Posts Tagged ‘1980s’

Hoyles Cave

May 29, 2016

Back in the early 1980s we took a holiday in Pembrokeshire. We took our nephew with us. Amongst our adventures, we found a cave called Hoyle’s Cave. And there are nephew and son in the cave.


We also visited Tenby which has an island accessible at low tide. We got across to this and found it was labelled as ‘The Castle of the Count of Monte Cristo’. We explored this island and got back before the tide covered the beach.

image004This was in my era of writing computer programs and back at home I set about writing a text adventure which had Hoyles Cave emerging into the Castle of the Count of Monte Cristo.

Text adventures are things of the past. They had no graphics and used words to create an atmosphere about surroundings. They were a kind of puzzle trail where you had to find things that enabled you to move on. The basic frame work was a grid of locations from each of which, with luck you might be able to move to a neighbouring one. Sadly, I remember almost nothing of the aim of this puzzle program or how many locations there were, or what problems had to be solved. It needed a huge amount of testing after it was written. I thank many family members and friends for that. I thought it had been published as a listing in a computer magazine but I can’t locate it. And that, sadly, means it is lost and gone for ever.

But the real locations and my imagination still remain.

Old Father Time (2)

May 2, 2016

My previous post entitled Old Father Time was about my dad playing the part in 1953. You can click here to read that.

This is totally different for this is actually about a clock. The clock is no antique being a standard quartz mechanism driven item. But I liked the decoration which features Old Father Time made up of old clock and watch parts.


The clock has a glass front which makes reflection a bit of a problem. But we can see the working clock with the big second hand in the middle and brass work, dials and cogs making up the old man with the scythe.

Memory fails me here. I am fairly sure I bought this clock from a shop in Helston in Cornwall – probably getting on for thirty years ago. This was before the time when I became the depository for family clocks proving troublesome to keep going. We may have felt that, apart from loving the clock, it would actually be useful somewhere in the house for time telling. These days most of our rooms have more than one clock and often they tell slightly different times which makes time telling a problem. This one retains accuracy so can be relied upon until the battery, like my memory, fails.

This clock is both decorative and functional.

Trying to learn to live

October 26, 2015

I loved being a sheep keeper. The animals were friendly and trusting and seeing new lambs into the world always brought joy.

But of course, there were moments of sadness too. This little chap was (I think) rejected by his mother and found it hard to do anything. I turned to a vital book I had an NFU booklet on sheep and tried to find out how to help the little fellow.

When I put the book down he came over and looked as though he wanted to read it.


From memory, I don’t think this little lamb ever made it – a real moment of sadness but honestly, the joy brought by a success far outweighed the sense of failure if a lamb didn’t respond.

I think the photo would have been more amusing if I could report a success, but sadly that wasn’t the case. It’s still quite amusing though.

Barmouth Bridge – then and now

September 24, 2015

Back in the 1980s – a generation ago – we took our family camping on the south side of the Mawddach estuary for three years running. It was a quiet and undisturbed area with bustling Barmouth less than a mile away across the footbridge next to the railway line.


I think we must have been up near Llynau Cregennen, above Arthog when this photo was taken.

That’s my daughter on the left looking about the age her son does now. I have to say she is also looking cold. A wooded hump rises up from by the water. That is Fegla Fawr – a hill we camped on.

To the right of that a black line goes across the water and that is Barmouth Bridge. This spans the estuary. We can also see, just alongside my daughter’s head and going into the centre of the photo the Fairbourne spit which goes nearly all the way to Barmouth.

I’ve called this a ‘then and now’ but I don’t have a now view. Instead I have the opposite view from Barmouth, across the bridge, over Fegla Fawr and up into the mountains.


The bridge passes in front of Fegla Fawr. Llynau Cregennen is high up in the mountains beyond.

It is a beautiful part of the world and people speak the Welsh language there. I may not understand what they say but by golly it sounds so beautiful and most folks can speak English and they do to we English folk.

