Re: Ahhh...the early days.
Reminiscent of Multimate on lots & lots of 5.25 inch floppies
228 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Jan 2016
Back in the 1978 the Open University had two computer sites, one in Milton Keynes and one in NE England (Sunderland?). These two sites did not share all the data as I discovered when sending in an assignment consisting of a handwritten bit of code that relied upon data saved by the previous assignment. On several occasions my assignment failed because the data was stored at the other OU site.
Reason for handwritten bit of code? I was living in Brora, Sutherland and nearest site with access to the OU system was over an hour's drive away (and access, via a 75 baud T100 teleprinter and a telephone-based modem, was decidedly flakey at the best of times)
What was the course? My first ever OU course, PM978 "Computers and Computing"
Did I pass? Yes, grade 2
Working at a secure government site the security guards would patrol twice a day to ensure that all was well. One area only worked Mon-Fri so when the security chap checked it on Sat morning and found a cupboard left open he reported the security guard who had performed the previous security check. Alas, he failed to realise that occasionally someone in the area would work on a Saturday. The outcome was that if that situation occurred again the security guard wouldn't simply report his mate for failing to do his job but check whether (a) someone was working in the area or (b) there had been a break in!
In 1964 I was in the RAF, unmarried, living at RAF Northolt and travelling to work at the Air Ministry via the Central Line (with a free travel pass every 3 months!). It was 24/7 shift work and after a busy night shift it was not unknown for folk like me to get on the tube at Charing Cross, doze off and wake up several hours later at somewhere like Ongar...
I've told this story before but it is relevant to the topic.
My friend worked for a high security Government department and had managed to create a small piece of security-related hardware that matched all the specs - works with wide range of voltages both AC & DC, not polarity sensitive, not bothered by moisture, heat, vibration or being dropped from several feet onto hard surface. However, he failed on the final item in the spec - had to be easily & quickly destroyed in case of an emergency
Many years ago a friend of mine produced a "hardened" piece of cryptographic kit for the military. It was tough (run over by tanks on Salisbury Plain, dropped out of aircraft) and dealt with a wide range of voltages ( AC & DC), reversed polarity, etc. He failed to meet the final requirement - it had to be simple to destroy in an emergency.
The RAF recently changed the names of some ranks:
Leading Aircraftsman (LAC), Senior Aircraftsman (SAC) & Junior Technician (JT) became Air Specialist (class 2), Air Specialist (class 1) and Air Specialist (class 1) Technician.
The electronic organ in the kirk where I'm the organist was bought new about 8 years ago. About 5 years ago it started "locking up" at random intervals (usually in the middle of a service) then "unlocking" after a few hours. I managed to get the manufacturers of the organ to admit that the problem was caused by the advent of local wind turbines & solar panels. Eventually the manufacturer replaced all the internal electronic panels and I've had no problems since then.
Back in the early 1990s we were using MS Windows (I forget which version) and having problems with a slow disk drive. After several physical replacements we discovered that it was the drive letter that was the problem - it transpired that drive letter "F" was used by MS Windows for diagnosis purposes and had several "special" functions tied to it.
I dumped Santander (had been with them for over 30 years starting with Alliance & Leicester) when they refused to send the OTP via landline phone instead of mobile phone - no mobile signal up here. Transferred the account to TSB who are quite happy to send the OTP via landline phone.
I first encountered the Commodore PET in the mid 1980s when I worked for a large Government organisation and the head tech manager bought a couple for us "to play with". We didn't get very far until we bought a copy of Raeto West's invaluable handbook. I still have my copy in the attic but I might just put it on the market to see what price it will fetch! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Programming-PET-Raeto-Collin-West/dp/0950765007
A Open University courses in the 1980s taught computing using HEKTOR (acronym now forgotten). First we coded by hand - pure assembler, calculating jumps, etc. Then progressed to a very simple assembler and so eventually on to a C compiler & linker. I used some of that knowledge when I had a chip whose floating point multiply took umpteen clock cycles to multiply by 10 - I did 3 left shifts then added the original twice, much faster
The Russian military appear to have shot themselves in the foot, metaphorically speaking:
Back in the 1960s a large factory installed a fire-suppression system which consisted mainly of sprinklers and incorporated a new innovation at the switchboard (a PMBX1A) which automatically called the local fire station with a voice message on a loop "There is a fire at factory xxx. There is a fire at factory xxx" if a fire was detected - the 999 system couldn't be used as the technology to interact with the operator didn't exist.
One night the large factory caught fire and the fire-suppression system did its best but the factory burned to the ground before the fire brigade turned up. At the post mortem it transpired that the factory's system worked as designed and telephoned the fire brigade with the repeating voice message. The fire brigade telephone system responded with its own message "The telephone number for this fire station has been changed to 1234578, please replace your received and dial the new number".
I do have a mobile phone but I can only get a signal if I stand at the bottom of the garden or over on the far side of the road. I moved from Santander to TSB because Santander insisted that I had to receive my OTP via mobile phone whereas TSB (and Paypal) are quite happy to use my landline phone.
I live on Stronsay, Orkney. The nearest mobile phone tower is on the island of Sanday, about 7 miles away. I can get a signal on my mobile about twice a week and that's usually just enough to receive a couple of texts. There is a new mobile phone tower under construction as part of the emergency services network, apparently that's run by EE. I wonder if Vodafone could add a couple of aerials on that tower?
That link gives this interesting message:
If you try to run this site in Internet Explorer 8, you may need to try to turn on the compatibility view mode.
Some users have reported problems with Internet Explorer when viewing this site. We have not been able to reproduce the problem in tests with Internet Explorer 7. Firefox and Chrome run with the site with no apparent problems.
I joined the RAF in 1959 as a 16 yr old Boy Entrant and after 18 months training left RAF Cosford as a "Telegraphist" with the ability to read/send Morse at 21 wpm and use a teleprinter to type at 45 wpm. One esoteric skill was memorising ITA2 (https://www.cryptomuseum.com/ref/ita2/index.htm) and thus being able to "read" 5 hole punched tape which came in very handy when I moved into programming after leaving the RAF in 1973.
In 1977 I was working in Brora, Sutherland and I took the Open University course PM951 "Computing and computers", my first encounter with any sort of computing (anyone who took this course will remember "Koch-Light" and visible-record computing). The course involved writing programs in OU Basic which I could then type in on a teletype, first booking a time slot at a school in Thurso (which was an hours drive north of Brora) and hoping that the system wasn't "down" when I got there, or
writing the program out on squared paper and posting it via Royal Mail to the OU computing centre in Milton Keynes who would run the program and post back the original hand-written program, the program as typed in by the OU and the output (if any) of the program.
I always took the second option which worked quite well until about half-way through the course when I had to recall some data stored in "my" memory area by one of my previous programs. This produced an angry response from the OU computing department asking what had I done with my data, they couldn't find it! After a lot of discussion it transpired that the OU used two mainframes, one in Milton Keynes and another in Newcastle. Although the mainframes ran the same software they did not share the data of OU students thus a problem occurred if my program ran on the Milton Keynes mainframe and my previous program which stored some data ran on the Newcastle mainframe. I eventually got an apology from the OU thanking me for drawing attention to the problem.