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liz
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Re: Fond memories

Fri Jul 29, 2011 1:52 pm

We've been looking back at the learning materials we used back in the early 80s on our school computers (in my case, the BBC Micro) and reminiscing. What were the resources you remember with real fondness? I guess my real introduction came at home rather than at my girls' school, where home economics was considered much more important than IT. Fortunately, I had brilliant parents, got my hands on my own BBC Model B from WH Smiths, and became hooked as soon as I sat down with the Welcome disc and accompanying User Guide.

The brilliant (and surprisingly educational) text adventure L a Mathemagical Adventure led me to find Peter Killworth's book How to Write Adventure Games at the library - we have our own copy at home now for reasons of nostalgia - and to devote altogether too much time to typing out reams of BASIC from other library books which were meant to result in working games. They seldom worked because I was a rubbish typist back in 1984. Micro User magazine was a fantastic resource - and off the top of my head, I think it was where Eben had his first publication as a very young teenager! (Correct me if I'm wrong, Eben.)

There were other bits of educational software kicking about in those days whose usefulness I still simply can't get my head around. What was Granny's Garden actually for? Why did my IT teacher use up whole lessons getting the entire class to cluster around one monitor and argue about what to do next on The Oregon Trail?
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Re: Fond memories

Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:33 pm

I spent many a happy afternoon on the school's BBC Model B computers, though I had a ZX Spectrum at home, much cooler ;). Anyway, I spent a good while on LOGO, programming the virtual turtle. We were only allowed to get the real turtle robot out on special occasions like school open days, when it would be allowed scuttle around drawing spirograph type paterns on huge sheets of paper.
You can't really accomplish much with LOGO, but I do think it's useful for absolute beginners to start understanding programming. From what I remember, you could use loops and subroutines, a very gentle introduction to program flow and logic.

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Re: Fond memories

Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:51 pm

Oh my god - the turtle! There used to be fights in my school over who'd get to play with the thing on the once-a-term high days it came out of the IT cupboard. Like you say, there wasn't much you could do with it, but it was hella cool, and made for a great intro to some of the fundamentals of programming.
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Re: Fond memories

Fri Jul 29, 2011 5:53 pm

BBC Basic was the language I learned to program on, and it took me many years to find another language that I thought was both as flexible and lent itself to writing good code (mind you BBC Basic also lent itself to writing bad code too!).

There was one educational program I played a lot, can't quite remember its name, but you played the Chancellor of the Exchequer and had to balance the budget year after year, facing re-election once every 4 years, I loved that one.

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Re: Fond memories

Fri Jul 29, 2011 6:22 pm

Quote from TreacleWelding on July 29, 2011, 18:53
BBC Basic was the language I learned to program on, and it took me many years to find another language that I thought was both as flexible and lent itself to writing good code (mind you BBC Basic also lent itself to writing bad code too!).

There was one educational program I played a lot, can't quite remember its name, but you played the Chancellor of the Exchequer and had to balance the budget year after year, facing re-election once every 4 years, I loved that one.

I think gordon brown must have played that as well :o

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Re: Fond memories

Fri Jul 29, 2011 10:02 pm

wow, you're all pretty lucky. At my elementary school we had a Computer lab, but it was a mac only lab that only did "The Oregon Trail". In Jr. High our only Computer option was to do rotation deal where you spent 6 weeks exploring different things. One 6 weeks period was typing. High School brought BCIS which was really "learn MS office". I did manage to get into a true computer course in High School, but it was off campus in a building where both high schools in the Independent School District meet for "vocational occupations" it was designed for students who they pretty much thought weren't going to attend college (Beauticians, Automotive Mechanics, and PC Nerds). And even that was, "Here's a pile of parts, go make a computer" without any real education going on :-/
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Re: Fond memories

Sat Jul 30, 2011 6:30 pm

Quote from liz on July 29, 2011, 18:51
Oh my god - the turtle!

I bet all up and down the country there are still those turtles hiding in the back of IT cupboards, no-one quite knowing what they are for or what to do with them. Probably sitting alongside a data laserdisk player and a laserdisk labelled "BBC Doomsday Project"!

I started on the ZX81, quickly moving onto the Sharp (not sure if it was the http://www.museumoftechnology......hp?key=145 MZ-100 or MZ-700 but it had two slots at the top that could take a combination of tape drive, plotter or floppy drive; and had 16 colours and polyphonic sound). The Sharp was years ahead of its time and had an excellent BASIC that one could use for drawing graphics. I wrote a 3D maze game on that platform.

Eventually I moved onto ZX-Spectrum, Commodore and then Acorn A3000. ZX81 was my introduction to computers and I did type some magazine games listings into that computer, but the Sharp had the features and tools that made proper schoolboy programming fun, rewarding and educational. It was also on the Sharp that I first realised that software engineering is mostly about debugging, not designing or programming, code.

Much later, the A3000 - or more correctly RISC OS - introduced me to the concept of reduced instruction set computers, WIMP and cooperative multi-tasking programming, device drivers, kernel modules and C and assembly language programming (can you get much better than the ARM2 instruction set for teaching assembly language?).

