Posts Tagged ‘1982’

The Acorn Electron

January 12, 2016

My first computer – some 34 years ago – was an Acorn Electron. Youngsters today will be staggered by its cost, limitations, mass storage methods – but also by what we enthusiasts could do with it.

Let’s have some details. Back in 1982 I paid £200 for the computer. In the most basic conversion, using retail price indices, that would cost around £620 today. But if we base change on incomes, then it would be the equivalent of spending £1100 today.

It was expensive, but ideally I’d have bought the Electron’s big brother, the BBC model B which cost twice as much at £400. I couldn’t afford that.

What you got for your money seems laughable today. The computer had a grand total of 64 kilobytes of memory. Half of that was used to run the computer. It was unchangeable fixed memory (known as ROM or read only memory). The other 32 kilobytes were available for the user to do what he or she wanted to do – but somewhere between 8 and 20 of those kilobytes was needed by the visual display so in fact a user had no more than 24 kilobytes of memory at his or her disposal.

And what was the visual display? It was your TV! A portable black and white TV could be purchased for about £50. Or you could splash out and fork out another $200 for a dedicated colour monitor which gave a decent sharp image rather than a somewhat blurred one.

The mass storage was on tape. Your storage system consisted of a portable tape recorder – probably another £30 if you had to buy one – and cassette tapes.

I remember my Acorn Electron with enormous affection despite its clear and obvious limitations. That was because I was able to be in charge and I could tell it what to do.

For sure, I bought games on cassette tape. The first game was called Felix in the Factory and was great fun for all the family. But it was relatively easy to program the thing yourself. I found I was able to invent games and, even better, get them published to earn a bit of money. I can still play some of my old games thanks to an emulator on my present PC.

The reason for these memories is that one of my Christmas presents (thanks S and N) was a drinking mug with a picture of an Acorn Electron on it.

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‘Good grief’, I hear you say. ‘It’s only a keyboard’. It may look like that but that had all the works within, so maybe more like a laptop keyboard.

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No! It had no number pad on the right hand end.

It is staggering how the world of computing has changed in about one generation. I am on my 5th computer in that time – but I make them last. I’m currently writing this on my Windows 7 laptop and I won’t upgrade to Windows 10. This computer does what I need and reasonably efficiently. But I don’t love it like I did the old Electron which, by the end of its life, had gained the dedicated monitor, two external floppy disk drives, a printer and a decent word processor and spreadsheet program.

It’s lovely to have these memories brought back.

On Rippon Tor

January 8, 2016

Back in 1961 a trip down to Devon was a totally new experience for me. Up until then I had not ventured outside the south east of England. All my fellow bloggers who write about ‘the only way is travel’ may be horrified and alarmed by this. How could anyone be a fully rounded human without travel and new experiences? That seems to be the line on many a blog. Now I’m not averse to travel and it can broaden minds and experiences. But so, too, can staying put and learning about places in detail. Being as open minded as possible is what matters to me.

image002 This is me and my sister. We are on Rippon Tor on Dartmoor. There is a photograph fault at bottom left.

Let’s deal with us first. Many folks will remember a photo of Prince Charles and his first wife looking in opposite directions and looking glum. This instant snap was used as an indicator of a failing relationship. Well, my sister and I clearly have turned our backs on one another and, at that time, I don’t think we did get on all that well together. She regarded me as a silly little boy. I regarded her as just silly. But clearly we are both occupied with geology. And we got on well when we both grew up!

This was my first experience of igneous rocks. My life in the south east had limited me to sedimentary rocks only. Here we had granite, full of sparkly crystals. It had to be explored.

My dad had travelled – World War 2 had seen to that although he never actually left the UK. But I believe this was the first time he had got close and personal with granite. I know he was captivated too.

Almost inevitably I fell in love with Dartmoor and still visit quite often, albeit often only to drive across when heading to or from Cornwall

My own children had a much younger experience of the moor than I had.

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That was in 1982.

And Dartmoor again in 2010.

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Father and son on the beach

October 11, 2015

A few days ago I looked at mother and daughter at Haytor and commented on how much I liked to get up in hills – actually in preference to the seaside which I can visit a bit under sufferance. But when you have children (or as now, grandchildren) you have to put personal preferences to one side and get on down and enjoy the beach. And that, clearly, was what I was doing on the same holiday as the ‘Haytor’ one.

