tinker around replacing valves etc.). On the end of a very long daisy chain of extension cables obviously! The school holidays meant getting up for 10am to watch “Belle and Sebastian”, “The Flashing Blade” or “Robinson Crusoe”…after that there was only the test card until evening…so we used to “play out” – no one does that any more lol. Highlight of the week was finding an old sheet of asbestos to sit on to slide down the slag heap at the top of the street (no, seriously – I’m not making this stuff up!).

    My first computer was a mysterious mainframe that I never saw – around 1977 for one evening a week after school I went to the local college and learnt to program in Algol, cutting a paper tape that was fed to the beast overnight. The following week we’d get back a baffling print out of compiler errors and start again…At university we spent an hour a week supposedly programming another mainframe in (iirc) Basic, although I spent the time playing “Star Trek” instead (my first computer game) because now we had a green screen VDU and could interact with the thing. While I was there the department got a Commodore PET. Imagine it – a computer that would fit on a desk?!!

    Soon after that though the Spectrum burst on the scene; as I remember it, that was the one that really brought computers into the home, and that’s when I actually finally learnt to program using a borrowed Spectrum with the “dead flesh” keyboard. My own first computer was an Atari ST1040 – yes, a whole megabyte of memory! And a floppy disk drive! After that I got a job as a trainee Cobol programmer, my first day of induction I was set to loading disks in a hangar-sized room of swappable drives the size of washing-machines. Naturally I dropped one, I believe it cost the equivalent of about 4 years of my (very generous) wages. In some ways it was like the old college days; we used to write the code on coding sheets to be typed in by data entry clerks and compiled overnight, the next day we’d get a print out of the program and the compiler errors, from that point we were allowed to edit the program ourselves. One of my fellow trainees once missed the full stop off “Identification Division”; the operators felt like making a point that day for some reason and printed the whole thing off (they usually didn’t bother if things were THAT bad!). The next morning a couple of them manhandled what must have been about a quarter of a ton of print to his desk on a trolley.

    What strikes me is that we’re probably the first generation to see technologies born, blossom into universal adoption and become obsolete within our own lifetime. The audio cassette appeared when I was a teenager, we used to spend hours taping records (whatever those are…) and radio for each other. When my kids were young we had a cupboard full of films and cartoons on VCR. At the moment we have a cupboard full of DVDs but there’s a good chance I’ll see those out as well – I was in the garage looking for some CAT5 yesterday and found a box of software disks, the only time I’ve installed software from a DVD in the last 5? years is the operating system on a PC I built about 4 years ago.

    I now have unimaginably more computing power on the 90 quid low end phone in my pocket than those mainframes I used to work with. Smart phones are (quite literally) awesome! I use mine as my alarm clock. It’s my calculator. I use it to navigate (GPS! I love GPS! And it’s free!!! I admit it’s made some of the more enjoyable aspects of long trips, like navigating through rural France, boringly predictable, but what used to be difficult stuff like getting round strange cities – and finding petrol stations in strange cities – is wonderfully easy). I can buy anything I need/want – and if I need it NOW I can find a shop and go and get it. I use it to read and listen to music – I have a dozen or more books in my pocket wherever I go now. And if there’s something I want to watch I can find it on my phone and swipe it to the TV (and I don’t care what some of you crusty old beggars say, the picture on a flat screen LCD HD TV is utterly beautiful, unlike the fuzzy sh*t we used to watch on analogue – we only got rid of our CRT TV the Christmas before last and I DON’T MISS IT!).

    Life is good! It always was, but it mostly just keeps getting better.

  38. The other (earlier) Chris 19 March, 2016 at 16:09

    @Chris (above),

    Good to hear it. Or rather not…

    Recently I’ve found that certain bus passengers seem to conspire to sit ahead and behind me, playing different music from each of their phones… listening to two different tunes simultaneously is like Chinese water torture!

  39. Paul 19 March, 2016 at 23:31

    How about the forerunner of smart phones as information devices – The Psion Organiser that you could program in OPL a block structured language and store files in UV erasable memory packs?

