IT memorabilia in Windsor - Part Two

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.

80 column punch cards

Chris Finden Brown MBCS brought in a box of 80 column punch cards, with a selection of very different styles. He obtained them in about 1977 during an office move – they were going to be discarded. He said: ‘They’ve been in my loft for 40 years and this is the first time they’ve seen the light-of-day after all this time!’ He reckons that they date from around 1970.

Box of punch-cards

He explains further: ‘Some of them are examples of cards you could order if you wanted different colours to be made; some of them are very standard ones. There are prize cards, which were used in some kinds of events; there’s one which has guidance about decimalisation - not sure why you’d want that on a punch card!

The more unusual one has a 35mm transparency in it, and the idea was people could have their master blueprint for an assembly or something like that on there, and then the part number and various other factors, like printing size, would be punched into the various columns.

Punch card with 35mm cell

Often these were put through sorting machines where they could be organised in batches for printing and then they would be sorted back in part-number order for filing. There’s also an example of a system 360 job control card, with the examples of 360 job control language.’

BBC Micro: Bit

Kavita Kapoor MBCS from the BCS Internet Specialist Group brought in the BBC Micro-Bit after, somewhat wisely, deciding not to bring in a whole BBC Micro, as that would have been impractical for the train! Kavita told me: ‘The BBC Micro: Bit is one of the current generation of devices which are helping kids learn to code. The BBC rolled out a million of them last year to Year 7s, and my remit, and new job, which is so exciting, is to deliver 100 million of them world-wide.

You might not believe this but I have taught nine-year olds to code using these in less than three minutes. It’s just a micro-python, so you can code in Python on it, but it’s so simple - it’s just drag and drop. You can throw someone a loop of code or if they’re creative you can use the 5 by 5 display and can write messages on it. It’s incredible!’

BBC Micro: Bit

Kapoor is a Micro: Bit evangelist and proved this by saying: ‘At the moment, I’m quite obsessed with replacing all my home devices with Micro: Bits. I have one for the kids, where it lets you know if you’ve been brushing your teeth for three minutes or not, and it reminds you which bit of your mouth you should be checking in on; I’ve also got devices set up to check my garden to see how wet it is…’