Computers & Software

I've been using computers since the very early days of home computers. I first used a Commodore Pet, and then bought a Sinclair ZX81 and a Sinclair Spectrum. Programs loaded from domestic audio tape then, and a hit and miss business it was too. When I got the 16Kb (yes - Kb) memory expansion dongle for the ZX81 (seen on the one below), it seemed a huge amount. I soon learnt a lesson that stood me in good stead thereafter - save your work frequently! It wasn't unusual for the wobbly dongle to drop a couple of hours work at random. I remember ringing the (later famous) author of one the latest software games one evening (home number on the cassette, maybe?) and pointing out a bug in the game. He posted another cassette on to me by return with a correction. It's changed a bit these days - Andrew Hewson, where are you now? Did you make a million?

petZX81Spectrum 48K
   
In the UK, at least , pharmacy was an early adopter of computers, it became compulsory to type or print medicine labels about 25 years ago. I bought an early Amstrad CPC464 with CPC 464dispensing software, which we used to print the labels. The program was so poor that I later wrote an alternative version myself, painstakingly slowly, in BASIC, in what bits of spare time I had between patients. Eventually it was quite good, and when we moved to PCs I compiled it into QuickBasic and used it for some time. I even sold a few copies. If anyone has a Epson FX80 printer or similar (it only printed to that model or similar, specific details were coded in), I still have a copy kicking around. I later lost the source code in a Hard Drive crash and lea
PPC640rnt another lesson - back everything up on another machine. The PCs we were using then were 4.77 MHz (yes, that's a decimal point after the 4) - no need to tell you how slow they were by modern standards. My Amstrad PPC604 that I acquired got me into the world of  Prestel (remember that?) and Bulletin Boards. There was, of course, no Internet then but Fidonet Bulletin Boards provided a way for amateurs to talk to one another around the world. At about this point I acquired a second PC and started up my first Bulletin Board - predictably, perhaps, called The Alchemist - on line 24 hours a day. Fidonet
still exists (in a modified form) but at this point some 20+ years ago it was all there was, and in it's heyday there were 40000 of us. We moved the mail round the world ourselves at our own expense with very slow modem connections (2400 baud was quite good in those days) - so large programs from America had to be saved up for, the phone bills were so high. The First US Robotics 9600 baud asymetric modem cost about 1600.00, but we got them for half that (SysOp's special offer for doing the beta testing).

From then on it was all downhill. Everything got faster and, perhaps more importantly, much cheaper, until we finished up with today's marvels. The AMD Phenom powered Quad core I use now (Mesh computers) makes short work of video editing and anything else for that matter. I've gone from DOS to Windows (Pictures? It'll never catch on!) and through every version (except ME) up to Windows 7 (the best so far) and Windows 10 (useless for anything except phones and tablets). I've tried  Linux Mint Ubuntu (and Debian). Providing you don't want to play games or edit video, Linux is quite good, and it's free, but it has a long way to go yet. My large wide HD screen makes life easy for tired old eyes. Not everything was better "when I was a lad"!
 

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