Warning - There may be some factual errors in the following! It's called brain fade :-)

Please email me if you find any dead links or other serious errors.

My first experience of computing was seeing a friend build and operate a "computer". It had a hexadecimal keypad and a single row of LED hexadecimal displays. It was a Science of Cambridge (later to become Sinclair) MK14
This was the late 1970s and the cost of the MK14 was about £40

I started to look at more advanced machines as I couldn't (at the time) get my head around programming of the MK14 and couldn't see much practical use for such a machine. An article appeared in an electronics machine (Practical Electronics) that described the construction of a single board computer which could be supplied in kit form from one of the advertisers. It had 4k of RAM, a full keyboard, output to a monochrome video monitor. The cost was about £200. A search (Google images) reminds me that it was called the Compukit UK101.

As with modern technology, if you start saving up when something is announced, by the time you can afford it the item has been superseded.

I saw an advert for a Commodore PET 2001. This had a poor quality keyboard and a built-in cassette for saving or loading programs and data. About the same time I started a night school class a Blackburn Technical College to learn more about computers. I picked up the basics pretty quickly and had, by then, saved up enough money to buy the newer model, the 3032 I still have the receipt somewhere. It cost nearly £800! Adding a dual 5¼" disk drive would have doubled the price. (Update - 6th August 2007 - I have found the receipt, dated 16th May 1980, with the price of £727.30)

With the help of a book called The PET Revealed I learnt a lot about computers and I had great fun with games - from the simple 'Hangman' to the complex (for its day) Star Trek game.

Being a radio amateur and interested in RTTY (Radio-Teletype) I bought some software to allow me to use the computer for sending and receiving. This was a big advantage late at night because the Creed 7B which I had was not just noisy, its vibrations could be felt throughout the house!

Dot matrix printers were still quite expensive at this time, so while saving up I wrote some code and built an interface to allow the PET to use the Creed as a printer. It worked well, but was very slow. An A4 page would take many minutes to print.

I decided it was time to purchase a printer. Display Electronics were advertising a 9 pin dot matrix Centronics 739 printer at £199.

You might think that I ordered this by letter or telephone, but in fact I had built myself a modem from a kit supplied by Maplin Electronics. It ran at the incredible speed of 75/300 baud (send/receive). I used the Distel service , which can be considered a primitive form of internet, to order the printer and pay for it by credit card. I think it took about 15 or 20 minutes from dialling up to logging off. Armed with this printer I could do some serious work, like printout out a calendar with an ASCII "text picture" :-)

My next adventure was the purchase of a BBC Model B computer. This was subsidised through my place of work and "only" cost about £300, so I also bought a dual 40/80 track 5¼" disk drive from Viglen, which cost about £400. I later added a Teletext adaptor.

A great machine with a wonderful history, it was the start of many peoples' computing experience. The other machines available at the time were the Sinclair ZX and QL, Commodore C64, Amiga, Atari and, further up-market, the Apple 2E.

Another firm to produce computers (in Wales?) was Dragon. I only bought one of these (very cheap) after the firm had gone bankrupt and never actually used it much.

My next machine was an Acorn Archimedes 440/1. A "quantum leap" from the BBC B. I used it with the DTP software "Impression" to great effect when I was the co-editor of an Astronomy newsletter.

Not much later I bought an Acorn StrongArm Risc PC which I still own. It is now over 10 years old but still in full working order. It is like the 233T except that mine has an earlier 202MHz processor
. During its life it has had the Hard Drive upgraded from the original 2GB to 20GB, 2MB of video RAM added and the CD reader changed to a R/W unit. I bought a "Datasafe", which connects to the parallel port, for backup. Connecting to the parallel port, backup is not very fast. I also fitted a B&W video digitiser podule.

My latest machine is an Iyonix My machine is like the X223c, except that it has a CD, not a DVD drive. The DVD was not an option when I bought my machine. In addition to OS upgrades (it is now running RISC OS 5.13) I have added a 2nd Hard Drive and a PCI TV card. The full spec includes Main Hard Drive: 120GB, 2nd Hard Drive: 80GB, RAM: 512MB. Initially purchased with an IIyama 1451 19 inch CRT monitor, I'm now using a Hanns-G HU196D 19 inch LCD.

During this time I have been through a number of printers and scanners. After my first printer, the Centronics 739, I bought a Canon BJ210 Black & White, A3 bubble-jet then later a BJC620 (A4) colour bubble-jet. My current lineup is an HP Laserjet 6L (bought 2nd hand off ebay) and a Canon IP3000.

The first scanner I ever owned, which I used with the Archimedes computer, was a hand-held 256 grey-scale unit. I later bought a Plustek flatbed scanner for use on the StrongArm computer. My current scanner is an Epson 2400 Photo.

When I look back, that's quite a lot of expensive hardware! Those with a long history of computing will know that over the years the prices of hardware tend to remain fairly static while the capabilities increase.


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