Once a Dream, Now Ubiquitous

Or getting a WiFi connection.

When I was still at junior school at less than 10 years old, we got our first home computer. It was a ZX81. With 1Kb of RAM, adverts at the time of initial launch in 1981 said it could run a nuclear power station. Since installing a WiFi card in our Freebox – an ADSL box which brings TV, Internet, and a cheap phone line on which I can call fixed lines for free – I can sit anywhere in my flat and be connected to the Internet sending email to friends around the world.

Following the ZX81 we had a BBC Model B, a ZX Spectrum, a Commodore 64, and then an Atari ST. Our first PC was an 8086 with just 128Kb of RAM and a single 5.25″ disk drive with 320Kb storage. Each new stage was a leap forward for home computing, but most of it (until I started programming on the PC and the Atari ST) was for games.

As I look at Nathan at just 5 months old, I imagine how old he’ll think I am. His first memories of computing will be several gigabytes of storage in your pocket on which you can watch video and that you plug headphones into. Those little gadgets have more power than that which Sinclair marketing touted in 1981 as being enough to run a nuclear power station.

Everything will be on DVD (blu-ray, probably) and cassettes and vinyl will be museum material. Computing is gradually making its way into our daily lives, whether we like it or not. Maybe we don’t have wearable computers (yet the iPod is a fashion accessory) but many of our cats and dogs have an RFID tag implant to identify them.

Once I used to dream of having a powerful computer. Now I have more computing power in my pocket than my dream computer of some 15 years ago. I used to send 3.5″ disks by post to other people in England. Now I can transfer the equivalent of 100 of those disks in about an hour, to anywhere in the world, from outside on my balcony.


  1. Amazing huh? Those huge computers that used to take up rooms now are just tiny little things and we can easily upload, download, send, receive, explore, dream, create – in a flash! Of course, I can’t get Apple to tell me what DVD burner will go with my old software but hey, that would mean actually getting to talk to a PERSON. *sigh*

  2. By your computer I can tell that you are significantly younger than I am (a hint of envy!).

  3. Ah I remember the days when we used to play football manager on the BBC and had to wait for each weeks’ games to load up on the 3.5….the time to make a cup of tea and have a biscuit before seeing where the team was in the league. With all the processing power these days we must be drinking less tea : I wonder if the UK tea industry has suffered…??

  4. Simon

    23/3/2006 at 10:44 am


    I remember my Dad working in computer rooms where the room was the computer.

    For your DVD burner, old software should still work with a new burner – the interface to the burner should be standardised by the new drivers.


  5. Simon

    23/3/2006 at 10:48 am


    You’re only as old as you feel (and certainly not as old as your first computer) :-D.


  6. Simon

    23/3/2006 at 10:59 am


    Football manager was a legend. I had it on the ZX81 (with 16K RAM extension) and you had time to have a cup of tea after a match waiting for the league table to calculate. You could save to tape and had to hope it would reload. There was nothing but a flicker every few seconds to animate the realtime match updates – but we were glued to the little black and white screen.

    We also had Football Manager on the ZX Spectrum and the BBC, both added match “highlights” where little stick men would flash around the screen and shoot. There were only about 8 “action scenes” so after a while you knew as soon as the screen appeared whether there would be a goal or not. We were still waiting with baited breath though.

    The Commodore 64 had an American Football management game we played – Head Coach. That taught us some of the basic rules of gridiron. As for the Atari ST, it was FIFA 1990 we played, 4 people crowded around two joysticks playing real football action. However the better football sim was called Kick Off which even has a Wikipedia page dedicated to it.