The history of computing - part two

Copyright Dr Alan Solomon, 1986-1995

I left off my grand history of computing (part one) as I said goodbye to
the HP3000.  My new employers took me on as an economist;  I didn't tell
them that they were also getting a hacker.  They had a Sperry Univac
several miles away as the company mainframe, and a PDP 11 in the
department that I was working for.  The PDP 11 was about to be replaced
by a VAX, so I decided not to learn anything about it.

The Univac was pure pain.  I still have an aversion to anything from
Sperry, and I gather they've even changed their name to try to win me
back.  The operating system was user-hostile, the connection to the
machine was slow, and I'm just not prepared to talk about the whole
thing.  I'll tell you this, though.  To print a file, you had to do the
following:

@ASG ,J,X,Z
@T*T,T FILENAME
@SYM SG4204,,

or something like that - I can't remember the exact phrases (nor could I
then, and nor could anyone else).  The rest of the Univac was equally
opaque.  I tried to write a Fortran program for it once, and got
hopelessly bogged down in the simple mechanics of using the damned
thing.  And it didn't help that my only connection with it ran at 300
baud.  It was intensely frustrating, knowing that there was a massive,
powerful computer there somewhere, and I couldn't get at it.  I suppose
I'd have cracked it eventually, but fortunately, the VAX arrived and
made it unnecessary.

Ah, the VAX.  People fell in love with her immediately.  She was sleek
and sexy, and she was here, not miles away at the wrong end of a 300
baud line.  We used 9600 baud terminals to her, and for the first time,
I experienced a full screen editor.  You people who have used full
screen editors all your life know nothing.  I used to think that a line
editor like EDLIN was wonderful on the HP, but a full screen editor?
Wow.

There were other things about her, too.  Like the way you could say
PRINT to print a file, and TYPE to display it at the screen.  And the
way you could do batch jobs in the background while getting on with
something else.  The VAX uses an operating system called VMS, and one
day (perhaps OS/2 version 2), the IBM PC will have an operating system
that is as nice.  You might not know now what you'll use multi-tasking
for, but I guarantee you'll find uses for it.  Once, I had to catch a
coach regularly at 5.30, and if I missed it, I had hassles.  So I wrote
a batch job that sat in a sleeping state until 5.15, then woke up and
started sending me messages.  And there are a million things you want to
be doing while the computer is doing some heavy compute job;  a second
computer is a good thing, but it doesn't help if your data is on the
wrong one.

I was supposed to be an economist, but I soon found that I knew more
about the VAX than the people who were supposed to be running it.  And I
found that I was doing more computing than economics.  That VAX was so
seductive, and it was there that I first met Space Invaders on a
computer.  That was a surprise - I'd always thought in terms of words
scrolling up the screen, and here were things moving left, right, up,
down ...  it made me think about what else might be possible.

I needed a lot of statistics to do my job, and I had to dig them out of
books and microfiche.  A lot of other people needed these statistics,
and I felt sure there had to be a database somewhere.  I ferreted around
a bit, and found a person who had written just such a database, working
for another group (called the Forecasting Group) within the same
company, and he let me access it.  I tried this series and that - all of
them were zero.  I went back to him to see what I was doing wrong, and
he said "Don't be silly, you have to put data in before you can get it
out!"

Oh.  That wasn't what I wanted at all, so I asked him if he was filling
up the database.  Yes, he was, and he showed me the two people who were
typing in the numbers from a big red book.  He said in about six months,
they'd be finished.  "But that book was obviously printed out by a
computer", I said (it had that lineprinter look to it).  He said he'd
contacted the people who published the book, and you could buy a tape,
but the specification of the tape looked so complicated that it would be
easier to type it in.  I asked if I could borrow the spec, and I took it
away and studied it.

It didn't look terribly complex to me.  There was a lot of detail about
how the records were blocked, and various other stuff I didn't
understand, but the key fact was that the tape suppliers were obviously
trying to make it easy for someone to read the tape.  I phoned them up,
and found that the tape cost 500.  Compared with six month's work,
that's cheap, so I went back to the people typing it in, and suggested
we get it.  He wasn't very keen on the idea;  I guess that he thought
that if he couldn't read the tape, a mere economist certainly couldn't.
So I went to my boss to get authority to spend 500.  I explained that
it would be worth it for my work alone, but that we could probably also
on-sell it to the Forecasting Group, and make a profit.  "OK," he said,
"Get an order from them, and we'll order it against that."

