Recent posts in my Nostalgia Category

June 26, 2012

Of course “The Newsroom” gets bad press. The reviews are written in a newsroom.

I haven’t seen “The Newsroom”, but I have seen the reviews, and it hasn’t been pretty. Likewise “The Hour” didn’t win many rave write-ups either. The unfortunately unique thing is that when writing a show about journalism, your reviews are posted by the very people whose activity you are trying to dramatise.

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April 20, 2012

My record store days

Tomorrow is Record Store Day in the UK. In honour this week the Guardian had a piece with some of the writers remembering the record shops that shaped their lives and inviting in contributions from users on the theme. To get yourself in the mood for tomorrow’s exclusive releases and in-store performances, why not have a quick rifle through Reckless Records R.I.P., a set of blog posts I wrote in 2007 about the record shop in London where I used to work in the 90s.

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April 17, 2012

London 2012 - as it was announced on the web

Tomorrow you’ll be inundated with articles, blog posts, interactives, TV news packages and special supplements celebrating that it is 100 days until the Olympics start in London. So I thought I’d be different and look back instead - here are some of the web screengrabs I took in 2005 when it was announced that London would be hosting the games.

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January 18, 2012

“Steam multiplied muscle, but computers multiply thought” - Sinclair digital literacy rallying cry from 1983

A 1983 advert for Sinclair Computers still rings true as a rallying cry for digital literacy in our schools.

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June 3, 2011

Guardian 190 and digital permanence

“It is ironic that you have to print the website out” someone said to me at the Knight-Mozilla News Innovation Jam at the weekend, and the Guardian’s 190th anniversary exhibition asks questions about how we preserve our digital products.

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December 22, 2009

Genesis of the robots - how a Czech word invaded the English language

Using The Guardian's digital archive, I've traced how the word 'robot' made its way from the theatre stage in Prague to become part of the English language during the 1920s.

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December 17, 2009

Katherine Green: "Wood Street, E17" and "1948 Olympians"

Two of photographer Katherine Green's projects have been about subjects close to my heart - one documenting the shops on Wood Street where I used to live, and one a series of portraits of British Olympians from the 1948 London Olympic Games.

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December 16, 2009

Katherine Green: "Going to the dogs" at Vestry House Museum

Katherine Green recently exhibited photographs documenting the last days of greyhound racing at Walthamstow Stadium. I went to Vestry House Museum to hear her talk about the project.

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December 7, 2009

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Part 6 - The noughties and beyond...

Part 6 of this series looks at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and the prospects for African teams now that the 2010 draw has been finalised.

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December 4, 2009

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Part 5 - The nineties

Today, preparations for South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup reach a new peak with the draw for the opening group stages in Cape Town. To mark the occasion, all this week I've been blogging about the history of African nations competing in sport's most prestigious competition - from Egypt in 1934, through the wilderness years, to an increased African presence during the seventies and eighties. Today it is the turn of the nineties, and a focus on the...
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December 3, 2009

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Part 4 - The eighties

With the draw for the 2010 World Cup Finals in South Africa taking place tomorrow, this week I've been blogging about the history of African teams taking part in the finals. So far I've looked at the thirties, the wilderness years and the seventies.      Today it is the turn of the eighties, with a look at the tournaments held in Spain and Mexico. Africa in the FIFA World Cup: España '82 The 1982 World Cup Finals were the...
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December 2, 2009

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Part 3 - The seventies

On Friday, in a no doubt over-long and over-complicated ceremony with lots of mentions of complicated factors like 'national co-efficient', the draw will be made for the 2010 World Cup Finals. Africa will be represented by hosts South Africa alongside Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. It wasn't always the case that Africa had so many spots in the finals. Over the last couple of days I've been posting about the history of African teams in the Finals,...
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December 1, 2009

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Part 2 - The wilderness years

On Friday, the draw will be held for the first World Cup Finals to be held on African soil. To celebrate, I've been looking at the history of African teams taking part in the world's biggest sporting tournament. Yesterday I started with a look at the 1930s, when Egypt became the first African team to take part in a World Cup Finals in Italy in 1934. When the tournament resumed after the interruption of the Second World War, it...
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November 30, 2009

Africa in the FIFA World Cup: Part 1 - The thirties

Africa in the FIFA World Cup
A series of posts looking at the history of African teams appearing in the World Cup, from Egypt in 1934 to South Africa hosting in 2010.