  40. Peter Tirrell 20 March, 2016 at 09:43

    Chris my memory of the first mobile phone for a car was when the works Doctor came to see me. At that time we (ICI Runcorn as was) had a fairly extensive radio system covering Merseyide area and a cross country relay system to ICI at Teeside with relay stations at Huddersfield. Pately Bridge and Eston Nabb. The Doctor said to me come and said come see my new (Mobile) Phone for use in the car! When he opened the boot it was nearly half filed with the box of transciever and controls. He had a Full Sized handset sitting somewhere near the Dashboard. Full sized means FULL SIZED then – something like the size of a iron. There were I think 2 or 3 available radio chanels to cover the who country at that time. All I can say is think of a small freezer and add a bit on for the size You have to remember that the avaialable radio spectrum has not really changed and at that time there was no digital systems on radio it was all analogue. ICI only had the systems it did because of its ability to influence the BIG WIGS and its commercial clout to the economy>

  41. Tim 30 April, 2016 at 10:05

    It is lovely reading these memory lane adventures. Younger people sometimes have no clue that all the tech they take for granted has come to fruition over only a rather small amount of time.

    I read this because I clicked a link from an email newsletter received end of April. Then realised the dates show it was written back in December the previous year! So tech has probably over taken me again.

    Anyway, I have not long ago finished reading (on a notable e-reader no less) ‘Ready Player One’ by Ernest Cline. This fictional book is almost like a journey through tech, plenty of references to 1970’s 1980’s computer games and other tech. If you’d like more reminiscing then I thoroughly recommend it. Great story too.

  42. Slice 30 April, 2016 at 11:01

    I started on a Wang (can’t remember the model) at work and had to type programs into it in hexadecimal! Later we linked 2 apple ][e with 48kB RAM using a parallel interface to a multiplex unit and then a shared 10MB Winchester hard drive unit that weighed about 25kgs. Total cost about £5,000 with some software in 1981 or 82. When we upgraded to an early IBM PC in about 1988, I was allowed to put it in my car rather than the skip. It still works when I want to experience nostalgia. I now carry a 64GB USB stick in my pocket that cost about £20 2 years ago!
    Phones – My smartphone is only 2 years old and keeps failing, built in obsolescence?
    TV – Only got an LCD when the old CRT (28″ flat widescreen) died aged 18 two years ago. My parents (in their 80s) are already on their 3rd LCD in 12 years and my has lost a lot of its contrast, more obsolescence?
    I hear and understand what the purists say about vinyl, but I like the lack of hiss and crackle in the quiet parts of classical music. Having worked on a couple of projects with an older recording engineer, I believe it is down to the choice of microphone, mix-down and what the new and young engineers (that do not appreciate classical music) think we should be hearing. Have they ever heard a live acoustic set by a proper musician?
    Finally – Scrap DAB. It sounds flat and reception is poor where I live. We are also at odds with the rest of the world who seem to be going for DAB+

  43. Anonymous 30 April, 2016 at 11:29

    Before t’interweb we had ISDN dual line connection linking 2 first gen beige Apple Macintosh models across the length of Lancashire at astronomical cost! Cutting edge in ’85…

  44. wes 30 April, 2016 at 11:37

    I had to get a large TV when I found that I couldn’t read the subtitles on foreign films any more. But the ears are still reasonably good as I can hear the distortion that CDs add through limited bit width and even worse with mp3s. After 40+ years doing DSP, I now I restore 78rpms for the vinyl generation, many less than half my age.

    Ain’t nostalgia great?

  45. Dave 30 April, 2016 at 14:52

    Half the time its not needed ,would my 1957 prestcold fridge still be running if it had a screen showing its cold inside and i needed a new box of cheese in the next few days on the front ? Probably not 13 months down the line the computer would insist the compressor wasnt talking and shut the damn thing down until it was replaced by this years version.
    My watch is cool it tells you how many steps i have taken and what my hearts up to ,well it would if the damn chest strap could sense my heart through 6″ of fat and sitting in the car it thinks i am walking at 50 steps a minute! But hey it beeps when it thinks i should be awake even at 2.30 in the morning.
    Tech is fine i had a zx80 but like then i wanted to do simple things without fail not difficult things very rarely!