I was stumped.  I knew that I couldn't get an order from them, but I
knew that if I had the data off the tape, I could sell it to them for a
thousand, easily.  I knew I wouldn't be able to change my boss's mind
(he was notoriously tight about money) unless I had a written order.  It
seemed like Catch 22.  How would you solve this one?  Before you read
on, see if you can think of a way out of this impasse.

I'll tell you what I did, and it changed my life.  I ordered that tape.
The supplier didn't know that I didn't have the authority, and I was
gambling that I'd have the data off it and got a written order for it
from the Forecasting Group before the bill came through;  then it would
be a simple matter of fudging dates and pretending things had happened
in a different order.

The tape arrived.  I put it up on the tape drive, and tried to read it
using the normal VAX tape utilities.  The VAX claimed that the tape
hadn't been initialised.  It wouldn't read it at all.  I didn't know
enough about VAXes and their tapes to be able to even guess a way to
attack the problem, and remember I had to complete this job, while doing
my normal job, and before anyone found out that I'd spent money without
authority.

I went home that night feeling sick.  How the hell was I going to work
out how to read a tape on a VAX that had been written on an IBM?  I
thought about it on the way home, and by the next morning, I had a plan.
VAXes have floppy drives, too.  I put our Space Invaders game onto a
floppy, and set off round the company.  What I was looking for, was a
hacker like me, and I planned to trade him my space invaders game for a
program to read IBM tapes.  After all, 90% of magnetic tapes must be
IBM, and someone must have written something to read them.

About four hours into my search, I found my hacker.  He was sitting in
front of a VT 100 terminal, playing Adventure.  My six months cracking
that game came in extremely useful, as I helped him out with some of the
bits he was stuck with, and then he helped me with his program that read
IBM tapes (written partly in Fortran, and partly in VAX-VMS system
calls).  I left him happily playing Space Invaders, and trotted back to
my VAX (actually, I ran).  I put my tape up, and ran his program.  Wow!
It worked - the VDU showed intelligible numbers.  I printer out the
first few hundred records, and took it home.

Over the next few days, and mostly at home, I used my friend's program
as the basis for my program to read that tape, discard the useless empty
records (95% of the records were blank), compact the data down into the
space that I was allowed on the VAX, index it and turn it into a useful
system.  I wound up with a subroutine that could be called from any
other program - you gave the subroutine the code for the data you
wanted, and it came back with the data in an array.  I wrote a little
demo program around that subroutine, and showed it to the guy from the
Forecasting Group.

He was astounded.  Any series he asked for, I typed in the code, and it
displayed on the screen.  All the data he needed was there, and I showed
him the subroutine that he could use in his program.  "Can I use that?",
he said.  I explained that I'd have to charge him a nominal 1000 to
cover my costs ..  "I'll take it", he said.

It had worked.  My boss never found out that I'd done it the wrong way
round, I'd made a small profit for my department, and I had the data I'd
needed in the first place.

This incident taught me two things.  The first is that when you have a
bad problem, ask other people to see if they've solved it, or at least
part of it.  The second thing I learned was that being an entrepreneur
is risky, but fun, and potentially very profitable.  Forecasting would
have paid 5000 if I'd asked it, and there was no way I could have got
that tape the official company way.

A couple of months later, I needed a different batch of statistics, so I
went to my boss and asked if I could spend the 500 profit on a second
tape, with a view to possibly on-selling that also.  I guess I'm naive,
but I was really quite surprised and hurt when he said no.  He said I
had to get an order for it first, and go through the whole approval
process.

The problem was, I couldn't sell this new tape to anyone unless I had
something I could show them, and I couldn't show it to them unless I had
it, and I couldn't get it unless I could sell it.  Impasse again.

What I actually did, was I persuaded someone else to buy the first data
base.  That's another useful lesson I learned - you can sell
information, and you still have it, so you can sell it again.  But I got
him to put on the order form the name of the new data base, and I
pretended to my boss that I had an order, and I got away with it.  After
that, decided that he would never know what I was actually doing, but
every time I wanted to spend money, I miraculously had an order to
offset it.  I rewrote my tape analysis program to deal with the second
tape, and on-sold that database to a few different people, as well as
continuing to make sales of the first one.  After a couple of years, I
had built up a mammoth database business that earned about 60,000
per year for my department, at an annual cost of 10,000.  The
whole system ran on the VAX, and was tied together with a data retrieval
and analysis that I called Medic;  Medic was very user-friendly, and the
user interface was inspired by Adventure.  I sold Medic and some of the
tape analysis software to people outside the company, and so I was
earning real cash for my company.

