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Showing posts from October, 2011

The Demon Machine

Over the weekend I was reunited with the first two computers I spent extensive time programming. The Sharp MZ-80K (released in 1979) and the BBC Micro Model B (released in 1982).

Here's the BBC Micro:

with the top off you can spot that I've added my own headphone socket at the back and that this machine was upgraded with the speech synthesis module.

And I had the ROM slots maxed out with Basic II, Caretaker, and Acornsoft LISP.

And here's the Sharp MZ-80K:

Both work fine, but I was struck by my reaction to the machines. I wanted to boot them up and get programming. A little voice in each machine was speaking to me about all the unchartered lands of programs that could be written in just kilobytes of RAM. Of all the possibilities, tucked away in the Acorn MOS and the Sharp's memory.

It's the same little voice that still drives me on to write just another line of code, to perfect just another little routine. Just the other night I was dragging myself at midnight …

Action this Day. Here's how to help Bletchley Park

With the wonderful news that Bletchley Park has been awarded £4.6m in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund there's a follow up appeal. The lottery funding comes with a condition to raise £1.7m in matching funding. You can help make that happen by donating.

Bletchley Park has a donation page here. For folks in the UK a simple text message to 70070 in the form BPRK99 £x where x is the number of pounds you want to donate is a fast way to do it. It works, I just did it.

Bletchley Park matters in many ways:

1. The history of the Second World War was dramatically changed by the intellectual warriors that worked there. The most well known is, of course, Alan Turing, but Station X (as it was known) was filled with interesting, odd, intelligent characters who read the secret correspondence of the Nazis from the lowly soldier in the field to the high command.

2. Bletchley Park has a strong claim to being a big part of the computer revolution. Turing, of course, was there, but also th…