Pronunciation is different in Wales too. We learned some things quite quickly back in the 1980s. The nearest railway station to where we camped was and still is Morfa Mawddach. It’s a request stop. If you want to get off the train there you have to tell the guard in advance so he (it was still all men back then) can ensure the train stops. We recall the first time and we told the guard we wished to get off at More fir more datch. Eventually he understood and said, ‘Ah! You mean more var mouthe ack’. We don’t pretend to be any good at Welsh but because road signs are bilingual we have learned many words and mostly we think we pronounce them tolerably well.


Goat keeping

July 24, 2015

We’ve seen my sheep on this blog but I have also been a goat keeper. In those heady days of the 1980s when self-sufficiency was all the rage, we kept goats to provide us with milk. Being mammals, this meant they had to have kids. We were able to borrow Billy goats to do the necessary and so goat kids became a part of the scene and they became playmates for our kids – our children. And here we see daughter and a goat kid in about 1984.


That’s our house in the background and that’s a reminder of times past. We had those appalling metal framed windows which never shut tight and allowed the wind to whistle through the house. We had chimneys at both ends of the house. The one on the right side went when we put rooms in the roof. We still have one fireplace in operation.

Mother goat, with her rear end to us, is tethered on the lawn. One really shouldn’t do this since goats do not graze. They are browsers and seek to consume things like leaves from trees and shrubs. They are also, really, creatures of bleaker land rather than lush lawns and the kid has been given a fibre glass mountain to play on.

And what of the milk? Well guess what the quality really did depend on what the goat ate. If it had good food we got good milk. If it only had grass we tended to get goaty flavoured milk. Of course, animals in milk are a tie. I had to be up early to milk the goat before heading off to work. And I had to milk her again in the evening.

My wife sometimes made soft cheese from the milk. The best I’ll say was that it was OK.

I certainly enjoyed goat keeping at the time but I wouldn’t want to do it now.


A Daisy Wheel

June 14, 2015

I have had a number of different printers in more than thirty years of having a home computer. The first I had was one of those excruciatingly noisy dot matrix types. One could do clever things with it but printing photos wasn’t sensibly possible. And to get a colour you had to change the ribbon so true colour printing was never going to be possible.  So three cheers for the colour inkjet printer! One of these remains my workhorse.

Back in those early days, in the 1980s, the initial rival to the dot matrix printer was the daisy wheel. People who wanted text of typewriter quality used these printers. Graphics were not really possible.

I never owned such a printer, but I do have one of the little plastic daisies after which the printer was named.


It’s in a little plastic box but comes out to reveal its structure.

Each spoke on the wheel has a printable character. If the character wasn’t on the wheel then you couldn’t print it. During printing, the wheel spun to the correct place and the letter on a spoke was pushed against a ribbon which inked the paper.


The letters are, of course, backwards.


There’s an interesting little reminder of a technological dead end. At which point someone will assure me it hasn’t been a daisy wheel dead end at all!

“A horses bus”

November 20, 2014

Our son’s reaction on seeing this bus sticks in the memory. He had obviously never seen anything like it. ‘Goodness! A horses bus!’ he exclaimed.


Once upon a time a bus like this might have been a common enough sight but times change. The internal combustion engine took over gradually and slowly. But the horse powered bus was a thing of the past by my childhood, let alone that of my son. This bus dates from just about 1900 and was used in London. The last horse bus was phased out in London by 1912.

But the venue for this photo doesn’t look like London – and it isn’t. This was taken at an open day at the Wroughton (near Swindon) store of the Science Museum. The picture dates to the early 1980s and a particularly grand open day with all sorts going on.

The site at Wroughton is a World War II airfield with a goodly collection of hangars for storing large items.

For us, whatever the history, this bus is just ‘a horses bus’.

Priddy Fair

October 28, 2014

Priddy is a little village in the Mendip Hills of Somerset. For most of the year it is, no doubt, a sleepy little place. There’s a green and a pleasant pub to keep folks happy. But for a short while each year it turns into a thronging rural centre. That’s when Priddy Fair takes place. That’s usually in August and the fair is held most years. It wasn’t held in 2014 and there are fears for its future.

However, I’m going back to the early 1980s and a family trip which passed through Priddy whilst the fair was on.