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Re: Fond memories

Sat Jul 30, 2011 8:29 pm

I was a BBC micro boy (serial number 3335 - it's in the loft). BBC basic and 6502 assembler, writing adventures games, shoot em ups etc. I entered and won the Cambridge regional heats of a competition run by Acorn to write a game based on Tron - anyone else remember that compo? Wrote a text adventure game, after my first graphical effort ran out of time. And wasn't very good. No idea who or what won it - would like to know.

And now? I work in the same office as Eben. Small world.
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Re: Fond memories

Sun Jul 31, 2011 1:35 am

I spent many happy hours blowing up BBC micros while doing work experience in the physics dept. at our local university. It's not my fault that BBC micros didn't like having 240volts shoved up their tube. It definatly wasn't my fault, how was I to know that the circuit diagram I was given was missing a few bits and bobs that stop such things happening. Still it wasn't all bad as it's amazing what happens when you put a broken beeb into a keg of the IETS's groups liquid nitrogen and then drop it from the 3rd floor :)

As an added bonus as a Z80 zealot (Tandy, Camputers, Grundy, RM......) that was a few less non-Z80 based computers to annoy me (other than for playing Chuckie egg and Elite)

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Re: Fond memories

Sun Jul 31, 2011 6:36 am

I was brought up on BBC BASIC. My primary school had some Model B's and we were allowed to try Granny's Garden occasionally. It always felt like a huge treat.

At Secondary School the computer studies dept got an Acorn Archimedes as soon as they were available. I still remember a huge crowd of us spending our lunchbreaks huddled around it playing Zarch and thinking it was the most incredilble thing we'd ever seen.

There was one educational program I played a lot, can't quite remember its name, but you played the Chancellor of the Exchequer and had to balance the budget year after year, facing re-election once every 4 years, I loved that one.

I remember this game as well. It was really good, and I think pretty tough to win the election after 4 years. I'm sure that it was possible to incite riots if you raised the price of bread to £1.00 per loaf, which was great fun!

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Re: Fond memories

Sun Jul 31, 2011 9:13 am

I started with some LOGO programming at home (actually my dad got me a book about it and thought it might interest me :) ) but I got bored quickly since I didn't like just reprogramming samples and the book didn't carry on fast enough.

A year or two later I came into contact with Pascal and fooled around with it quite a lot.

Next up was PHP for me. Still use it today for the occasional project.
Then we started discussing LOGO in school.
Luckily we moved on to Java, however using some libraries that made it all very similar to LOGO in the beginning. Wrappers for all basic Java Stuff (even simple GUI buttons).
That was about the time I started looking into C/C++ and I'm, some excursions to Python,Visual Basic and C# aside, stuck with it until today.

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Re: Fond memories

Sun Jul 31, 2011 10:00 am

Quote from SvenG on July 31, 2011, 10:13
...
Next up was PHP for me. Still use it today for the occasional project.
Then we started discussing LOGO in school.
Luckily we moved on to Java, however using some libraries that made it all very similar to LOGO in the beginning. Wrappers for all basic Java Stuff (even simple GUI buttons).
That was about the time I started looking into C/C++ and I'm, some excursions to Python,Visual Basic and C# aside, stuck with it until today.


svengalie? :?

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Re: Fond memories

Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:41 pm

Quote from ShiftPlusOne on July 31, 2011, 11:00
svengalie? :?

No, sorry. :)

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Re: Fond memories

Mon Aug 01, 2011 4:05 pm

Ah ok

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Re: Fond memories

Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:07 pm

Ok, I'll give in and at the same time expose my age.
First computer experience was a room full of teletypes punching characters on a roll of paper.
Best thing of them was you could keep up with it, reading when they where writing.
I don't know what the computer was but I went through a whole set of program called tut1...tut15. (One finished with "see you in the next lesson, last one there is a human"....)
My first big program was a game where you could play 'battleship' against the computer. I had to keep it simple so you each had one shot instead of three. For years I kept the paper tape with the program in a drawer.

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Re: Fond memories

Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:21 pm

Gert, I am amazed at the notion you were *ever* under thirty. ;)
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Re: Fond memories

Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:41 pm

I'm not quiet old enough for punch card based programming :P but I remember checking a book out from the library on how to program your own computer games. It turned out it laid the code out piece for piece and all you did was type it up again on the PC. I can't remember what language it was now, but it was pre windows 3.1. I also remember that the first computer that every graced my home was a clunky old box with a monitor that weighed almost more than I did. It was supposed to be only for my dad to use Lotus 1-2-3, but a friend donated a disk or two for some classic games. It had no hard drive, and a stick of EDO RAM that was just a couple of megebytes (and that was amazing!). As I remember, it sucked up dust faster then my vacuum cleaner and needed to be cleaned out constantly.

