Sometime one Christmas in the mid 80s I remember stopping over at my grandma’s with my parents. Christmas morning arrived and I was lead downstairs to the dining room where a spare telly had been set up.
Under the telly was an Acorn Electron, its tape unit, some tapes and its manual. And it was all mine 🙂 It was my first, actual real computer and I spent many hours sat in front of it typing in BASIC listings and loading things off tape.
Occasionally I got to go to work with my dad who worked in a school’s supplies company. One of his tactics to entertain me was to sit me in front of some computer they had there. It was a weird computer made by the BBC and all I really paid any attention to was that it had a painting program and a light pen… and that it was somehow similar to my Acorn Electron but had more holes in the back of it which naturally made it better.
Since there was no such thing as the Internet back then (at least not for someone who was about six years old who had yet to learn what a ‘modem’ did) my sole source of information came from books borrowed out the library. The books were great, but they all had one major failing as far as I was concerned – they were all to do with this BBC computer and not my Electron. So I could read all about how to control a robot arm or a toy trainset, and even type the programs in and run them but since the bottom of my Electron didn’t contain a ‘User Port’ or a ‘Tube Port’ I couldn’t do anything.
Back in the 80s it was quite fine and normal to allow your kids to mess around plugging stuff into their computers. I remember reading one book that gave me code and a simple diagram to control household lighting from the BBC. It didn’t contain six pages of disclaimers either, instead it merely warned me that mains electricity can kill and that getting an adult to check the wiring before turning it on was a good idea.
Fast forward to this Christmas and I discover some unusually heavy and oddly shaped presents under the tree. I now have a BBC Model B micro, a selection of floppies (that are older than the person who gave them to me) and a 40 track, single sided 100K floppy drive that sounds like reading disks takes serious effort. I already had the Amstrad monitor, and it conveniently plugs into the BBC’s monitor socket. Had I been given this setup when I was five or so I think I might have exploded 🙂