Remembering the BBC Micro

First, this post has got nothing to do with sport, philosophy, or politics (which is what pretty every other post on this blog has been about).

It’s about the BBC microcomputer which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.

Having just read a BBC article about it I thought I’d add my thoughts since it formed such an important part of my childhood.

My dad was always an avid computer fan since first visiting a computer the size of a room in the 1960s which successfully managed to calculate a series of numbers and culminated in the ejection of a card with the answer in binary form. When the first personal computers were being developed in the late 1970s my dad was determined to get one. Unfortunately it took him until 1981 to save up which he did by going without lunch for a year (he also had three small children to support).

One of my earliest memories is of my dad coming home and unpacking our new acquisition. We  set it up on the living room floor (though I doubt as a four year old I was that helpful) and connected it to our black and white TV. Over the next few weeks we practised programming it and even now I have an eery sensation whenever I hear the start up sounds and see the picture of the dot matrix owl.

It was an amazing process for me and even as a five year old I would sit for hours copying out various programmes from magazines – though inevitably there would always be a ‘syntax error at line 160’ which meant they would never run.

Having access to a computer from the beginning of my childhood, and a father who was so enthusiastic about it, gave me an advantage in computing skills that hold me in good stead even 30 years later. I never went into computing and don’t know any current programming languages, but it has given me a ease with computers that many of my peers don’t have. To me, they just seem intuitive. Yes, sure they can be temperamental sometimes but when you have spent hours trying to load a tape onto a BBC micro only for it to fail right at the end, you realise that actually these days they’re pretty reliable and incredibly fast.

I loved my dad’s BBC micro and I feel privileged and thankful that he was interested enough to get me involved: he took me to a weekly computer club – which in my memory was dark and full of bearded men talking over flashing screens and lights. He also took me to see my first film which happened to be Tron.

I have really fond memories of the BBCmicro which gave me a great start in life and the opportunity to spend so much quality time with my dad. Thanks Beeb.

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