Antique Bytes

Do you remember the days when computers were as big as London buses? When the Rolling stones were still under 25? Programs were written on punched cards and fed into huge card readers. If you accessed one it was typically through a 'teletype' using what was known as timesharing. Core memory was typically ferrite core for each bit so memory was very limited. Hard disks and magnetic tape drives were the size of industrial washing machines.
By the early 80s the desktop computer arrived, with machines such as the Commodore Pet. You couldn't afford one at home but everyone was amazed a computer could be so small.

Even more amazing was the advent of the first home computers. My first was the Sinclair ZX81.
In the UK you could either buy it in kit form and build it yourself for £49.95 or £69.95 ready to go. You either typed the BASIC program in by hand or loaded it from an ordinary audio cassette player. I understand they were also marketed in the USA by Timex.

Your screen was provided by an ordinary TV set. The machine had a staggering 1k byte of memory! Contrast this with around 2Gbyte in todays PCs (around one million times as much). For a further £50 you could buy a plug in 16k storage expansion module. Amazingly this cost far more than an extra 2G of PC memory today.

Unfortunately it had no floppy drive and the memory was volatile. meaning that when you powered off everything was lost. You therefore had to down load your program to your audio player and pray that next time you tried to load your program it would actually load again!

The kids today with their X-boxes and Wiis, they don't know they're born. When I was a lad times were hard...

I threw my ZX81 away but in the last few years the price has been going up. How long before we see early computers on the UK TV show, The Antiques Roadshow? It would be nice to know that one day the sinclair machine might be worth more than the £70 paid we for it!

No comments:

About Me

My photo
I’m an Engineer and Training Analyst who has given up full time work to pursue my own interests. Part of my strategy to manage my income, in these days of UK pension freedoms, has been to move into Peer to Peer Lending. I’ve therefore created a blog to share my experiences, good and bad, of this exciting and lucrative new industry.