It was MAGICAL (in the amazing sense of the word, not, you know, literally magical)
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Re: Fond memories

Fri Aug 05, 2011 3:18 pm

In Canada, Apple II+ were the staples in high schools. Our school got 2 to train teachers the year before the school board introduced the first computer course. Our "head" formed a club for us nerd students. While most kids were using them to play pirated games I jumped right into BASIC programming - the first programme I wrote plotted a line given the slope and y-intercept, and also calculated the x intercept and actually didn't crash if m=0! The whole faculty thought I was a genius!

This was 1984, so i bought a ZX-81 for home use and probably did more Z80 asm than BASIC. Later it got hacked into a Dalek - used PEEKs to sense a "bumper" and POKEs to drive two servo motors. Unfortunately the audio capabilities of the ZX-81 didn't allow it to shout "Exterminate!".

Very keen on having a cheap "disposable" computer running Linux that my kids can experiment with. I'm thinking of some Wifi card written in Perl with a Web server for control.

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Re: Fond memories

Fri Aug 05, 2011 4:26 pm

My first computer experience was visiting the local Tech College every week from school using punch cards on a mainframe then seeing the results printed out on a teleprinter. I think it was FORTRAN programming and, believe it or not, still had up to a couple of years ago (my last move) shoe boxes full of cards all bundled up as programs - shame I didn't leave some idea what they did tho! Went on to the Commodore Pet then Apple (Lisa?) at Uni. First home computer was a Sinclair QL that my Dad bought for 'only work purposes' but since he couldn't really work it we got our hands on it! First PC was an Escom 486 when studying OU.

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Re: Fond memories

Fri Aug 05, 2011 9:01 pm

My first computer experience was on an Apple IIe, at the local college. Then my mother bought a Timex Sinclair ZX81 kit which me and my twin brother assembled. Then a Color computer from tandy and so on. Tandy 1000hx then upgraded it to a HDD. Had a TI 99/4a also. I still build some computers today and I updrade them all myself. I have built my own internal (powered internally) USB HDD with switch so it can be turned off as a secure backup. Many other projects including a self built Windows Home Server from an Atom 330 board (D945gclf2). So the fond memories are not all of old! The Ras.Pi will hopefully be my next FOND memory down the road!!
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Re: Fond memories

Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:09 am

My earliest might have been the toshiba MSX, before i eventually got an Amstrad CPC464 green screen. (Oh Dizzy, why haven't you been remade yet!). Mostly typing listings from magazines etc but i vaguely recall getting a sprite to move around on screen with a joystick all on my lonesome and wanting to make games with a friend of mine. haven't really been involved at all over last 16 years :(

I believe that the current closed systems of tablet/phones have to change and that having the ability/confidence to alter everything to your particular needs is important. Ever read David Brin's Earth. That's what I want for an internet!

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Re: Fond memories

Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:27 am

Quote from hordecore on August 14, 2011, 02:09
Mostly typing listings from magazines etc

do you still find yourself saying "string" when you see a dollar sign?

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Re: Fond memories

Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:05 am

I went ZX 81 -> Spectrum -> CPC 6128, at ages 13 / 15 /17.
My fondest memories are
- Jet Set Willy, I just loved that game. OK, that's not the question.
- Delving into the Amstrad Firmware Manual. Having detailed, serious looking doc on the inner workings of that serious-looking machine (remember, trading up from a Spectrum) was da bomb !
- making my first recursive program. I've got a bad case of "esprit d'escalier" (french... "step ladder mind" ? I'm very analytical, anal retentive, context-dependent...) so getting that thing to work, which involved "you push stuff going in, you pop the same stuff going out, don't worry about the inner workings" kinda blew my mind. but but but... where's the stack counter at ?
- getting beaten by that same program (Othello/Reversi)
- drawing fractals
- failing to work out the perfect program for a silly game show (6 numbers, any integer operation to find a 7th... never could work out the interaction between priorities, parentheses, and and recursion). I wanted a fast enough, exhaustive one, I think I never got the "exhaustive" part.
- making a competent Belote Coinchée program (card game http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coinche)
- being assistant in a lab later on (17-18), I felt wise and useful.
- running into the prostitutes that were "manning" the main Sinclair shop's street in Marseilles. Took me several encounters to understand, one of my mates had to explain it to me...

My biggest regrets are:
- never doing team projects. We were a handful of close friends in the shool computer club (played D&D together, too ^^), but it never occured us or the teacher to do our assignments in teams.
- never having an opportunity to show off stuff to my parents. They were not that interested, but they would have watched, and I would have felt proud.

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Re: Fond memories

Sun Aug 14, 2011 8:46 am

Was looking at the top shelf of a bookcase in my study yesterday, and found my copy of the BBC Advanced User Guide, along with ISO-Pascal and Forth, both Acornsoft titles. Quick flick though the user guide brought back a lot of memories - 1983 memories.
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Re: Fond memories

Sun Aug 14, 2011 8:54 am

Quote from ukscone on August 14, 2011, 02:27
Quote from hordecore on August 14, 2011, 02:09
Mostly typing listings from magazines etc

do you still find yourself saying "string" when you see a dollar sign?

Yes!
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