Robert Hampton

Another visitor! Stay a while… stay forever!

14th February 2013


If you like old computers, and wasting time on YouTube, be sure to check out “Strings and Things”, episode 3 of Making the Most of the Micro, from 1983.

Look out for:-

  • “Authoress” Frances Howard-Gordon’s ability to spell being called into question on national TV
  • Gratuitous abuse of the MID$ function
  • Word processing, BBC Micro style, with View and a quality printer.
  • Grudging acknowledgment of Sinclair, with a ZX Printer spewing out some curly till receipts.
  • A defunct supermarket chain
  • A Hitchhikers Guide cameo
  • Subtle mockery of old-fashioned people who play Patience with real cards
  • Ian Trackman getting very indignant about some badly-crafted BBC BASIC. “Look at this! It didn’t even clear the screen!”

Marvellous stuff. It turns out that nostalgia is exactly what it used to be.

15th October 2009

Haven’t done one of these for a while… and you’ll soon see why
Posted by at 10.50pm | Sun and Cloud | No responses

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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!

21st March 2008


Hurray for the BBC Micro! Sadly I never owned one, so I had to settle for occasional goes on the one at my primary school. Then I would go home to my Commodore 64 which, while technically superior in some respects, was cursed by a primitive BASIC interpreter that couldn’t do anything remotely interesting without a long chain of POKE commands.

I salute you, BBC Model B, for encouraging a generation of geeky youngsters to use their bedrooms for programming instead of any less pure activities. May your cheery red function keys and chunky MODE 2 graphics earn you a place in the highest echelons of Silicon Heaven.