At that point, I had never met a micro.  I'd played for a few minutes
with a ZX81, with its impossible "keyboard", but I wasn't impressed.
One day, a friend of mine insisted that I borrow his Spectrum.  I tried
to refuse, but he brought it in to work, so I was really forced to take
it home.  I read the manuals, and plugged it in.  He had a couple of
games - Asteroids and Hungry Horace.  They were good fun, but I tried to
make a backup as per my normal working practice, and it wouldn't let me.
I'd never met this before, and it interested me.  Pretty soon, I found
myself poking around in the loader and preloader, and working out how
this little computer worked.  I met someone on my coach to London who
was also interested in the Spectrum, and we would sit and discuss Z80
code on the way home.  He was writing code to rotate pictures in real
time, and I helped him work out some of the algorithms.  I also met a
chap at work with a Spectrum, and we'd have lunch together and talk
about copy protection and ways of getting round it.

The Spectrum was good fun, but I couldn't do any serious program
development on a machine with only a slow, 90% reliable, cassette tape
for mass storage.  At about this time, my next door neighbour added
a diskette drive to her Beeb.  This turned it into a machine that I
could actually use for program development, and I suggested a joint
enterprise to her.  I'd write a game, and she'd market it.  She fancied
herself as an entrepreneur, and knew her limitations in programming, so
she went for it like a ton of bricks.  We called our company Private
Tutor, as we intended selling educational software.  When IBM brought
out a package of the same name, they wrote to us and said that they
didn't mind our using the same name;  we wrote back and said that they
had our permission to us the name for their package, but not for
anything else.

Over the next few weeks, I wrote Hot Cakes, a business simulation game,
using BBC Basic.  I coded on the coach, then typed it in in the evening.
The Beeb didn't have a decent editor, and we were too hard up to buy
one, so I wrote one.  BBC Basic is a good language, well structured, and
having all the facilities you'd want.  Hot Cakes was 500 lines of
well-structured code, and if I needed to change it even now, I could.
Commercially, it was a total flop.  I had no idea how you market
software, and it turned out she didn't either.  We managed to sell three
copies to a local shop (I still pop in now and then and they're still on
his shelf).  As a game, it was not terribly good;  as a money making
proposition, it was awful.  But it gave me useful experience of
programming on a micro.

The break came when she managed to extract 400 from some poor
unfortunate on some grounds that I didn't quite understand (but were
connected with a Hot Cakes deal).  I never really understood the
details, but it seemed that I wasn't entitled to my share of this.  I
was quite surprised and angry, but it was clear to me that I had a very
simple recourse;  she never got her hands on anything else I wrote.
Private Tutor died of neglect, as it never had any of the follow-up
products I'd planned.

One day, my Spectrum hacker friend insisted that I come and see his new
toy.  He took me into his office, and showed me an IBM PC running Lotus
123.  My mind was totally blown.  I had thought that Medic's way of
offering you a full menu whenever you gave it a wrong command was
user-friendly, but 123 just blew it away.  This thing was computing
power for the people.  Anyone could set up a complex system, could write
his own models, could write menus, loops ...  it looked as if it was the
ultimate.  Those of you who think that 123 is just a boring piece of
software should have lived through that moment of realization that here
was a computing tool for anyone, not just for computer experts.

I had to have one.  My tape data sales would have easily paid for one,
but I couldn't see how I could hide a physical object like an IBM PC
from my boss in the way I was hiding my database activities.  So I did
the thing that you do in major companies when there's an emergency - I
created a crisis that only I could solve.  But, to solve it, I needed an
IBM PC running Lotus 123.

The downside of having a VAX, was that our computer people were all
fanatically devoted to DEC and all its works, and paranoid about IBM and
the evil miasma that accompanied IBM hardware.  Fortunately, my crisis
was one that needed urgent action, so we rented an IBM PC for a month at
a cost of 200.  It had two floppy drives, 256K of memory and a
monochrome screen (no graphics).  I loved it.  I played with it for
hours, learning 123 and DOS.  The crisis was resolved, but during the
month I had the PC, I sold it hard to other people, and by the end of
the month, there was another one in the department.  I also created
another crisis, so I could rent mine for another month, although this
time, the crisis didn't have to be so dire.