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November 23, 2009

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop in The Guardian's archive

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to have the chance to see some of the surviving members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop play live at the Camden Roundhouse, and to attend a question and answer session with them beforehand. Photo by Stickpeople Almost certainly the biggest impact the BBC Radiophonic Workshop had on popular culture was Delia Derbyshire's electronic realisation of the Doctor Who theme. However, that didn't hit the nation's screens until 23rd November 1963, 46 years ago...
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November 18, 2009

"1966 and all that..." - Contrasting England's 1966 and 2018 World Cup bids

Tonight we'll be finding out the final qualifiers for next year's World Cup Finals in South Africa. Press attention has also been focused on England's bid to host the 2018 or 2022 edition of the tournament. Personally, I'm of the opinion that the reason FIFA abandoned their continental rotation system and introduced this double round of bidding was because they didn't get to go on lots of exotic junkets during the bidding process for 2010 and 2014. Imagine the...
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October 15, 2009

Ice Sunday: Part 3 - The death of the ice trade

Over the last couple of days I've been writing about my visit to the London Canal Museum on "Ice Sunday". This was a chance to explore one of Carlo Gatti's ice wells - a remnant of an industry that flourished during the 1800s, but which was gone by the time the First World War arrived. I often write about music and the newspaper industry, both areas where technological advance has disrupted established businesses. In his talk during "Ice Sunday", Malcolm...
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October 14, 2009

Ice Sunday: Part 2 - Descent into the ice well

Yesterday I was posting about a trip I made to the London Canal Museum back in June. It was on a special open day called "Ice Sunday". Usually visitors to the museum can only peer down into the ice well that lies below the building, but on this day, guide Martin Sach was leading groups down into the depths. The well is thought to be about 40ft deep. This measurement comes from documents recording that a workman fell 40 ft...
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October 13, 2009

Ice Sunday: Part 1 - The Victorian ice trade at the London Canal Museum

Way back on June 14th I went to the London Canal Museum for "Ice Sunday". This seems to be one of those annual events that was going to happen anyway, but which somehow got co-opted into 'The Story Of London' as if they were actually being put on and funded by the Mayor. The day consisted of a short talk about the ice trade by Malcolm Tucker, followed by an opportunity to descend into this Victorian fridge. Whilst we take...
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September 28, 2009

The romance of print as a historical memento

I can usually be found on here trumpeting the superiority of all things digital over all things old and analogue, but sometimes there are sentimental things where new media frankly just doesn't cut it. Last week, when my daughter was born, I thought I'd buy a copy of a newspaper to keep for her as a memento of her birthday. Not only might there still be interest in some of the stories that were being reported that day - she'll...
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September 22, 2009

The Guardian's children's comics: Part 2 - Roy of the Rovers

Last week The Guardian and The Observer published a series of reproduction comics from the 1970s and 1980s, and yesterday I blogged about some of the transformations they illustrated in the relationship between reader and publisher. Today I want to focus on examples from the 19th December 1981 issue of Roy Of The Rovers. The 'team chart' One of the weekly features of Roy Of The Rovers was a chart for you to fill in to track your team's progress....
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September 21, 2009

The Guardian's children's comics: Part 1 - 40 years of changing media

Last week The Guardian and The Observer published a series of reproduction comics from the 1970s and 1980s, including facsimiles of Jackie, The Dandy and Roy Of The Rovers. As well as giving me a blast of nostalgia they also gave me a chance to look through to see the contrasts that modern media and telecoms have brought to change the relationship between publisher and reader over the last 40-or-so years. The Dandy (1984) and The Beano (1980) "Reader's Clubs"...
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August 25, 2009

