Category Archives: Vintage computing

From the archives: Good Software Guide

Like the Good Hardware Guide (here, here and here), this 1991 publication was an attempt to produce a book listing all the most important products on the market. Yes, one book. Can you imagine trying to do that now? These are just the items I wrote – my mate Steve Gold covered far more, and there may have been other… Read more »

From the archives: Good Hardware Guide – Peripherals etc

This is the third part of my contributions to the Good Hardware Guide, published in 1991. This sections covers printers, scanners, a couple of modems, monitors (and one graphics card) and other peripherals. These include CR-ROM drives which were seen as exotic then – as compared to today when they’re regarded as obsolete. That happened quickly, didn’t it? The Miracom Courier… Read more »

From the archives: Good Hardware Guide – Laptops

This the second part of my contributions to the Good Hardware Guide published in 1991. The fact that this list of laptop PCs is much shorter than the desktop ones is probably significant. Laptops were still ruinously expensive in 1991 and, from a performance point of view, still significantly compromised when compared to their desktop brethren. Macs & Desktop PCs Laptops… Read more »

From the archives: Good Hardware Guide – Macs and Desktop PCs

My old mate Steve Gold got me into this. If memory serves, the editor of this book, Richard Jones, had some kind of wheeze as to how this publication was going to be packaged and distributed. It was ultimately published by Kogan Page in 1991. But the truth is I’ve forgotten most of the details of this project, other than… Read more »

From the archives: Software bugs

This article originally appeared in Micro Decision in 1990. Back then, we thought of software bugs as  annoying. But that was a pre-Internet era. Now we know bugs to be dangerous, as they are the material with which malware works. Yet while software bugs today undermine our security, can we honestly claim that software is actually any less buggy? Probably yes…. Read more »

From the archives: WordStar 2000 Plus review

Wordstar 2000 Plus was the third version of the widely hated word processor. The reaction to the original Wordstar 2000 was similar to the one that greeted New Coke. Well, actually no, it was different… New Coke and the original Coke were just slight variations on of vile, corrosive sugared water. Wordstar 2000 was actually a very capable piece of… Read more »

Disk swapping the easy way

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At the risk of making this sound like another “kids today don’t know how lucky they are” post, let’s talk about disk swapping. If you don’t know what that is, you’re lucky. It would be depressing to even attempt to calculate how many hours of my life I’ve spent sitting in front of a computer feeding floppy disks into and… Read more »

The Hacker’s Handbook and the script kiddie

On its publication in 1985, The Hacker’s Handbook was a sensation. It seemed to legitimise an activity that many of us had been engaged in for a while – the (mostly) innocent exploration of online computer systems. We now live in an age of connectedness. Our phones, our TVs and even our fridges are just nodes on a giant network. Email… Read more »

From the archives: Olivetti Quaderno review

Portable computers were still relatively exotic beasts when Olivetti launched the Quaderno – an XT machine in an A5 form factor. The netbook fad was still some time off. Putting a label on this machine wasn’t that easy. ‘Palmtop’ is, I think, how Olivetti chose to classify it, but it was a bit big for a palm. But just look at… Read more »

From the archives: Cambridge Computer Z88 review

It’s a mystery as to why I was commissioned to write a review of the Cambridge Computer Z88 around a year after it was released. The Z88 came out in 1987 and I wrote this piece for Practical Computing in 1988. The Z88 was typical of the products of Clive Sinclair. It provided a tantalising glimpse of what technology might achieve –… Read more »

From the archives: Apple Mac Classic vs IBM PS/1

This feature was written for Micro Decision magazine in 1990. I was lusted after a Mac but it would be a few more years before I could afford one. Back in those days, PC manufacturers used to give computers to journalists on ‘long-term loans’ quite readily, but Apple was rarely so forthcoming.   IBM PS/1 & Apple Mac Classic It’s unusual, perhaps… Read more »

From the archives: Amstrad PPC 640 review

This piece was written for Which PC? when the Amstrad PPC first came out in 1988. I can still recall to this day how the Amstrad creaked and groaned. This was probably the cheapest-feeling computer I’ve ever encountered. And as for powering it from 10 C-size batteries – holy crap. Given the lousy battery life – you’d have to carry around… Read more »

Vintage software: WordStar, WordPerfect and muscle memory

Having discovered a trove of my old files on an archive disk, I naturally wanted to read them – and post some of them here. I’ve already written about how I went about converting the files. In the process, I had a chance to catch up with a couple of old friends. I use a FreeDOS VM running under VirtualBox… Read more »

From the archives: salvaging WordStar and WordPerfect files

Recently I discovered a cache of articles I’d written for (mostly) computer magazines back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I’m going to be sharing the more interesting ones here (the first is already online). These pieces were written for a range of magazines, including Personal Computer World, Micro Decision, What PC? and something called PC Amstrad. Not only had the existence of… Read more »

Computing – old school style

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I remember well the first time our family got a computing device. Dad brought it home in his jacket pocket. This was probably 1971 or 72. It was a slide rule made, I think, by Faber Castell. Dad was a work study (time and motion) manager at a pharmaceutical firm. He used the slide rule, I suppose, for working out… Read more »