Meanwhile, the DEC-lovers eyed my PC as the thin end of the IBM wedge,
and conspired to get rid of it.  I was made an offer that I couldn't
refuse - DEC loaned me a free Rainbow for some months, for "evaluation".
The Rainbow had a lot of advantages over the IBM, and at first I leaned
towards the Rainbow.  It had six colours instead of the measly two of
the IBM, it could be expanded to 896K instead of the measly 640K of the
IBM, and it had two processors instead of the IBM's measly one.  These
were a Z80 (which meant you could run CPM) and an 8086, which I was
assured was a true 16 bit processor, compared with the single 8088 of
the IBM (presumably an untrue 16 bit processor).  It ran Lotus 123, and
a whole catalogue of other software.  It didn't have Basic included, but
I was assured you could get it easily.  And our computer manager assured
me that it was MS-DOS compatible, so anything that came out on the
IBM, could be available on the Rainbow within 24 hours.

For a while, I had two computers on my desk, at a time when 99.9% of the
company had none.  I ran timing trials, and found that there was no
measurable difference.  The chip-up to 896K cost more than the whole
computer, so I decided that it wasn't a factor.  The diskette capacities
were within 10%, except that DEC didn't provide FORMAT for blank disks,
and you had to buy their disks, which vaguely worried me.  The DEC
keyboard had a better layout (more like the keyboards I was used to) but
the IBM had a better feel.  The Rainbow would work as a terminal to the
VAX, but the IBM needed a program to do this - on the other hand, the
program (called VTerm) was only 100.  There wasn't really much in it,
and I was growing quite fond of the Rainbow, and had ordered Basic for
it (it seemed to take a long time to arrive).

With Medic, you can create text files containing columns of numbers, and
I realized how useful it would be if I could get this data into 123.
With the IBM, all I had to do was run Vterm, and capture the session to
disk, then import the file into 123 using /File Import Numbers.  After a
bit of tidying up, there was the data.  I soon semi-automated this
process by making the VAX control Vterm's capture procedures, using
escape sequences.  I tried to do the same thing using the DEC Rainbow to
the DEC VAX.  There was no way I could capture data;  I could display it
on the screen using the Rainbow's built-in terminal emulation, but not
capture it to disk.  I contacted DEC.

They suggested a CPM terminal emulation program, which would capture it
to a CPM disk, but there was no way to convert that to an MS-DOS disk,
and 123 runs under MS-DOS.  DEC couldn't come up with a solution to this
problem, which seemed to me to be pretty fundamental.  There were
promises of software coming up soon, but no-one would base a buying
decision on such promises.  The problem has since been solved, and at
the time, I believed DEC when they said it would be.  But the fact that
a DEC Rainbow couldn't work to a DEC VAX as well as an IBM PC could,
gave me considerable food for thought.  I realized that our computer
manager must be wrong to think that IBM PC programs could be converted
in 24 hours, and looked more carefully at the state of the software
market for each machine.  It seemed that there was much, much more
software available for the IBM, and it seemed to me that there always
would be.  I wrote a long report, full of benchmarks, timings and
pseudo-objective tests, together with a complicated scoring system, but
the only thing that counted as far as I was concerned was the fact that
a DEC Rainbow couldn't talk properly to a DEC VAX, and an IBM PC could.

I circulated my recommendations, and the sky fell on me.  We were, it
seemed, an all-DEC site, and letting in an IBM PC would disturb DEC's
master plan for us.  The IBM wouldn't support DEC's network, or Regis
graphics, or several other things that didn't exist yet.  I found myself
being torn between the computer department (who I was attached to) and
the users (who by now had bought another IBM PC).  I mostly ignored this
political stuff, as I've always believed that competence is what is most
important, and stuck to my guns.

I also came up with a proposal.  I would put my VAX database onto floppy
disks, and sell those, inside the company and outside.  I called it
DATAFLO (FLO from floppy) wrote up a business plan, and sent it round.
I could see a market for a monthly updating service, in 123 format;
either standard data diskettes or else (costing rather more) a custom
diskette with the user's choice of data.  The proposal was ignored.  One
day, I was summoned into my boss's boss's office, and told that the
users liked me so much, that henceforth I would be banished to live and
work amongst them.  I guess they felt like they were casting Lucifer out
of heaven.  I felt that way a bit myself, because I was no longer
allowed to get my hands on the VAX, my database business was taken away
to be run by someone else, and all my VAX privileges were removed - I
was reduced to the rank of Mere User.  But I took my PC with me;  they
didn't seem to want that.

