Dr Spinola interviews Queen Mum
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Ma'am, may I start by thanking you for this rare opportunity to talk with someone who has played such a key role in the computer industry over the last 100 years.
HRH My pleasure, dear boy. Is that a bottle of Gordon's on the table behind you?
Dr Spinola What was your introduction to IT?
HRH Sorry, I thought you were going to interview me about G&T, not IT. But I do remember my father building a model of the difference engine for my fifth birthday. It never actually worked, but it was very good at crushing ice for drinks. To be honest, I didn't really pay much attention to IT for a few years as my family were a bit preoccupied with a little family squabble in Europe.
Dr Spinola Are you referring to the Great War?
HRH We prefer to call it a small family argument.
Dr Spinola But didn't millions of people die?
HRH No one I'd ever had a drink with.
Dr Spinola Can we get back to computers? When did your fascination really begin in earnest?
HRH I suppose it was when that nice Mr Turing popped round for drinks in the 1930s. He was convinced he could decipher German messages by means of some colossal electrical machine. I pointed out to him that it was far easier if you married into German royalty. How we laughed! Funny he never married though...
Dr Spinola And then came the second World War...
HRH Again, it was just family problems, you know how these things happen. Anyway, I seemed to spend a great part of my time visiting aeroplane factories or on the royal train, stopped in a tunnel - something to do with the Brits?
Dr Spinola The Blitz?
HRH It was all so long ago... Any more tonic?
Dr Spinola So what happened after the war?
HRH Well, that was when I finally got some time to myself. When my daughter took over the reigns - little family joke there, ha ha -, I could spend more time reading some of the popular computer publications of the time, like Empire Computing World and Personal Electronic Servant - I've got some clippings from the fifties here...
[reads aloud] John C Dvorak speaks his mind: Why on Earth doesn't Microsoft get its act together? When I tried to phone their press office in Redmond, they told me they'd never heard of Microsoft. Who does Bill Gates think he is?
Now there was an IT commentator - well ahead of his time.
Dr Spinola He's still alive, you know.
HRH How can you tell?
Dr Spinola Which other publications did you read?
HRH One of my favourites was ZDNet UK, although it was a bit boring for the first thirty or forty years, something to do with having no other Internet news wires to lift stories from, I believe.
Dr Spinola And in the sixties?
HRH Well, of course I was flattered that ICL - what did that stand for, Imperial Computers Limited? - named its mainframe operating systems after my late husband, but it was a bit of a shame they only got up as far as George IV. A few more versions and they'd have got there.
Dr Spinola Perhaps we could turn to the 1970s...
HRH Any more of that Gin? Thanks. Ah yes. The seventies. That was when personal computers first appeared. Of course, we never actually used them, you understand. We always rang for a servant who loaded VisiCalc and worked out how much we owed the bookies and the wine merchant. I feel that in terms of a perfect user interface, we've never bettered the concept of having someone else do all the tedious UI bits for one.
Dr Spinola Which personalities from the IT world do you remember most fondly?
HRH I met a young man - Harry Mellison I think his name was. He was quite mad. Wondered if he was related to the family in some way. Then there was a chap called Andy Grove - thought he could put a whole computer on a chip. Mad as a hatter - he kept announcing he'd built a faster computer but when people asked if they could buy one he went and hid under the stairs. Thought everyone was out to get him, poor chap.
Dr Spinola Which operating system do you favour?
HRH Well, my favourite has to be the one where one is born into the aristocracy and spends the whole of one's life doing no work at all whilst receiving large amounts of cash and a number of castles and stately homes.
Dr Spinola Er, I was actually thinking about operating systems for computers...
HRH Ah! Silly me. You must excuse me, I am a hundred years old, you know.
Dr Spinola Yes, I had heard.
HRH Well, I tried that Windows one once, never could get to grips with it - I think it was some kind of family tradition, some of my relatives kept bricking up the front of the computer to avoid window tax. Then I tried that one with the Penguin, but my son in law kept shooting the PC every time the logo appeared. Very fond of wildlife, young Philip.
Dr Spinola One last question - how do you see the IT industry changing over the next 100 years?
HRH One thing is sure, young man. I'll still be here, come and ask me in 3000.
Dr Spinola Thankyou, your majesty, and may I say how radiant you are looking?
HRH You may as well, everybody else does. Pass that Bombay Sapphire, would you? ®
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