* Posts by OldPalmFan

6 publicly visible posts • joined 5 Jan 2014

10 PRINT "ZX81 at 37" 20 GOTO 10


I designed a bridge on my girlfriends' ZX81

I was a Royal Engineer officer and had a task to build a wooden foot-bridge at a National Trust property. The design process was iterative; you guessed some dimensions, ran them through the calculations in the Improvised Bridge Design manual to see if the bridge was strong enough and if not could see what bits needed to be bigger (keeping it simple for you Register types). Perfect for a computer programme, I thought and my girlfriend had 'a computer' a ZX81 complete with wobble-pack. So I wrote a programme that worked through the iterative steps and ended up with a design. Somewhat proud of this I listed the programme in my design report and.......my CO completely po-poohed the idea of using a computer and thought it ridiculous that they could ever be of any use in RE tasks. A visionary he was not. After I left the Army I moved into IT where I've been for the last 25+ years (but not programming, I'm rubbish at it but the bridge was built and didn't fall down!).

Object to #YearOfCode? You're a misogynist and a snob, says the BBC


Another IT fad?

Sorry but the Year of Coding has got me so worked up that I have to comment somewhere....

Where to start.....

I see lots of people in business who still use Word as an electronic typewriter with the added benefit of a spell checker.

Excel? It adds columns of numbers doesn't it?

My point here is that many people in business do not know how to use the basic tools that have been around now for many years. Or to put it another way, the level of IT literacy in many workers is still far too low.

ICT in schools? My wife is a teacher in a Children's Centre. They have been waiting for months to get an internet connection into the classroom. They have iPads that might as well have stayed in their boxes because no-one thought about the need for iTunes to be installed onto PCs. The laptop that drives the whiteboard no longer boots and they cannot get anyone to fix it. Point? That some schools still need some of the IT basics in place and working.

Year of Coding? Reminds me of the numeracy and literacy hour. My daughter was at school during that fad. Almost put her off maths and reading, and certainly put many of her friends off maths and reading.

Speaking of maths, are not some of the most (be careful here...) proficient programmers either mathematicians or Physicists? Think Bletchley and the people there where computing was 'invented' and of course Tim Berners-Lee has a 1st class Physics degree. So if we want to develop good programmers then should we not start by putting more emphasis on maths and Physics in schools, and the coding can come later?

OK, disjointed rant over. I'm sure that raising the profile if IT is a good thing, that some children might get enthused about coding and that the debate about what should be taught in schools when it comes to IT is definitely a good thing. However it seems to me that the debate has become reduced to a simple mantra - teach everyone to code - and that all our IT skills issues will be solved.

No, they won't. It might put more people off IT than become the coders we need. And there is more to IT - so much more - than coding.

Disclosure : I am an IT professional, I have a Physics degree, I don't code and I don't want to.

NatWest 'spam' email cockup got me slapped with late payment fee, says angry Reg reader


I'm not a luddite but.....

Ah, modern technology.

I still continue to ask for, and receive, paper bills whenever possible. Although some companies charge it has saved me a number of similar embarrassment when an email has not arrived. It is also useful to have a recent paper bill when asked for proof of address (as organizations verifying identify have also not yet heard of the paperless office).

My most recent smug moment was when I received a paper bill from Orange informing me that they owed me a couple of quid after I had closed my account. Because I'd closed the account I had no on-line account to access yet apparently the final 'bill' is not determined until a couple of months after the account is closed.

Luddite? No, I call it personal business continuity planning!

A BBC-by-subscription 'would be richer', MPs told


Yesteryear's model

For me the substantive point in this debate is that it seems a complete anachronism that in 2013 one has to pay a tax to the government to watch (live) TV. I'm sure the model was sensible in the early days of television when it was all new and exciting but, really, in 2013?

In fact I would suggest that if the model didn't exist and the government tried to introduce it would be a complete non-starter Just imagine the debate: 'there are tens of TV channels out there, some free and some that you have decided to pay to watch, but we have just decided that if you want to watch any of them then you have to pay a tax that then only goes to just one of them that you might not ever watch or listen to'. How many votes would that get?

So for me the issue is when will the BBC move to the model that I pay if I choose to watch (listen) to it, and I don't pay if I don't want to. Those who want the BBC will pay. If there are not enough of them then the BBC will cease to exist. Are there really any substantive arguments in this day and age for maintaining a state-funded televisual service?

And as a parting thought, who really believes the idea that the idea that the BBC is 'independent' when it is funded by the Government?

Pay-by-bonk on the blink: O2 loses Wallet


I had an O2 Wallet NFC card and it was a disaster....

I wanted to try 'pay by bonk' as it does seem a sensible way to carry out small transactions. As my credit card company was not offering an NCC card I worked out that by signing up for O2 Money/Wallet I could then sign up for their debit card that was NFC enabled. This process wasn't too difficult and it was fairly easy to transfer monies from my bank account to the O2 Money account. The controls seemed sensible; no single transaction over £20 and I got a txt every time I used the card confirming the spend and remaining balance.

Initially all was good and it was fairly easy to pay for coffees etc via my O2 bonk card. However one day the transaction 'failed'. This was slightly embarrassing but I had cash. It became annoying when I discovered that the money had been deducted from my O2 Money account, but not transferred to the merchant. O2 told me that 'Visa rules (or was it Mastercard) meant that I had to wait 2 weeks for the refund. They said they had some problems and were working on a fix.

A month or so later the same occurred. The transaction was 'refused' however the monies came off the card, and again I was told I would have to wait for the monies to be refunded.

Just think on this for a moment. You are executing a financial transaction that gets to the point where the money is taken out of your account, is not transferred to the merchant, and then you have to wait 2 weeks for a refund. The compensation they did pay me for my troubles was not really the point. I decided that their systems were simply not trustworthy and closed my account some months ago.

I'm therefore not in the least surprised that O2 have closed the service.

Ten classic electronic calculators from the 1970s and 1980s


I remember when...

...I used to get Practical Electronics. They had a project (about 6 months long if I remember rightly) to build your own electronic calculator complete with nixie tubes for the display; it was the size of briefcase! The rule with PE was to wait till the end of the project series and then the next edition to get all the corrections to their circuits etc. However around the 2nd or 3rd item in the series Clive Sinclair brought out his pocket calculator and suddenly the article was history.

I've always been a fan of RPN. My first was a HP-33E that I still have in a drawer somewhere. I used to write some great programmes for it, only to see them disappear of course when it was switched off.

My current calculator is a HP 32SII and I have RPN calculators on my phone, tablet and (Windows) desktop. And of course I used to have an RPN calculator on my Palm.

As others have noted, the best way to not loose a calculator is to have an RPN one as they are always returned about 10 seconds after being borrowed.