It was twenty years ago today...the 1989 Reading Festival

Unless major figures have died, there has been a massive terrorist attack, or a man has landed on the moon, there aren't many days of the year where you can be absolutely sure you know what you were doing exactly twenty years ago, but today is one of them. Twenty years ago today I was in a muddy field listening to New Order. I know this because one of the pubs near to where I used to live in Muswell...
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July 22, 2009

The tyranny of chronology: Part 3 - News atoms for the 21st century

This is the third in a series of posts based on the presentation given by Martin Belam at the 'News Innovation' unconference in London on July 10th 2009. You can find part one here. News atoms for the 21st century Yesterday, I was discussing how the 'atom' of news has moved from being the newspaper to the individual story. I think we need to go further, and disaggregate the neutrons and protons from that atom - the paragraphs and...
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July 15, 2009

The Barbican at 40

Today the City of London Corporation is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Barbican Estate with a party for around 400 residents. As anniversaries go, the timing seems a little bit arbitrary - I've seen articles on the web suggesting the actual anniversary was July 7th or July 8th - but it was certainly in 1969 that people and families first moved into the new tower blocks. They are now a familiar part of the London skyline,...
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May 9, 2009

"The look and the sound of The Voice" - Ultravox at The Roundhouse

It may seem to the casual observer, that, having recently seen The Cure and ABC, I'm trapped in a desperate mid-life crisis retro cycle of watching 80s bands live. I did nothing to dispel that illusion the other week by going to see Ultravox at Camden's Roundhouse. They were the first 'modern' band that I went to see live. In 1984 I wasn't old enough to go to a gig on my own, so one of my friends got tickets,...
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May 4, 2009

On the I-Spy look-out for "Ghosts, Mysteries and Legends"

If you were puzzled by a couple of my tweets over the weekend, then let me reassure you that I haven't chucked in the web lark and become a professional ghost hunter. However, I am currently on the look-out for spooky stuff. Last week @bigchiefIspy recruited me into his I-Spy Tribe, by sending me an unsolicited copy of the 1995 Michelin "I-Spy Book of Ghosts, Mysteries & Legends". It is actually a little trickier than some of the more straightforward...
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May 1, 2009

The computer print-out Evangelists of the future

It is twenty years since The Shamen released their second album, "In Gorbachev We Trust". This was the album that saw them move from being a psychedelic indie four-piece band, to being a duo experimenting with acid house. [1] The main single from "In Gorbachev We Trust" was "Jesus Loves Amerika", a stinging rebuke to right-wing evangelists in the USA. It features vocal samples from several American televangelists, including an opening quote from James Robison stating: "I'm sick and tired...
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April 18, 2009

ABC's "Lexicon Of Love" live at the Royal Albert Hall

In the unlikely event that a) I'm ever on Desert Island Discs, and, b) that they've changed the format so that you can only take one album with you, I would be faced with a tough choice between two contenders. I suspect that Talk Talk's "Spirit Of Eden" would probably provide longer lasting spiritual nourishment for the soul and greater depth of listening. However, I'm pretty certain that I would in the end opt for ABC's "The Lexicon of Love"....
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April 17, 2009

Tracing pictures of Chania's Germaniko Pouli German War Memorial

Our old house in Chania was almost next door to a 1940s era war memorial to the Nazi parachute regiments that invaded the island during the Second World War. The Battle for Crete was a bloody one, with the Germans initially suffering heavy losses in their airborne assault, followed by several years of local resistance and accompanying brutal reprisals. Until the early 2000s this monument, erected during the war, stood mostly intact. The swastika held in the talons of the...
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April 16, 2009

Re-creating 1940s Grödig and St Leonhard

When I lived in Austria working at Sony, one of the interesting bits of local history that caught my eye was that the area I stayed in had hosted refugee, internment and prisoner of war camps during both the First and Second World Wars. Although the camp no longer existed, there was the odd bit of evidence around Salzburg, including this postcard I spotted in an antique shop, featuring Serbian prisoners of war during the 1914-18 conflict. Some research on...
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March 21, 2009

London's abandoned Underground Stations on Google Street View

Abandoned Tube Stations on Street View
Peek at the disused bits of London's Underground that you can see overground using Google Street View

