Computer History

Being a 40 something I’m very much part of a generation that has been around during some amazing developments in technology. I have 2 children now who regularly complain there’s nothing on TV despite having hundreds of live channels available on Sky, the ability to download countless other shows and an Amazon Fire Stick with even more content on it so when I tell them we only had 3 channels for most of the time I was growing up they can’t even comprehend what that was like (I haven’t dared tell them we had to change channels by using a dial on the TV itself!).

My first computer was a Tandy TRS-80 which used an external tape recorded to load programs from cassette tape and you had to hold the input jack at the right angle otherwise the 5 minutes of screeching would result in nothing more than disappointment and a headache. I progressed from that to a Sinclair ZX81 with quite possibly the worst keyboard in the history of computing and the same tape deck issues.

I progressed from the ZX81 through to an Amstrad CPC 464 and this time the tape deck was built-in which meant the 5 minutes of screeching generally resulted in something positive happening. I spent a lot of time typing in lengthy multi-line programs from magazine listings and that started my journey towards learning how to make computers do what I want them too. One of the best features of the Amstrad was the speech synthesizer which, for something from the 80s, was actually pretty good. The CPC 464 had 64k of RAM in it.

My first PC was another Amstrad – the PC 1512 which boasted a whopping 512k of RAM! The image on this page shows an example of one, the drive bay on the left housed a 20mb hard disk with the one on the right a 5.25″ floppy disk drive which made a very satisfying whirring sound as it worked.

The sheer scale of what I now carry around in my pocket as a mobile phone would have amazed me 25 years ago – my phone isn’t exactly top of the range but has 32gb of storage and 4gb of RAM.