Robert Hampton

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1st January 2010

2009? More like Two Thousand and Fine!

July saw Merseyrail’s run of bad luck continue, as a train rolled out of the depot and derailed. To atone for their sins, they introduced a new day ranger ticket, but I wasn’t convinced. This was something of a train-y month for me, as I did my bit to help out the previous generation of Merseyrail trains. Trains were also on the Government’s mind, as they announced that the Liverpool to Manchester line would be electrified.

In London, the Police proved once again what a wonderful organisation they are. In Rome, a swimmer suffered an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

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13th October 2009

Fred, Jim and Sheila

Last week BBC Four showed Micro Men, billed as a “drama-documentary” (i.e. facts with made up bits in between to make it more interesting) about the rivalry between Sinclair and Acorn for dominance of the UK’s nascent home computer market in the early 1980s.

I came to the world of computers long after this battle had been fought (Acorn had the education market sewn up, but Sinclair’s cheaper ZX Spectrum won the majority of the home users) but for a long-standing Acorn fan such as myself it was fascinating to see the events recreated, including a marvellous scene where the Acorn techies frantically work to get the prototype BBC Micro working while boss Chris Curry is stalling the BBC executives in the corridor outside.

One aspect the programme does capture perfectly is the genuine feeling of excitement that existed as affordable home computers entered people’s homes for the first time. Whether it was the Spectrum with its rubber keys and colour clash, or the BBC Micro’s occasionally-flammable power supplies and blocky Mode 2 graphics, computing has never seemed quite so exciting since.

Micro Men is available on iPlayer. Go get it!