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March 20, 2009

The fragile future of newspapers at the British Library

We are used to hearing newspapers described as fragile these days, but usually in the context of their business models, rather than the physical preservation of the artifact. Not so at the British Library last week, where 750 million pages of newspaper were described as "the most fragile" part of their collection by Helen Shenton, Head of Collection Care. It is a problem that makes freesheet ink rubbing off on your hands seem trivial by comparison. Photo courtesy of stevecadman...
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March 19, 2009

The future of 'the future' - the British Library and technology

Yesterday I blogged about an event I went to at the British Library called "A building for now and the future: the British Library after 10 years". One of the most interesting aspects for me was the discussion around technology. Photo courtesy of Istvan We take it for granted now that libraries carry a great deal of digital information and services. Indeed, one of the future construction projects mooted for the British Library site is a Digital Research Centre. However,...
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March 18, 2009

"Stacks, Readers, Staff" - Building the British Library

I was at a fascinating British Library event last week called "A building for now and the future: the British Library after 10 years". It was a look back at the torturous process by which the new building came to be built. In fact, prior to this government's woeful recent IT record, building the British Library was the text-book example of how not to run a public sector procurement project. Photo courtesy of stevecadman Architect Sir Colin St. John 'Sandy'...
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March 2, 2009

"Nous sommes Leeds"

I'll be going to the pub tonight to watch Oldham Athletic against my Leeds United, in what used to be known as the Third Division. The last time I watched this fixture being played at Boundary Park, it was 1992, I was actually there, and the game was in the top flight. It was memorable for a couple of reasons.Firstly it was one of the few games that Leeds lost that season, as they went on to win the last...
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March 1, 2009

"It feels like one hundred years..."

I can actually remember the exact moment I became a fan of The Cure. It was in 1986, and they had just released their first singles compilation - 'Standing On A Beach'. A friend used our 80's style peer-to-peer network to swap the music files with me i.e. he physically lent me his cassette of the album. Double-play edition with extra unavailable b-sides no less. I was on the 34 bus. The route ran as far as Whipps Cross then,...
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February 19, 2009

A technological revolution in miniature

I'm always on the look-out for historical examples of how an industry was changed or destroyed by a technological development, if nothing else to keep avoiding the obvious comparisons between the newspaper, movie and music industries and the impact of the Internet. On a visit to the Victoria & Albert Museum last week, serendipity provided me with another. Just before you get to their spectacular jewellery exhibition, there is a small room charting the history of the British miniature portrait....
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February 18, 2009

How accurate was Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" about the future?

Navigation teaser

How accurate was "2001: A Space Odyssey" about the future?
I recently re-watched Stanley Kubrick's 1968 movie masterpiece, and I was struck by how accurate many of the film's portrayals of the future were.

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January 20, 2009

London Model Engineering Exhibition at Alexandra Palace

Following my recent trips to the BBC Studios and the old Victorian Theatre, I was back at Alexandra Palace again at the weekend. This time it was for the "London Model Engineering Exhibition". It was an unashamedly niche and geeky event, but I'd invited my young nephew along, which was my excuse anyway. It was a strange mix of a trade show and an exhibition. On one stand, for example, you could by sophisticated engineering equipment that would set you...
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January 19, 2009

"The Tottenham Outrage" centenary

Known foreign subversives living in London and committing crime.Public dismay at the lack of control over immigration.Brave policemen laying down their lives to protect the public from acts of foreign terrorists.No, not the result of a decade of New Labour Government, but the situation behind what came to be known as the 'Tottenham Outrage', which took place 100 years ago this week. At around 10:30am on Saturday 23rd January 1909, 'Paul Helfeld' and 'Jacob Lepidus' pulled off a wage snatch...
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January 17, 2009

BBC Television studio open day at Alexandra Palace

As part of the open day into the more obscure parts of the Alexandra Palace complex over the Christmas holiday, I got to visit one of the studios where, on the 2nd of November 1936, the BBC started broadcasting the world's first regular television service. The studios are housed in one of the neglected corners of the palace, and only kept open by a group of enthusiasts. Even on these kinds of occasion, only a fraction of the original broadcasting...
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January 16, 2009

