Category Archives: Vintage computing

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 »

Vintage stuff: Apple Power Macintosh G3

Writing about the PowerBook 3400c finally gave me the motivation I needed to dig out our other surviving Macintosh from the 1990s – a G3. Yep, this one’s definitely in the beige box category. It’s not a lovely thing to look at, is it? (It also needs a bit of a clean.) But this was the workhorse of our business… Read more »

Vintage stuff: Apple Mac PowerBook 3400c

The Retro Battlestations sub-Reddit recently ran a ‘not X86’ week in which people could show off their vintage computers. It was a reminder that there’s a world beyond Intel and AMD. (I don’t think anyone mentioned ARM). I couldn’t get my act together in time to post a picture, but it did spur me to dig out my beloved old Apple… Read more »

Goodbye old friend – the death of a dot matrix printer

It’s one of the curses of getting older. One by one your friends die around you. This time the bell tolled for my beloved old Epson MX-80F/T III dot matrix printer. It’s hard to express how much this delightful old beast means to me. Buying it was a huge step because it was so incredibly expensive (kids who buy printers… 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 »

Dumpster diving

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It’s amazing what people throw away. This morning, the More Significant Other and I stopped off at the local dump to drop some things into the charity collection point. And my eye was caught by a bin full of computer monitors. Sitting on top of the Nineties-era Dell and Acer CRTs was something a little more retro-looking. I knew what… Read more »

CP/M on the Beeb

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Well, not exactly on the Beeb – more like via the Beeb. Ever since I built my copy of Grant Searle’s Multicomp I’ve had a hankering to hook it up to my BBC Master. There’s really no good reason to do this. The Zolastar 2000 (as I inexplicably called it) has perfectly good keyboard and VGA interfaces. And yet… Maybe it’s because… Read more »

Return to the Master

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So I bought an Acorn BBC Master Turbo… Again. My introduction to computing – my gateway drug, if you will – was a Sinclair Spectrum 48K. I ordered one at the time of launch and then waited. And waited. And eventually a friend sold me his (he’d been earlier in the queue) and I cancelled my order. He’d decided the… Read more »