At about that time, the borrowed Spectrum broke down.  I was totally
hooked on micros by then, but what I really wanted was an IBM PC.  At
that time, a PC with two floppy drives and 256K and a mono screen cost
about three thousand pounds, and I was so broke, I couldn't even afford
my train fare (that's why I commuted on the coach).  But by then, I knew
a bit about PCs, and about 123, and about data.  I approached one of the
people outside the company that I'd sold Medic to, and suggested that
they do DATAFLO;  it was the Economist newspaper.  It was clear that my
company wasn't going to do it, and even the data base business was
beginning to fall apart, because the person who took it over tried to
run it the way I'd pretended it was being run, instead of the way I'd
actually run it, in spite of my explaining it all to him.

My DATAFLO suggestion was thought to be a good idea by the Economist.
As I already knew the internals of Medic, quite a lot about 123 and just
enough about how to connect a PC to a VAX, I was able to offer them a
very low quote for doing the job, much lower than their own computer
department.  I got the contract, and on the strength of it, I got myself
an IBM PC, with two floppy disks, 256K a mono screen and a printer.

It was hilarious.  By day I was a Mere User of Medic, with no control
over how it was run, no way to modify it, only immense frustration that
it wasn't being done right, and the link to 123 hadn't been implemented
properly.  By night, I dialled up the Economist VAX, and was the chief
programmer on project DATAFLO, with an entire VAX 780 at my disposal.

This was my first introduction to the delights and frustrations of
communications - mostly frustrations.  The modem was the original one
that Moses used to download the ten commandments, and I gather he got it
secondhand off Noah.  It was an Anderson Jacobson acoustic coupler
running at 300 baud, and every time the baby cried, I got a burst of
noise on the screen.  The system was only just workable, and I could
only tolerate it because it was my path to an IBM PC.

I started coding in Basic on the PC, because I'd used Basic on the
Spectrum and the Beeb, and Basic came free with the machine.  I found
the Basic editor inadequate (no block copy, no search-and-replace) so
soon switched to Edlin.  I used the IBM Basic compiler, and swore when
it turned out to have a whole bunch of incompatibilities with the
interpreter.

I spent six weeks writing a program that way, and at the end, I had an
incomprehensible mess of spaghetti code.  I would change things, and
other things would stop working properly.  I got hold of an early copy
of PC User, and realised that you could get other editors for the PC;
you didn't have to use Edlin.  And I found that you could get other
compilers;  there were a couple of Fortran compilers, even.  On
someone's advice, I got the Professional Editor (I still use it, as it
is still as good as most) and Microsoft's Fortran version 3.13.  I chose
the Microsoft compiler because they had written DOS, so ought to be good
at compilers.  I totally scrapped the program I'd written, and started
again.  This time it went much better, and I soon had a working version.

One of the things my system had to do was to create a 123 spreadsheet.
I could have created a PRN file, and read that in, but that was clunky;
I wanted to create a WKS file.  Lotus refused to tell me the WKS file
format, so I had to find out for myself.  After I'd done it, I think I
was the only person outside Lotus who knew their file format, and I
wanted to keep it that way, so I spread the disinformation that I had
got it by bribing a Lotus employee.  Actually, what I did was reverse
engineer it.  I spend six weeks on that, alone each evening in my attic
with my PC and listings.  I created simple WKS files, and saw how things
were stored.  I made small changes, and saw how the WKS file changed.

To do this, I needed a program to do hex dumps.  Nobody told me that
Debug could do that, so I wrote one in Fortran that did decimal dumps.
I also wrote a program that could create files of bytes from lists of
integers;  this meant I could dump a file as integers, edit it, then
convert it back to a file of bytes.  The Norton Utilities didn't exist
then, or if they did, I didn't know about them.

If it sounds like I was groping in ignorance, using inadequate tools and
inadequate manuals, that's because it was true.  I think my PC was the
only one in the country that wasn't owned by a big company.  Even a year
later, when I logged on to bulletin boards, the Sysops didn't believe it
was an IBM PC coming in.

I lived, breathed, ate and slept WKS file formats for six weeks.  I
understood parts of the file structure, like how an integer was stored,
and how a string was stored, but it was all empirical rules - there was
no logic to it.

Suddenly, just as the train I was on was passing Farringdon, I suddenly
saw the light.  I saw the great unifying structure that tied the whole
file together - it was like being hit over the head, and I think I cried
out, because everyone looked at me.  After that, it was easy to reverse
engineer the rest of it, and I wrote it all up as a functional
specification.  A couple of years later, Lotus published their file
format, and I found that I'd got it exactly right, except that I used
different names for the various parts.