Open day at the Alexandra Palace Victorian Theatre

In the lull between Christmas and the New Year, I got to visit a couple of the more obscure corners of Alexandra Palace, thanks to open days put on by local enthusiasts. One of the venues which is otherwise seldom open to the public that you could visit was the Victorian Theatre. The Victorian Theatre can be found at the eastern end of Alexandra Palace, alongside the ice rink. This was added as part of the rebuilding following the disastrous...
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December 7, 2008

'The Folklore of London' with Antony Clayton at Hornsey Library

Last week I went to another book event at Hornsey Library in Crouch End. This time it was for Antony Clayton's book "The Folklore of London" Judging the book by its cover, I had a dread that it was going to be all about Morris Dancing and worshipping "The Green Man", but thankfully it concentrated much more on legends of the urban underground, and curious ceremonies. Clayton opened his talk with the story of the Butterworth Charity, and then went...
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November 17, 2008

'Hornsey Past' with Steven Denford at Hornsey Library

Last Tuesday I went to Hornsey Library in Crouch End to attend a talk by author Steven Denford about his book 'Hornsey Past'. As I've just moved into the area, it seemed like a good opportunity to get a grounding in some of my new basic local history. Denford himself, in his introduction to the topic, admitted that the old villages were never 'caught up in national events', and unfortunately, the subject matter turned out to be a rather dry...
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September 29, 2008

Goodbye Google Eye

"Oh goodbye google eye... Goodbye goodbye goodbye google eye" No, not a reaction to news that Google's Street View Spycams have been banished from Britain, but a chunk of lyrics from a 1960s hit called "Google Eye" that I stumbled upon the other day. Written by John D. Loudermilk it was recorded in the UK by The Nashville Teens, and came out in 1964 on the Decca label, catalogue number F12000. The song is about search in a roundabout way...
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August 28, 2008

Music from Slab!'s iron lung

This is one of those weird freaky Internet inspired co-incidence stories. In the mid-to-late eighties I was really into a pretty obscure band called "Slab!". Their first single "Mars On Ice" is still one of my favourite ever debuts, and I met the singer Stephen Dray a couple of times when seeing them at gigs. A few years back I wrote a piece about them for the BBC's Collective site, and a couple of the band got in touch with...
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May 1, 2008

30 years of email spam

"What Samuel Morse was to the telegraph, what Thomas Edison was to the light bulb, Gary Thuerk is to the unsolicited e-mail advertisements popularly reviled as spam." - David Streitfeld, LA Times, May 11 2003 If you woke up this morning to an in-box deluged with unwanted email, you'll be delighted to know that today is the thirtieth anniversary of the first unsolicited mass email or, as we've come to know it, the 30th birthday of 'spam'. Well, sort of....
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March 27, 2008

Yuri Gagarin: March 9, 1934 - March 27, 1968

It is forty years today since Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was killed in a plane crash. He was just 34, and died before the cold war space race reached its climax. He never saw a man walk on the moon. Over the years there have been various theories about what caused Gagarin's death during a MiG-15UTI training flight, and even as recently as a couple of years ago there were moves in Russia to re-open the files...
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March 9, 2008

Promoting bands online in 1995 - Telwhat Mutelibtech to where?

I love stumbling across little bits of nostalgia about the way computers used to be - whether it is an old guide to getting online, or a basic instruction book for programming micro-computers. I spotted another one the other week. I was going through and ripping some CDs to iTunes - a process which I'm guessing, like the UK, may technically be illegal in Greece - when I came across a Freepost mailing slip card in Nitzer Ebb's dismal final...
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March 1, 2008

Watching Swatch 25 years later

It is twenty-five years today since 80s style icon the Swatch entered the market. As a tweenager in the early eighties, naturally I had a Swatch. However, as a fledgling moody indie kid I had the least colourful design available - mostly grey with a hint of black. They didn't do a 'goth' edition at the time, so it looked a bit like an earlier version of this model. The trick that Swatch successfully pulled off was to sell a...
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February 29, 2008

