Category Archives: Computer history

The price of knowledge and the power of the librarian

Googling something has become a reflex action for many of us. We expect Google (or Bing or … what’s that other one called?) to provide an answer. And we expect that answer to be free. It wasn’t always thus, as I was reminded when trawling through an archive of old articles. Occasionally, alongside the article itself, I’ve found some of… Read more »

From the archives: WordStar 5 review

This piece was written for Personal Computer World – I presume in 1989 when WordStar 5 appeared. Note the bit about needing 512K of memory – you have been warned! I also discovered from some text I’d originally included at the beginning that my old Telecom Gold (aka BT Gold) address was 10074:MIK031. This was, of course, in the days when ordinary… Read more »

From the archives: Bulletin Board Systems for pilots

Another old article dragged from the archives, and again with an aviation theme. This one was written for Pilot magazine in the UK and was published, I would guess, in 1991 (I got my Private Pilot’s Licence in 1990). I still occasionally pine for the old days of the Bulletin Board System (BBS) and CIX. And yes, I’m aware that there… Read more »

From the archives: Computers in Air Traffic Control

This is another piece from my archives. This was written for Personal Computer World magazine, published in the UK by VNU. It followed on from the one on fly-by-wire, so I’m going to guess this piece appeared in 1991. By that time I was doing a lot of work for IBM, especially its RS/6000 and AIX division which was engaged on… Read more »

From the archives: Fly by wire

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Recently I discovered an archive of past work, including a handful of tech features. I guess these come under the heading of ‘vintage’ now, so I figured I’d share them here. In the late 1980s and early 1990s I wrote for a number of computer magazines. I’ve kept very few of the articles, alas, so this is a rare survivor…. Read more »

Getting lost the easy way: early GPS

GPS seems an almost mundane technology these days. It’s in your smartphone and possibly your camera. You can buy cheap GPS receivers to work with your Arduino or Raspberry Pi so that robot you never seem to have time to build never gets lost (or is that just me?). But yes, I am old enough to remember when the Global… Read more »

Russian memory and British big iron

The Russian core memory I bought on eBay has arrived and I have to say it’s a thing of beauty. In fact, it’s such a fascinating object that the More Significant Other was moved to admit that she’d like it to live, suitably framed, in the living room. There is something strangely hand-crafted about this piece of modern technology. I… Read more »

Retro to the core

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There are some things that are hard to get your head around unless you can actually see them. Being a computer history fan I’ve often read of core memory but never quite got to grips with how it works. So one day recently I just thought, ‘the hell with it – I’ll go on eBay and buy some’. Which I… Read more »

Sending an email in 1984

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A friend posted this video on Facebook and my immediate reaction was, “I had that modem!”. On closer inspection it seems I was wrong. The modem in the video is the WS1000 whereas I had the Miracle Technology WS2000, capable of a scorching 1200 baud (half-duplex), as well as 600 and 300 baud full duplex and 1200/75 — the last being… Read more »

Presenting the Univac

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Nothing much changes, does it? With the famous Univac, the poor old programmer — even though he’s described as the most skilled member of the team (far more so, obviously, than a mere ‘Unitypist’) — still looks like a soulless drudge. There are moments in this video when you have to recalibrate. “Here’s the brain,” the narrator says, the (admittedly… Read more »