  46. Leon Burse 30 April, 2016 at 18:55

    C64, C128… Amiga 600, Amiga1200… Not to mention the rigs that just made my eyes pop, back in the day.
    I remember party-lines and B/W tv’s that were rented.
    When colour tv was introduced, us kids would ask each other if we dreamed in colour or B/W?
    And remember someone famous saying “we will never need more than 512 megabytes of memory in a computer”

    Looking back, I enjoyed the roller coast of technology, but where are we heading?
    Amiga could produce 1/4 screen video with an OS that had far less memory than what a pc needs to just switch on,these days.
    Will the computers of tomorrow need a trilobyte of memory just to show you the desktop?

  47. Michael 1 May, 2016 at 07:31

    Hi Leon

    You quoted,
    “we will never need more than 512 megabytes of memory in a computer”

    If only it has been megabytes. Bill Gates said no personal computer will ever need more than 640 Kilobytes of ram. That was 10 times more than the maximum of ram that the then most powerful PC could take.
    I remember in the early days of Windows 3.x, in about 1991 deciding that when the cost of 4 megabytes of ram came down to £200, I would buy a stick of ram. I eventually bought it for £220

  48. graham 1 May, 2016 at 10:19

    One of the best articles i have seen in a long while with lots of replies,showing that us oldies do read and understand computer related things.
    I am 74 and remember when we had to calculate with log books and slide rules ,not the logs captain kirk talked about.

  49. Anonymous 1 May, 2016 at 16:52

    Sinclair Z80 ? Luxury !
    My first brush with computing in 1976 was an HP which you fed with cards which you blocked in the binary numbers in pencil
    Ha !

  50. Neil 2 May, 2016 at 18:00

    THREE TV channels! Luxury! My own first TV, second-hand in 1974, had valves in it, not a transistor in sight. When I started my Saturday job in an electronics shop, LEDs were new technology and came in red. Only red, but in two sizes!

    ZX80! Luxury! I used to sell Commodore PETs. And then I had to mend them, at the bleeding edge of technology, where almost nobody knew how and you used a soldering iron and a circuit diagram and every bit of information you ever knew.

    And like Graham, I used slide rules and log tables, since calculators hadn’t been invented. Bear in mind, people using these designed cars, aeroplanes, even Concorde, and spaceships.

    I leant to program at university on an ICL 1904 mainframe, using punch cards.

    Old technology, at least you could mend it.

  51. Steve 18 June, 2016 at 09:20

    Now you’ve all overdosed on nostalgia for the old days – how about getting involved in recreating some of them? I volunteer at The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park and we are looking for Volunteers to curate our collections and act as Guides for our visitors. We have computers all the way from a rebuild of the wartime Colossus and WITCH (the oldest working original computer in the world) through to supercomputers, PCs, games machines etc. Drop us a line on volunteering@tnmoc.org for an Application Form.

  52. Birchwood 18 June, 2016 at 10:33

    Just been up in the loft and I found my Binatone TV Master and a space invaders console plus an old Vanilla PC AND a Amstrad monitor(black and green screen)and boxes of strange looking discs and weird looking cables I have no idea what they fit. but at some point in my life I must have thought….” I will hang onto those as they might come in handy…… :-)

  53. Don Westwood 18 June, 2016 at 12:44

    Bought a commador 64 in 1984 printer scanner @5/14disk to do bill software to do bills total cost about £799 in 1995 I had a pc hard drive 250 mbs with all the bits as before £1200 now got two laptops and desktop and iPhone iPad which are good to be able to take anywhere and use for a few hundred pounds but as all these gadgets are good it is signals which have not kept up to date needs more money to be put into phones and data for the money that they charge I am a gadget man at 79 Don

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