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TNMOC

Rise of the machines, south of Milton Keynes

Geek's Guide to Britain It’s the sounds that get you: wheels spinning, processors squeaking, the furious hammering of teleprinters, and some 1980s synth. Yes, computers really were this noisy – something you forget in an era when even the benign tap of the keyboard is giving away to the silent swoosh of finger on glass. I’m at The National Museum of …
Gavin Clarke, 29 Jun 2013
Memotech MTX 500

30 years on: Remembering the Memotech MTX 500

Archaeologic Memotech liked to advertise its MTX 500 and 512 microcomputers with a picture of a speeding black Porsche, but the machines, which made their first public appearance 30 years ago this month, while undoubtedly quick off the mark soon slammed hard into an unforeseen wall thrown up by a sudden, severe change in market conditions. …
Tony Smith, 28 Jun 2013

How Alan Turing wanted to base EDSAC's memory on BOOZE

Centenary If Alan Turing had been in charge of the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) project in the late 1940s, the first computer memory might not have been based on mercury - but on a good gin. In his Turing Award speech in 1967, Sir Maurice Wilkes, the actual EDSAC project chief, recalled Turing's input on …
Phil Manchester, 28 Jun 2013

MSX: The Japanese are coming! The Japanese are coming!

Archaeologic MSX: three initials that struck fear into the heart of Britain’s nascent home computer industry. The Japanese were coming, and the UK’s technology pioneers were anxious about what that might mean. Far Eastern firms like Sony, JVC, Sanyo and Pioneer had put paid to Britain’s mass-market hi-fi makers, and others had killed the …
Tony Smith, 27 Jun 2013
LEO I, credit Leo Computing Society

LEO, the British computer that roared

Live Chat Just graduated and looking for a career in computers during tough economic times? Try breaking into tech during the 1950s when most people hadn't even heard of a computer. Yet, that's exactly what brothers Frank and Ralph Land did and within a relatively short time from the closing of their studies at the London School of …
Gavin Clarke, 26 Jun 2013
Sir Maurice Wilkes teaser pic

'Flash Gordon' tech: How Sir Maurice Wilkes made practical computers possible

Centenary Born this day 100 years ago in Cambridge, Sir Maurice Vincent Wilkes was a pivotal figure in the world of digital computing. Few would dispute the critical role played by Wilkes in developing practical computing that would ultimately lead to the accessible machines we rely upon today. Certainly for the British computing scene, …
Dave Wilby, 26 Jun 2013
Mattel Aquarius

The toy of tech: The Mattel Aquarius 30 years on

Archaeologic Once described by Creative Computing journalist David Ahl as “a machine so cheesy, they should have supplied rubber gloves to wear while using it”, the Mattel Aquarius was launched in the UK - and went on sale in the States - 30 years ago this month. Ahl, writing up a list in September 1985 of the worst computers to date, went …
Tony Smith, 10 Jun 2013
Space Invader

Thirty-five years ago today: Space Invaders conquer the Earth

Antique Code Show Tomohiro Nishikado already had a string of almost a dozen arcade games under his belt when he started on what was to become the best remembered - certainly the most played - game he was ever to create: Space Invaders, released in Japan 35 years ago this month. Nishikado was an engineer who had joined vending machine company …
Tony Smith, 5 Jun 2013
Strings of a guitar

Hex & plugs & ROM & roll: Computer music stars rock Bletchley

Are programmers the new rock stars? That may be a bit of a stretch, but it hasn't stopped one IT engineer staging a computer music exhibition at Blighty's Bletchley Park. The new hands-on display at The National Museum of Computing, located in the grounds of the wartime code-breaking nerve-centre, focusses on the story of …
Jasper Hamill, 15 May 2013

'Ultimate nerd chick’ prompts C64 clone cancellation

A damning tweet from one Jeri Ellsworth, described by a Register reader as “the ultimate Commodore 64 nerd chick”, has put the mockers on Project Bread Bin, one retro-tech fan’s dream to build a cut-price Commodore 64-compatible computer in a keyboard case. Earlier this week, C64 fan Daniel Biehl called out to the crowd to …
Tony Smith, 10 May 2013
Sinclair ZX Spectrum

