Computer Technology

Hello lady, I am a man and therefore I press these buttons while you stand in a flowery dress and watch me.At the beginning of the seventies, the standard image of a computer would be a whole room full of equipment with flashing lights and punchcards. This was the sort of computer I would see on the TV as I was growing up. A bit like the deck of Star Trek. Computers were operated by very clever old men in glasses and not at all for children.

By the early eighties, the computer might be a small black box that a teenage boy had made from a kit (girls weren’t allowed them, like with the chopper, you needed a penis or your head would explode with the complexity and having too much blood in it). Those rooms of computers still existed but they were called ‘mainframes’ or ‘supercomputers’.

Flyer for ZX Spectrum from Lost Boy Blog

Observe the wondrous technotronic that was the ZX Spectrum – a MASSIVE 16KRAM!! Full 8 Colours, High Speed Load and Save – 16k in 100 seconds. We were wowed by the supersonic BASIC language with the possibility of upper and lower case characters OMG.

If anyone talked about a computer in 1980 in the general outside university computer departments world, they were usually talking about the little box that you plugged into your TV and you could write your own programs on, the Commodore Vic20. This is a very drastic change from the room-computer. Looking back, the Vic20 actually wasn’t that little – like a huge clunky keyboard with a bump at the back that held the microprocessor. And you had to plug in a tape recorder (yes! tape!) if you wanted to save anything. But compared to the giant incomprehensible flashy light rooms, it was little. Then the BBC Microcomputers came into schools and there was no looking back.

The main change from my perspective was that computers became interesting. Prior to being able to have a computer in your home and program a video game onto it and play the game, the only reason anyone would use a computer would be to do technical work-related boring processes that only balding old clever men in glasses do.

The internet was already being born around this time but only the military and universities knew about it. And the only people using it were the balding old men in glasses, and maybe a few very clever women who’d managed to get to the top by pretending they weren’t women. And certainly no children and teenagers. So think on how lucky you are, childers, to be living now and not then. (Yes I am an old bitter betch today.)

I think it was well into the late eighties before I’d heard of email and didn’t see a webpage until the nineties. But it was computers like the ZX Spectrum, BBC Microcomputer and Vic20 that started the interest in children who then became the adults who made it all happen. So.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room


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