The road we drove in on had wide verges and all along these were traders with agricultural and other products to sell. It was fascinating stuff.


The green in the heart of the village was also the heart of the fair. The sheep hurdles, which spend most of the year piled up in a little shelter on the green were out and filled with sheep for sale. I was keen to get photos and it seemed to me that the best way was to take to the skies. This actually meant going to the funfair, on one edge of the green and taking a ride on the big wheel.

So up I went.


This is looking down almost vertically, where wife, in the maroon red clothing was watching. But it wasn’t really the fun fair which interested me – let’s get up a bit higher.

Here we look down on the sheep fair.


It’s clearly heaving with sheep.


Priddy was altogether a busy place.


Let’s get down amongst the punters.


Great atmosphere. Let’s hope it survives.



Wiltshire White Horses

September 9, 2014

Wiltshire is a county with a lot of chalk hills and so it has plenty of scope for chalk hill figures including quite a collection of horses.

Back in the 1980s, my son decided that he would ‘collect’ them by visiting each one and getting a photograph. He wrote a short passage about each one and pasted photo and writing in a self-made book. It earned him his Collector Badge at cubs or scouts. I can’t remember which! But he can, of course. It was cubs!

This post isn’t really about the horses. It is using son’s book to look at technological change in the last thirty years.

Here’s the book title.


I do not now know which computer this was produced on but I suspect it was my Acorn Electron. Computers offered just one font in those days. It was a simple, blocky font composed of appropriate dots on an 8 by 8 grid. To get big lettering like this, you had to use special software. The letters were straight enlargements of their normal sized counterparts. Gosh, we thought that was clever back in the early 1980s.

My printer, like nearly all printers, was a noisy dot matrix device. This banged a network of pins onto an inky ribbon. The paper, behind the ribbon thus got dots of ink on it to represent the text on screen.

Colour work wasn’t possible unless you changed the inky ribbon. I could do that fairly easily so son chose to print his paragraphs in green.


Looking at that writing, I recall that I had special software which did allow a small variety of fonts to be used. Of course, they weren’t ‘proportionally spaced’ fonts. Every letter occupies the same width whether it is a single stroke I or a much broader M. My son has chosen to justify the text so as to get a straight right hand margin. Software could just add extra spaces between words to do this.

The way these things worked really does feel like another age now. There are certainly reminders here that change is not always for the worse.

There was no opportunity, then, of printing pictures and text in one document. In any case, computers just didn’t deal with photos and digital cameras were still in the future. So son’s photos were dealt with without any computer work.


This is Westbury White Horse, some 30 years ago and of course it still looks much the same today.

Here’s my similar photo taken in April 2014.


Back then, son had to take a picture and when he had finished the film he’d have put it in an envelope and sent it off to the processor. A few days after that his prints would have arrived – and that would have been the first time he’d have seen his pictures.  Cameras had no screen on the back to see results instantly, although with a Polaroid camera the processing was built into the film and you could see your photo within a minute or two. They were expensive and we never had one. There was no chance to say, ‘hang on! I need to retake that one.’ And you certainly didn’t hold down a shutter and take dozens of shots in the hope of one good one. Each shot cost money. You had to take it once and get it right. Of course, there was no chance to instantly share with world-wide friends.

Gosh! So many changes in such a short time!

Computing Days Memories

September 4, 2014

Thirty years ago, like a true nerd, I wrote computer programs, some of which got published in magazines. This also led to me being a magazine writer. With young children at home it provided much needed extra income and it also provided me with a personal boost for I found I had a skill and somebody actually wanted to use it. I have always tended to rate myself as ‘OK, but that’s about it’ and it really did make me feel good to find I could get programs and articles published in magazines and get good money for them.

Writing in magazines meant I was courted, a bit, by the professional software producers. If I went to a show, I usually got showered with freebies and here’s one of them.


It’s a mug (I have more than one of these) and it advertises a company called Kudlian Soft. The company still exists which makes it quite a remarkable survivor in the field of software.

The mug features a fox character who is, no doubt cuddly and soft!


The other side of the mug reveals that fox is hiding a jar of ale!


I do like having reminders of this phase of my life from thirty or more years ago.