ZX Spectrum cassette player lost? There's an app for that

Those with a working ZX Spectrum in their cupboards but lacking a working cassette deck with which to load programs need fret no more: there's an app for that. The app in question, Speccy Tape for iOS, allows users to access the World of Spectrum database of abandonware. Once loaded into an iOS device, it then plays back the …
Simon Sharwood, 10 May 2013
Commodore 64

Retro-tech fan seeks cash for Commodore 64 clones

A brand new 1982-style Commodore 64 for just $75 (£48)? Yes, it is crazy, but that’s not stopping one enterprising retro-tech fan from trying to make it happen. Daniel Biehl has a Commodore 64 - a real one - but he knows it won’t last forever. So he wants to build a machine that will run all the C64 software out there and work …
Tony Smith, 9 May 2013
Detail of Apple 1 Board

You think Macs are expensive? Get a load of this $260,000+ Apple

A hoary old Apple I computer signed by Steve Wozniak is set to fetch at least $260,000 at auction. The computer comes from the stone age of computing and dates back to 1976, when Steve Jobs had just gotten over his first few acid trips and was beginning to flog computers from his parents' garage. The Apple godhead sold his …
Jasper Hamill, 3 May 2013
USS Enterprise in Ascii

Star Trek: The original computer game

Antique Code Show Ah, the simple pleasures of the earliest computer games - and you don’t get much earlier than 1971. As Star Trek: Into Darkness warps onto UK cinema screens this weekend, we look back at not only the first attempt to bring the franchise to computer screens, but what was arguably one of the most popular, certainly the most …
Tony Smith, 3 May 2013
Mosaic spinning world logo

Mosaic turns 20: Let's fire up the old girl, show her the web today

NCSA Mosaic - marking its 20th anniversary this week - was not the first web browser, but it was the first to be widely used. Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the web, describes its early days in his book Weaving the Web. Berners-Lee states that the first browser - WorldWideWeb - was text-based, and he had an early version working …
Tim Anderson, 26 Apr 2013
Sord M5

Sord drawn: The story of the M5 micro

Archaeologic It took Japanese micro maker Sord more than six months to launch its M5 home computer in the UK, but in April 1983, the company said the Z80A-based machine would finally go on sale during the following month - half a year after it was originally scheduled to arrive over here. It was a bold move. Even in November 1982, when the …
Tony Smith, 23 Apr 2013
Project Unity

Hardware hacker unifies 15 retro consoles in format frenzy

Most fans of old-skool videogame hardware rely on emulators for their retro gaming kicks. But not some fellow going by the handle Bacteria. Three years ago, he decided he needed 15 original games consoles in his living room and that he wanted them all in a single box. Project Unity Game cube: the console offering a feast of …
Tony Smith, 18 Apr 2013
Sonic X-treme

Sonic the Hedgehog

Antique Code Show Pocket-money saved, game ordered, wait for the postman and... nothing. A friend had the game already – rubbing salt into the wound – yet my journey of anticipation home from school each day still arrived at a big hole of spiky blue hedgehog nothingness. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was especially hyped throughout its long …
Giles Hill, 11 Apr 2013
Sinclair Research ZX81

The ten SEXIEST computers of ALL TIME

Product Round-up Does a computer need to look sexy? You might say that the looks of such a pragmatic gadget don’t matter. After all, most of us have, at one time or another, had to make do with bland, beige boxes almost exactly like everyone else’s bland, beige box, and it didn't hinder us from getting the job done, or made play any the less …
Tony Smith, 9 Apr 2013

Gates and Allen reshoot historic 1981 Microsoft photo

One of the most iconic photos from the history of Microsoft, featuring a lanky young Bill Gates perched next to his coding mentor (the way he tells it) Paul Allen, has been recreated at Seattle's Living Computing Museum. Bill Gates and Paul Allen 1981 Stand back ladies, form a line In a 1981 publicity shot for the then …
Iain Thomson, 4 Apr 2013

Reg man bested in geek-to-geek combat - in World War 3 nerve centre

Geek's Guide to Britain During the Cold War, Neatishead in Norfolk was theoretically the worst place in the UK to live: the nearby RAF base would be target Number One if the Russians nuked us. This was brought home to me in a guided tour by a retired officer, whose old job was to run Blighty’s air defence. Standing in the 1980s-era Cold War control …
Dominic Connor, 28 Mar 2013
Reading tape LEO II computer, photo: Science Museum / SSPL