At the time, there was a lot of correspondence in PC User and at the
User Group about how to do a pound sign in a Lotus spreadsheet;  Lotus
said it couldn't be done, other people used the hash (which didn't work
on an IBM printer), and confusion reigned.  I used my WKS file
specification to create a file containing one of each of the IBM
character set, which you could read into 123, and modify as you wanted.
I put this into the Shareware system, along with a few other things I'd
written, like a sideways printer, a printer buffer and a couple of games
(including Hot Cakes, converted from the Beeb).  I know a lot of people
used these programs (and still do), but I got about ten registrations
altogether.  So I started a company, called it S & S Enterprises, took
an ad in the October 1984 issue of PC User selling software for 9.99,
and the company took off.  We got a very glowing review of my 123
character set in PC User, and that gave us the boost we needed.

A month later, I saw a grotty little dot-matrix printed advertisement in
PCW, advertising something that called itself the Compulink User group,
and claimed to cater for PCs.  I was having a lot of fun at the IBM PC
User Group, but it only met once per month, and I wanted more.  So I
phoned the number, and it turned out to be the wrong number.
Fortunately, the person at the other end knew the right number, so I
tried again.  It was answered by a character called Frank Thornley.  I
think I was his third member;  Silvie was the second.  He came round to
visit, and we spent the day swapping software (PD) and comparing
computers (he had a Compaq with 256K and two floppy drives.  He also
brought his modem, a funny little thing called a WS2000, very unlike my
acoustic coupler.  He showed me how to dial up bulletin boards, and said
he intended to run one, but couldn't afford the software.  I immediately
offered to help write one, in Fortran;  we called it STUBBS
(Solomon-Thornley Universal Bulletin Board System).  Fortunately, we
didn't get very far before Frank discovered Fido, whereupon STUBBS
immediately died.

It was around that time that I discovered that there was a severe
shortage of people who a) understood computers and b) could write.  I
find writing easy, provided I know what I'm talking about and have
something to say.  Before very long, I found myself commuting to London
during the day, running a small software house, writing articles, and
working on the Economist's VAX.  I was doing about as much as four
people - this was made possible by the fact that by then I was using
about four computers.  Having full and solo access to an entire VAX 780
meant I could actually do my daytime work in the evening, at about ten
times the normal speed.  Having a PC at home with a hard disk and a PC
Express speed-up card meant I could do PC work at ten times the speed
that my colleagues could with their floppy based 4.77 MHz 8088 machines.
I got a lap-held NEC PC-8201A to fill up the hours spent commuting, and
found that I was doing everybody's work on everybody else's computer.
Life got a bit confusing sometimes - I'd write bits of code for the
Economist using my employer's computer, then use the Economist VAX to do
my employer's number crunching.  I'd pull data off the Economist's
computer and use it in my daytime job, pretending that I'd painstakingly
typed it in;  I'd do the next day's work on my PC at home in an hour,
then fetch it in and spend the day writing a program for my S&S
catalogue.  At one point, I think I had about four groups believing that
I was doing a very full days work for them each day.

All this was about three years ago.  Since then a lot more has happened.
But it's really too close to be history;  part three of this series will
have to wait until 1990 or thereabouts.  I hope I've given you a feel
for the history of computing, though.  It looks like a very personal
history, and I guess it is, but I was living through a revolution that
made the 1967 hippie revolution look feeble, and our revolution is still
happening.

The computer revolution is about freedom.  You can see from my history
how computers have made me free, and the same thing has happened to lots
of others.  I've always thought that it must have been a wonderful thing
to have a slave, although tough on the enslaved.

Computers make it possible to get an unfeeling machine to do the boring
things, make it possible to have a personal slave, without it being
immoral.  Deep down, most people think of computers as being a nuisance,
a tyrant, and a pain.  Most DP managers refuse to have one one their
desk, and if they do have one, it is a terminal emulator, or isn't
switched on.  I feel sorry for them;  they haven't been touched by the
revolution yet, but they will be.

Spanners and screwdrivers make the fingers more effective, crowbars
amplify your arms, cars amplify your legs, but computers amplify your
brain, and it is the brain that gives Man an advantage over the animals.

I look back at the Elliott 503 20 years ago, with its 8K of memory, no
mass storage, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.  I look at my
collection of computers;  each at least a hundred times more powerful, a
hundred times smaller and a hundred times cheaper.  And I look forward
with relish to the future.