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Yes, that’s me and my son who seems to be dancing round a piece of seaweed. Now it might seem odd but this is just the kind of beach I find least interesting. It’s all sand. Give me some rock pools and I’ll find something which I think is more interesting. If there are pebbles they have texture, colours and shapes I can enjoy. Sand always seems so uniformly dreary to me.

However, I seem to have the small plastic bucket and, no doubt, a spade is not far away. And with a bit of luck, son can build some kind of castle.

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This would have been on the south Devon coast somewhere near Teignmouth. The year was 1982.

Mother and daughter at Haytor

October 7, 2015

Of course, that isn’t my mother but it is the mother of my little girl. In other words, it is my wife.

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I think this was 1982. We were camping with sister in law and children she and her husband had at the time at Shaldon near Teignmouth in Devon. As per usual, I was happy enough to get away from the coast and up into the moors – in this case, Dartmoor. So here we see the sub two year old getting a taste of being up with the rocks whilst my wife appears to be catching a bit of wind.

I like the rocks – a Dartmoor tor on Haytor. They are very easily accessible by road so they are a tad popular. They make an easy beginning for a young family not accustomed to actual rock climbing.

The photo, of course, was taken on my good old Canon Demi.

Haytor

March 23, 2013

Haytor is on Dartmoor in Devon.

My first ever trip out of the south east of England was in 1961. It took me, with family, to Dartmoor, but I didn’t discover Haytor on that occasion.

Haytor was found by me in the early 1980s on a family holiday with my children. We were ambling on Dartmoor when I realised I was going along what looked like a pair of tracks laid deliberately and shaped so that wagons, with ordinary wheels, would stay on course.

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It was a railway – the Haytor granite tramway.

We found a junction.

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I was enthralled for I knew nothing of this line, or its history. If you want to know a lot about this line then try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haytor_Granite_Tramway . I’ll just say it was built in 1820 to get the classy local granite down to a canal. So, high up on the moor there is the quarry where the granite was extracted.

I visited again in 1996. It really hadn’t changed – although I had abandoned the old Canon Demi camera and was using a basic Canon with colour print film

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Those who note a line of shaped granite rails and say, ‘so what?’ surely would still be impressed by another natural sculpture – the outcrop of rock or tor on Haytor.

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Dai Woodham’s

November 11, 2012

Watching grown men cry!

If Dai Woodham’s means nothing to you, then either skip this blog which, perhaps, gets to the heart of nerdism – or read on and learn that in the end the heritage tourist business owes a huge debt to Dai Woodham, scrap merchant of Barry Island in South Wales.

In the mid-1960s steam locomotives were being swept out of railway service at an incredibly fast rate. The railway works could not dispose of these big hunks of metal fast enough so many were sold to private scrap metal merchants – amongst them Dai Woodham.

For some reason, Dai dealt with the locos very slowly. The argument seemed to be that other items could be cut down for scrap more quickly. A huge number of locos just stood, slowly rusting, on the Woodham sidings at Barry.

As early as 1968, preservationists realised that Dai had a wonderful collection – and that if money could be raised to buy them, his locos had potential. The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway were able to purchase a loco and this was the start of a slow exodus from Barry.

My opportunity to visit Barry came in the spring of 1982 by which time no less than 139 locos had been bought, mostly for preservation but some to provide spare parts. The yard did not seem empty.

I was still using colour slide film at the time with my trusty Canon demi camera which took 72 half sized slides on a 36 exposure film. When I first made copies, I could only get small images like this one.

Enough to make grown men weep – the seemingly wasted hulk of a big steam loco.

Yes, I joined the grown men wandering these sad sidings. Many men were actually crying. This was easily recognisable as a Battle of Britain Class of the Southern Railway. She became the 158th engine to leave Barry, in November 1984. By 1987 she was back in service on preserved railways.

More recently I’ve been able to get bigger copies, but of course, my original slides are just 24mm by 18. (And blogs limit the size anyway).

Dai Woodham’s sidings in 1982. How sad it looked but how happy the outcome.

The engine on the right – a big GWR 2-8-0 tank left Barry in 1987, the 190th engine to leave. Over on the left there’s a Bullied pacific and a Stanier black 5.

I really can’t over emphasise the mournful attitude of the middle-aged men roaming Dai’s sidings that day. Yet really, it should have been smiles. These engines were all saved.