Time Passes, Things Change

28 August 2020

Whilst walking along a corridor at the Care Home here one day, I saw a few Carers all standing at the doorway to an inmates room. It made me wonder just what the collective noun for such a group of Carers might be. A Cluster, perhaps? No, not likely, that would be too easy! A Conglomerate of Carers? The jury is still out on that one…

Meanwhile, a Facebook friend tells me a man has been injured at a teddy bears picnic. He’s ok, but he’s not out of the woods yet… I told him, no big surprise there, then!

(Yes, I can hear you all sighing from here – it wasn’t that bad a joke, surely!?!?!)

Anyway, back to reality. I was chatting to a Carer and saying how quickly time now seems to pass as we get older. As a child, I soon learned to occupy my time with a lot of reading, as well as making stick-together kits like Airfix models – I really enjoyed those. To begin with I was putting together small aircraft, but I then went on to making the bigger items like old sailing ships, using black cotton to imitate the rigging. Once done, those took pride of place on a shelf! Making all these was good therapy for my weak right hand – I guess it also kept me quiet and out of any trouble!

As I got older I carried on reading, finding certain authors whose style I enjoyed. Of course I was also going out with friends, I was singing in a couple of choirs, I found I enjoyed ten-pin bowling (sadly that place was closed down), but still the time flew by. At one point changes at work meant I had to think quickly as we were told that computers were to be introduced! With my weak right hand I couldn’t type, but my father kindly let me have the use of his typewriter so that I could at least learn the  layout of a keyboard. That way I could type fairly well with my left hand, as I was not searching for the letters all the time! I found it helped a great deal.

Then in 1981 I saw a small computer in a shop, it was a Sinclair ZX81 but unlike the computers we have nowadays, this had no ‘permanent’ storage capability for any programs or personal data. All it had was an operating system. The programs had to be either typed in manually each time the computer was used, or they could be loaded in using sounds stored on a tape via a cassette recorder. The sequence of sounds were recognised by the computer and cleverly converted into a program. The output volume from the cassette recorder had to be set exactly right, too! I used to buy a few computer magazines where programs had been printed and I spent absolutely hours copying the computer code into the computer. Except sometimes there would be a mistake on the printed page and the program would not work – it was extremely frustrating, especially when the error was corrected (with an apology!) in the next edition of the magazine.

The ZX81 had a memory capacity of one kilobyte, or 1,024 bytes. Each ‘byte’ then equated to a single character, which was a letter or a number, a comma, full stop, a space even, so that was not much. There was an extra 16k RAM (Random Access Memory) pack that could be plugged in to the rear of the computer, but that wasn’t ideal as moving or knocking it even a little bit was enough to lose a connection, so that the computer had to be restarted, the tape wound back and the loading process begun all over again! Oh yes, and the computer didn’t have a screen – to view and run the programs, a small black and white tv was needed.

Happily the following year a much better computer came along, this was a Sinclair Spectrum. It had a colour display rather than black & white, although a separate tv still had to be used. My ZX Spectrum had 48k (49,152 bytes) of RAM memory, but just as with the ZX81, as soon as it was turned off all the programs were lost and they had to be loaded back in when the computer was switched on again. I was delighted when Sinclair Computers were taken over by Amstrad, who made a Sinclair 128 with 128k of memory. I’ll let you work out how many bytes that was! It also had a disk drive and this meant all programs and data could be stored and reloaded much more quickly. But this was still before the days of CD’s, DVD’s or any kind of storage on the computer itself.

In 1993 I bought a modern computer with a monitor, keyboard & mouse which had a huge amount of memory compared to the Spectrum 128. It had four megabytes of RAM memory as well as in-built storage for both programs and data, which was retained even when the computer was turned off! Ever since then I’ve continued to enjoy using a range of computers, I’ve learned a basic computer language, but as with most things, the more I learn the more I find there is to learn. Actually I shouldn’t have written the computer language name as basic, as it is actually BASIC – Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code! My computers to this point were using an operating system made by Microsoft which they called ‘Windows’. Later on I had to learn about computers made by Apple and they have a slightly different operating system but it is easy to get used to.

Nowadays the latest computers have a really massive amount of storage space, gigabytes and even terabytes! For more detail on this, have a look at the Data Measurement Chart at: http://www.wu.ece.ufl.edu/links/dataRate/DataMeasurementChart.html

Technology has changed, there are clever people out there, but what I find so very entertaining are the people who come along with what they think are new ideas, but quite often they are in fact the same ideas as we had when we were younger. I am reminded of a fun item in an old radio series done by the late, great Douglas Adams, called ‘The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy’, where a group of people from another planet were inventing the wheel. Before getting it into production they were having a bit of trouble agreeing quite what colour it should be! There are times when the simplest of things can be made to be unnecessarily complicated.

Time passes, the world turns, many things change but many things remain the same. We are presently dealing with Covid-19, so I wonder what our lives will be like in, say, one years time!?!? I’ll let you know, please watch this space….

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