Blighty's revolutionary Cold War teashop computer - and Nigella Lawson

Geek's Guide to Britain The Victorian offices were bulldozed long ago for a stack of flats and mirrored offices, and there's not a single indication to the significance of this site - or what happened here. This isn't the scene of a lost battle, and the bones of a missing Plantagenet king do not slumber beneath the car park serving the offices. Sixty- …
Gavin Clarke, 27 Mar 2013
Camputers' Lynx

The Lynx effect: The story of Camputers' mighty micro

Archaeologic Not all of the early 1980s British home computers were fated to be as successful as Sinclair’s ZX series or Acorn's BBC Micro. Many were destined instead to be loved solely by keen but small communities of owners. For all these users’ enthusiasm, there were too few of them to sustain the cost of developing, manufacturing, …
Tony Smith, 20 Mar 2013
SimCity 4

SimCity 4

Antique Code Show There’s a prevalent feeling throughout the whole of SimCity 4 that this is the game that Will Wright and Maxis would have liked to have made from day one. That is if graphics technology and PC hardware had been up to the task when the original SimCity was in development. The 2003 release was expanded in both the macro and the …
Mike Plant, 14 Mar 2013
Sinclair ZX Microdrive

Infinite loop: the Sinclair ZX Microdrive story

Archaeologic They would, Clive Sinclair claimed on 23 April 1982, revolutionise home computer storage. Significantly cheaper than the established 5.25-inch and emerging 3.5-inch floppy drives of the time - though not as capacious or as fast to serve up files - ‘Uncle’ Clive’s new toy would “change the face of personal computing”, Sinclair …
Tony Smith, 13 Mar 2013
Intel Centrino logo

Intel's Centrino notebook platform is 10 years old

Ten years ago, Intel decided notebook computers needed a boost. The technology wasn’t new, but while a fair few mobile workers had portable computers, and some even had modem cards or were using Bluetooth-connected phones to reach the internet, laptops weren’t seen as a truly mobile networkable device. And so the chip maker …
Tony Smith, 12 Mar 2013
SimCity 3000

SimCity 3000

Antique Code Show I don’t know if my gaming habits had started to become dominated by RTS and FPS games by the time SimCity 3000 made its delayed debut in 1999, but for some reason I don’t recall it registering on my radar. Strange, for not only was SimCity 2000 one of my favourite games - as it remains to this day - but its sequel was also a …
Mike Plant, 7 Mar 2013
Space Invader

Twenty classic arcade games

I’d better say it from the outset: picking 20 all-time arcade game classics is a nightmarish task, not simply because of the almost endless array of titles available to choose from, but because of all the really good ones you have to omit. Space Invader Here then, are the titles that made the cut, either because they have had …
Giles Hill, 5 Mar 2013
bug on keyboard

Keyboard, you're not my type

Something for the Weekend, Sir? When I chose to wave goodbye to wage slavery by turning freelance some (cough) 19 years ago, it was during an era in which the principal means of electronic communication between IT journalists was called Cix. Computers were powered by coke burners and required a team of navvies to work the bellows; monetary currency comprised …
SimCity 2000

SimCity 2000

Antique Code Show The summer of 1995, I remember it well. I was but a slip of lad at the time, slightly console obsessed perhaps, but about to embark on a period of PC gaming that would put me at the forefront of cutting-edge videogame technology, nearly bankrupting my parents as I went. It was my birthday and I’d just finished hooking up my …
Mike Plant, 1 Mar 2013
A still from Victory of the Daleks. Pic: BBC

Dalek designer Ray Cusick passes away aged 84

The designer of iconic Dr Who villain the Daleks has died. 84 year-old Ray Cusick died in his sleep over the weekend, reportedly of heart failure. Dr Who Magazine broke the news with a Tweet. It's with great sadness that we report the death of Ray Cusick -the designer of the Daleks. Half a century on, his iconic design lives …
Simon Sharwood, 24 Feb 2013

Official: Cloud computing invented by two technophobic old geezers

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Not a day goes by without a dozen press releases on the topic of cloud computing thrusting their way into my inbox (ooh, matron). I think I’ve made my opinions of the cloud con clear enough in previous columns but for the benefit of newer readers, let’s just say that I think it’s cock. Well, that is, cloud computing itself isn’t …
Alistair Dabbs, 22 Feb 2013
SimCity

