Elsewhere (142)
Friday Ephemera



Here’s one being used by schoolboys in 1969.

The Tomorrow's World clip is a gem.


The Tomorrow’s World clip is a gem.

Filmed at Forest Grammar School, which is (or rather, was) in Winnersh, Berkshire. It became a comprehensive in 1974. For some reason it reminded me of Village of the Damned.


That youtube clip was actually filmed at my office this morning and shows the boot process for the Beta 2 version of Windows 10.

Aahh! How I long for the days when computers needed an Oscilloscope...


Aahh! How I long for the days when computers needed an Oscilloscope...

And someone to check the oil level.

Watcher in the Dark

When I worked in advertising, many years ago, I came up with a line of copy for the services of a new-fangled computer company which went: "If it goes mad, it gets us first."

Smartarse me was only saying what a lot of people hinted at then that all early computers (of which I had not one in my house, as opposed to the five we seem to have now) were quite capable of being deranged.

What I didn't know then but have found out since is that the derangement comes from the lunatic users of such devices. The box on your desk with its flickering lights and whirring tape reels (as I am sure you know comprise the inner workings of all 'puters) is in fact quite sane.


I'm surprised that anyone in Norfolk had even heard of computers in 1957.


In 1935, my father learned about a correspondence course in "electrical signal transfer" which discussed the idea of sending images from one place to another via radio waves. That is, television. He spent $3.00 and bought it. Ultimately, he became and electrical engineer with degrees from MIT and a long employment with the military industrial complex. We had an Oscilloscope in the basement in his "Paging Dr. Frankenstein" work area, where, with model trains he designed stuff that's used in modern jet fighters to this day. He talked about personal computers when I was a kid in the 1960s.

Thanks, David for posting this. Brought back some wonderful memories.

mike fowle

It's the sort of computer Wallace would have invented with a steam engine in the basement clanking away, with enormous con rods, a giant flywheel and hisses of steam.


That UI looks a lot more intuitive than Microsoft Malware Platform 2012.


I miss the days when it took seven people and a generator room to boot up the computer.

Doubting Rich

That Elliot 405 link is to a machine in my old school! I did know that The Forest School had owned a computer early on, but interesting to see it.

Doubting Rich

Hahaha, just watched the video. My old school uniform! The blazers were bright, royal blue, which of course does not show in black-and-white but the crest hasn't changed.


See, now I’m feeling quite youthful and vivacious compared to you old timers.

Sam Duncan

“I'm surprised that anyone in Norfolk had even heard of computers in 1957.”

It's actually a pipe organ. They still haven't noticed.

(Sorry, Norfolk people, sorry. Really.)

I find these old machines fascinating. There really is no better way to understand what goes on inside a computer - and, just as importantly, why it goes on in exactly the way it does - than to examine the early ones.

Mr. Saturn

How do they expect to play Doom on that?

David Gillies

The old machines were the sort of thing where occasionally bashing it with a spanner was necessary, but you could actually add bits on you'd made yourself. The last architecture you could do that with was PC/AT, where a bit of 74 series logic and the sort of PCB manufacturing technologies available to hobbyists were sufficient to do non-trivial things. No-one makes PCI cards in their shed. They're far too complicated and specialised. On the other hand, it was often incredibly frustrating working within the limits of the machine. It's nice being able to request a 16MB array and have no fear the allocation will fail. I have 8TB of storage hanging off my Mac, 2TB off the other, and 3TB attached to one of my Linux boxes (the RasPi only gets 500GB). It's not with much fondness that I recall days of shuffling things off to tape to make room.


Thank you David, you've made some old codgers very happy. I fondly remember the days of Raymond Baxter explaining AND and OR gates on Tomorrows World. Today's sixth formers (I teach them) think they've done something clever if they create a Facebook page.


How do they expect to play Doom on that?

With a nicely engineered trebuchet and some of those diodes, you could wreak plenty of doom on unwitting passers-by.

Ed Snack

I recall seeing an old (1960 or so vintage) IBM computer at my old university at an open day. The great thing was they could set it off calculating something and then if you nipped around the back you could see these columns of lights that lit up sequentially rather like something in an old sci-fi film. That was the machine adding up or so we were told, the lights were output from accumulator circuits and displayed progress on the calculation, for troubleshooting purposes.

And the joys of running down to the data entry facility to make a deadline with a box full of punch cards, and tripping over a step.....

Rich Rostrom

I'm a little surprised that Norwich, which is not a very large city, would be buying a computer in 1957. Were they on the leading edge?

Or perhaps it was not as costly as I think; that was before my time.


Norwich Cathedral built one of the first clocks in England (c.1280) - it's also been an early adopter.


Lovegoats -

I believe the Norwich Cathedral clock of 1280-90 was a water clock, which was old technology dating back to 4000bc and largely superseded in Europe by 1350. The great innovation at Norwich was the astronomical clock constructed 1322-5. As you say, early adopters; but then Norwich was one of the richest towns in England in the middle ages.


I learned to write assembler code on a 360, back inna day.


Back in my day we had to code on punch cards in ones and zeros. And sometimes we didn't have any ones, we had to use a lower-case "L".

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