What happens when computers get the Leap Year wrong

It is only once every 4 years I get to blog on February 29th, and fortunately, thanks to the modern miracles of Bytemark, Debian and Movable Type, the machine that publishes currybetdotnet knows that 2008 has an extra day. Getting a computer to realise that a year is a leap year is the kind of test often set to people studying programming, as it makes you think hard about catching all the exceptions. Professionals don't always get it right, of...
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February 24, 2008

The Buffy guide to the Internet - 1997 style

Back in 1997, in an episode called "I, Robot...You, Jane", Joss Whedon pitched Buffy The Vampire Slayer against a demon that had invaded the Internet. This article looks at all of the computer and technology in the episode. Was Sunnydale High was a Mac or Windows school? What does demon possessed computer software look like? And how can techno-pagans build 'circles of protection' using chat room software alone... Ms. Calendar: Oh, I know, our ways are strange to you,...
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February 16, 2008

All your flame wars are belong to us - BBS systems are 30 years old

I love stories about the history of online computing, not least because of the seeming serendipity of it all. In 1978 a man gets trapped in a blizzard in Chicago, and thirty years later, I'm happily earning a living as a consultant helping people with the internet from a Greek island. Well, if you've ever wanted someone to blame for the incessant fanboy flame-wars on Digg, the necessity of Godwin's Law, and for the reason that the mainstream media keeps...
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February 14, 2008

Computer love in the 1960s - the origins of online dating

With it being Valentine’s Day today, I thought I’d take a look at the history of ‘computer dating’. It is actually one of those topics that illustrates the shortcomings of our current internet search tools. Whilst researching it I seemed to find an awful lot more about getting a mail order bride sent to me from Russia than I found out about the origins of computer assisted love. The whole computer dating dream was begun in 1965 by Jeff Tarr...
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February 11, 2008

British television sci-fi is seventy today

It is a genre that has been a big influence and source of entertainment for me ever since I first saw Tom Baker's boggle-eyes staring out at me from the opening credits of Doctor Who when I was 4 or 5, and today is the seventieth anniversary of what is generally attributed to be the first piece of sci-fi television. On the 11th February, 1938, the BBC broadcast a thirty-five minute segment adapted from Czech playwright Karel Čapek's play "Rossum's...
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January 19, 2008

Never mind the MacBook Air hype - it's happy 25th birthday to the Apple Lisa

Over the last few days I've steadfastly avoided writing about the blogging and twittering hype around Macworld. This is not especially because I'm an Apple naysayer, but I'm certainly not a fanatic. I think Apple make some very good products with some gorgeous packaging, but I also think they enjoy an incredible 'brand halo' which allows them to get away relatively uncriticised for quite major flaws like battery life and replacement issues, and over-charging UK customers on iTunes. [1] One...
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January 4, 2008

Audiophile pressings - where the maufacturing process is more important than the music

Over the last few days I've been writing about some of the variations there were on good-old fashioned vinyl LPs, looking at physical materials like Dynaflex, obscure formats like Quadraphonic Sound, and the 1970s attempt to embed copy-protection within vinyl pressings. When I used to work in the rarities department of Reckless, there was another particularly special brand of vinyl - audiophile pressings. Audiophile pressings, during the 80s and 90s at least, were the specialist preserve of a couple of...
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January 3, 2008

Dynaflex - RCA's 1970s ultra-thin vinyl

Yesterday I was writing about the 1970s surround-sound solution - Quadraphonic. It never caught on, and really it was ahead of its time. It wasn't until home-cinema systems and digital surround sound became a possibility that the concept gained mainstream consumer viability. Quadraphonic records were rare though, and when I worked at Reckless we used to have a special mailing list of quad-buffs who we let know when we obtained any. Quadraphonic wasn't the only special format of vinyl LP...
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January 2, 2008

Quadraphonic: The forgotten surround sound of the 70s

Yesterday, when I was writing about the aborted attempt of the music industry to put some kind of copy-protection system into vinyl, I mentioned in passing an old friend of the family, who had hoped that his decoder gizmo to bypass the system would make him rich. He was also the only person I ever encountered with a Quadraphonic sound set-up. Quadraphonic is the forgotten surround sound system of the 1970s. It was never a huge commercial success, in part...
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