Archive for the ‘Dates to Remember’ Category

Happy Birthday to the BBC Micro

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

The emergence of low cost computers in the UK market in the early 1980s kick started many a career in IT. The early market was not dominated by one type of machine but rather one full of choices from a myriad of companies. School playgrounds across the country soon became split between two camps, you either loved the Spectrum or the BBC Micro (which quickly became known as the Beeb). There were friends with other computers (Vic 20, Dragon, Commodore 64 to name a few) but these people were in the minority and viewed as weird.

Today marks the day the BBC Micro was first launched on the market. At the time it was expensive compared to the other machines on the market but it was supported by the BBC in the form of a TV series about computers and their uses.

At the time the BBC Micro was launched I had already been programming for several years but it is this machine which I remember with fondness. I had a great time learning how this machine worked and even purchased the Advanced BBC Micro handbook. It was this handbook which allowed me to get closer to the hardware. I even wrote my own disc operating system. This also taught me a very valuable lesson, always backup your work – I accidental tested the format command on the disc containing the only copy of the source code. To my dismay it was one of those occasions where I had managed to write 200 lines of assembler which worked perfectly first time.

The early industry meant that schools had to quickly put together a programme of lessons which taught pupils about the new machines and how to use them. The lack of software such as spreadsheets, presentation software etc. meant that children were taught about the machines and how they worked. Something which is lacking today. This lack of understanding about how computers actually work is slowly being recognised here in the UK and it appears that the government is starting to recognise that something needs to be done. One group of people who remember those early days are already working on a small computer for the education market. Check out the Raspberry Pi for more information on the project.

You can read more about the BBC Micro in this article on the BBCs news web site.

Happy Birthday BBC Micro

Space Exploration Anniversary

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

Today marks two of space explorations anniversarys, the 50th anniversary of the first manned space flight and the 30th anniversary of the first shuttle flight. I am too young to remember the first manned flight but I do remember the first shuttle flight and landing.

30 Years Old Today

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Not me, now that would take some imagination 🙂  The ZX81, probably the first cheap usable home computer.

This had me thinking about how times have moved on looking at my hobbies then and now.  At the time I had an amateur interest in electonics.  This lasted about 4 years and then lapsed as I could not find the money to support the hobby and go through university at the same time.  30 years on and I now find myself playing with hardware once again.

Looking back to 1981 we had the ZX81

  1. Z80 based system based on the MK14 computer kit (worked on by Chris Curry)
  2. 64 KBytes RAM
  3. Video output to TV
  4. Programs written in BASIC, stored as byte codes and interpreted

In 2011 I find myself playing with the Netduino

  1. ARM based processor (ARM was born from Acorn Computers which in turn was founded by Chris Curry)
  2. 60 KBytes RAM
  3. No video output
  4. Programmed in C#, stored as byte codes which are interpreted

Progress 🙂