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 »

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 »

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: 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: 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 »

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 »

Review: Hippus HandShoe mouse and the battle against arthritis pain

I have a mouse problem. I don’t mean the house is overrun with small rodents. (Well, it is, but that’s another story.) No, the problem is that the conventional computer mouse has become a pain to use. I have osteoarthritis in most of my joints. The hands are especially bad. Indeed, one of the things that has driven me back to… Read more »

Mechanical keyboards: Magicforce 68-key review

This was not a serious purchase. I bought this keyboard purely for its looks. I mean, why wouldn’t you? The version I opted for came with retro-style keycaps that mimic a 1920s or 1930s typewriter. They look fantastic with a retro-styled project such as my HMV1960 Raspberry Pi case. Are they great for typing? Not so much. Because of the… Read more »

Mechanical keyboards: KB Paradise V60 review

There seems to be an obsession with many mechanical keyboard enthusiasts to make the keyboard as small as possible. I can go along with this only so far. As you can see here and here, I’m already a fan of the tenkeyless (TKL) form factor, which dispenses with the number pad but keeps everything else. The KB Paradise V60 takes… Read more »