Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

12th March 2014


Today the tech world is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the world wide webnot to be confused with the Internet itself, which came into existence much earlier.

Even more pedantically, today actually marks the anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee’s original proposal for the web in March 1989. It wasn’t until Christmas 1990 that the first working web browser, imaginatively titled WorldWideWeb, became available, and the first web sites began to appear.

For its first few years, the web was mainly a curiosity used by students and scientists at various academic institutions. Then, around 1994, the original Netscape Navigator browser was released, and web usage began to grow significantly.

I remember the first day I got online – 30th August 1997 (sorry to say, the date sticks in the memory because Princess Diana was killed the very next day). I eagerly tore open the package containing ArgoNet‘s Voyager Internet Suite, listened as the US Robotics modem made various screeching noises, and gazed in wonder at the text and images that were very sloooowly downloaded. Grey backgrounds. So many grey backgrounds! Still, to a 14-year-old who still considered Bamboozle on ITV Teletext the height of sophistication, it was amazing.

Then my mum picked up the phone downstairs and the connection dropped.

Read the rest of this post »

15th January 2013

HMV Negative
Posted by at 6.37pm | In the News | No responses

HMV has gone into administration after what must be one of the most prolonged deaths in retail history – alarm bells were ringing about the business as far back as 2007.

HMV simply failed to adapt to the three-prong assault it faced. Firstly, supermarkets started selling CDs and DVDs – Tesco’s range does not extend much beyond the current album chart, but it’s cheap. Online retailers such as Amazon didn’t have to worry about inconveniences such as shops. And of course, the explosive growth in digital downloads (legal and otherwise) over the past decade took many in the music industry by surprise. In the face of these threats, HMV plodded on regardless, continuing to charge high prices and failing to develop a competitive web site.

I suspect that HMV will survive in a slimmed-down form, simply because it is, in many places, the last bricks and mortar shop where you can buy a DVD or CD in person. Just before Christmas, I was in town doing some last minute shopping with my sister. She wanted Edward Scissorhands as a present for a friend. HMV didn’t have it in stock, and we realised that there was literally nowhere else in Liverpool to go and get it (unless we were prepared to accept a second-hand copy from CEX). It was too late to order online, so she had to settle for an IOU in a card.

At this point, I am very conscious of the Amazon parcels that have arrived at my house over the past few days. It’s true that I do the majority of my entertainment shopping online. However, it’s also fun to browse in-store and see a DVD or album cover peering out at you from the shelves, perhaps containing some hidden gem of which you were not previously aware. Even the most finely-tuned Amazon wish list can’t match that. The world is moving to digital downloads for music and movies, but I’m not ready to let go of the past just yet. Sure, the first thing I do when I get a new CD is rip it into my iTunes library, but I like having a tangible object, in my hands and on my shelves, as well.

It’s a worrying time to work in a shop. In the last month, Comet and Jessops, who employed over 8,000 people between them, have both closed after administrators failed to find buyers for the businesses. Jessops’ closure was particularly depressing – it went into administration on Wednesday 9th January and closed forever two days later, as the administrators decided even a Closing Down Sale was too much hassle to bother with.

The BBC has a handy list of the high street retailers that have been hit. It makes grim reading, as many of the names on the list have already completely disappeared. Surely the future for shopping in the UK is more palatable than everywhere being one giant Tesco, with the internet for everything else? We live in interesting times…

27th November 2012

What I did today
Posted by at 12.21am | It's My Life | 1 response

I decided to treat myself to a Toy Story box set. Let’s face it: who better to spend money on in the run-up to Christmas than myself?

But when I went to Amazon, it told me that I had already ordered it. I have absolutely no memory of buying this item or receiving it, much less actually watching the films.

I thought maybe I had bought it as a gift for someone else and then forgotten about it. Then, however, I found the offending Blu-ray discs under the TV in my bedroom. Still in the parcel. Unopened. Since August.

I think I’m going slightly mad.

22nd October 2009

Please Mr Postman look and see, if there’s a letter, a letter for me
Posted by at 8.14pm | In the News | No responses

I like ordering things through the Internet; it’s far better than the alternative method of purchasing things, i.e. going into a shop. Several times a week my postman arrives laden with parcels, freeing me of the burden of having to leave the house and talk to people. Therefore, when the CWU announced strike action, I was somewhat perturbed, not least because I had just ordered several items online, all of which had been posted just in time to get caught up in the possible industrial action and sit in Copperas Hill for an extended period.

So I was really pleased to arrive home and find this waiting for me tonight:-


Yep, every single item I was waiting for has been delivered. Thank you Mr Postman — as far as I’m concerned, you can now strike to your heart’s content (until 12th November, when I’m expecting a DVD preorder to be posted)!

A lot of people complain about our postal service. Me, I’m actually quite satisfied with the Royal Mail. In my experience, items generally arrive intact, within the timeframe they’re supposed to, which is all I want really. Occasionally in work we get letters addressed to the Clayton Square branch of Boots, but apart from that there are few problems. I don’t know about all the behind the scenes stuff, but something is clearly seriously wrong with industrial relations and perhaps some heads need to be knocked together.

The Guardian had the nice idea of posting three satellite tracking devices and following their progress in real time. Unfortunately they didn’t read their own news stories and hence nearly missed the strike, with two out of three items arriving on time and only the third getting stuck.

I also made the mistake of browsing the BBC’s Have Your Say page on the subject earlier today, but quickly clicked away after seeing the inane comments posted. You got letters today because the delivery workers are on strike tomorrow, idiots!