IT memorabilia in Windsor - Part Four

Various artefacts

BCS is holding a series of events up and down the country to celebrate its 60 Year Anniversary. Part of the first event in Windsor saw BCS members bringing in some IT-related artefacts as talking points for members to chat about and to bond over. BCS Multimedia Editor Justin Richards was at hand to talk to some of these members about their nostalgia-inducing memorabilia, and here’s some of what he encountered.

Psion 5 MX

Stephen Murgatroyd MBCS (a BCS member since 1998) brought in a Psion 5 MX, which is still in daily use. It dates from 1998, when Stephen obtained it, and he uses it as his master calendar because it has some functions in the calendar that Microsoft Outlook doesn’t yet have. But it synchronises to Outlook, which then synchronises to his iPhone.

He explains: ‘I have a three-way synchronisation, so long as the synchronisation is running on a 32-Bit machine. And this is a 32-Bit machine from 1998, well before Microsoft or Apple introduced the 32-Bit; it’s Windowing, it’s a highly efficient operating system. This is not a personal assistant, it’s a fully-fledged computer, with full computer architecture. The word processer is equivalent to Word 97; they come with EXCEL, a calendar, a voice-recorder and a lot of commercial applications. I have a number of them - this is a fully-working spare.’

Psion 5

Most of his Psion devices Stephen has obtained off eBay. When they were new, in 1998, they cost £300 - £400. Apparently, nowadays you can pick them up for between £50 and £100. Stephen said: ‘I used it for everything as it was my first computer and I had it hooked up to a printer. It had all the soft and hard-ware to manage that. Everything was written on there; the file system was the equivalent of Microsoft and I just printed straight from it. It even has a print preview, but it’s such a small screen… It’s a touch-sensitive screen, (it’s stylus driven), and it’s still in daily use.’

Hawker Siddeley Aviation Program FA08

Jeremy Withrington MBCS, a member since 1995, brought in some documents that were produced so people knew how to run the programs, with examples of the incremental graph plotters used in those days.

According to Jeremy: ‘You ran your program, which put the drawing instructions onto a magnetic tape, and the magnetic tape rushed over to a CalComp machine and produced plots. All this took a lot of time.

Program FA08

In this case, the data pertains to pressure plotting on an aeroplane wing; if you’ve got a bit of muck in the hole, then you’ve got a duff reading. So, they’d have to clean up the model and run another test. The quick way was to try and produce a graph on a line printer.’

He continues: ‘And here’s an example of what we did. There were three graphs here, according to the letters of the alphabet, A, B and C, and where the data points were the same for both I put asterisks in. We were doing this at Hawker Siddeley Aviation in 1978.

Hawker Plot

We were using the much-lauded George III operating system, but it meant that from my teleprinter type terminal I could set up this job, and this output could be rooted to a particular printer, which was a slow printer rather than a fast one. And you could see what the letters were. And you could tell it what paper to put in, and when they’d loaded the paper in you could tell them: “will you load up so that the perforated edge was at the top of the page”, for example. If they got it wrong this would then slip between two pages.

‘This was showing the dioza process, prepared on tracing paper initially. Xerox coping was just coming in, but was fearfully expensive; it was 5p a sheet so you had to get someone to sign a chit to say you could get it printed! Whereas this was nice and cheap.

You put the sheet of tracing paper on the sheet you were going to print it on, which had been specially treated. That was then fed through a machine, which exposed the paper underneath, through the tracing paper, using ultra-violet light, and then that was treated to Ammonia which then came up with what this is, a slightly blue copy. But that is what we used then.’

Program Plot