SimCity Classic

Antique Code Show Doughnuts. Doughnuts are what I think of when someone mentions SimCity in my vicinity. Not because I used to cram them into my face, Homer Simpson-style, while I played, but rather because, back in my childhood, I was obsessed with arranging my own ‘simmed’ city in perfect concentric 'doughnuts'. Squares in three-by-three …
Mike Plant, 22 Feb 2013
Electronic waste dump in China

Paper computers: Not mere pulp fiction

Something for the Weekend, Sir? I love it when I read or hear the phrase “Print is dead”. Idiocy is so enthralling. I am fascinated by people who can shamelessly proclaim their own ignorance in public with such determination. Tomorrows World Elliot light pen 1967 Future tech: Elliot light pen shown on Tomorrow's World in 1967 How many trees could you grow in …
Oric-1. Source: Retro Bytes Portal

The Oric-1 is 30

Archaeologic The Oric-1, which was formally launched 30 years ago this week, was produced with one thing in mind: to take on Sir Clive Sinclair at his own game. “The Oric is a competitor for the Spectrum,” one of Oric developer Tangerine Computer Systems’ software team, Paul Kaufman, emphatically told members of the press. “We are convinced …
Tony Smith, 28 Jan 2013
Harwell Dekatron

Brit 2.5-tonne nuke calculator is World's Oldest Working Computer

Britain's hefty Harwell Dekatron is back in the Guinness Book of World Records after being recognised - for the second time - as the world's oldest working digital computer. The 2.5-tonne number-crunching goliath began life at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, Oxfordshire, in 1951, and put reliability over …
Anna Leach, 25 Jan 2013
Steve Jobs and the Apple Lisa

Happy birthday, Lisa: Apple's slow but heavy workhorse turns 30

Read a press release from Apple in the 1990s and it'll end with something along the lines of: “Apple ignited the personal computer revolution in the 1970s with the Apple II and reinvented the personal computer in the 1980s with the Macintosh.” All of which is true up to a point, but the statement does overlook the product that …
Bob Dormon, 18 Jan 2013
EDSAC

Bletchley Park boffins start trailblazer EDSAC computer rebuild

Physical production of a replica of EDSAC, aka the Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator, has at last begun at The National Museum of Computing, located at World War II crypto centre Bletchley Park. EDSAC is an early computer originally put together at Cambridge University in the late 1940s. The initial work on the …
Tony Smith, 9 Jan 2013
1983 PCN/MRIB UK home computer charts teaser

MEGAGRAPH: 1983's UK home computer chart toppers

Archaeologic How popular - relatively speaking - was your early 1980s home computer? Thanks to some old chart data, we can tell you. Back in the day - 1983, to be precise - VNU Business Publications’ launched Personal Computer News, a glossy magazine pitched against the weekly incumbent, Sunshine’s newsprint Popular Computing Weekly. A …
Tony Smith, 3 Jan 2013

The amazing magical LED: Has it really been fifty years already?

Next time I hear Coldplay festively crooning "May all your troubles soon be gone, Oh Christmas Lights keep shinin' on," I'd like to think that far from lamenting some lost love, they're paying solemn tribute to the humble but illuminating LED. The Light Emitting Diode celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. It's easy to …
Dave Wilby, 29 Dec 2012
Lilienfeld's transistor

Happy birthday, Transistor

The transistor, the ubiquitous building block of all electronic circuits, will be 65 years old on Sunday. The device is jointly credited to William Shockley (1910-1989), John Bardeen (1908-1991) and Walter Brattain (1902-1987), and it was Bardeen and Brattain who operated the first working point-contact transistor during an …
Tony Smith, 14 Dec 2012
Apple II with monitor and floppy-disk drives

The 30-year-old prank that became the first computer virus

To the author of ‪Elk Cloner‬, the first computer virus to be released outside of the lab, it’s sad that, 30 years after the self-replicating code's appearance, the industry has yet to come up with a secure operating system. When Rich Skrenta, created Elk Cloner as a prank in February 1982, he was a 15-year-old high school …
John Leyden, 14 Dec 2012