Many people’s first introduction to personal computing was with the BBC Micro in the early 1980s. But what was the first computer you ever used?
When did you first start using computers? For BBC science presenter and physicist Helen Czerski, it was at school when she got her hands on the BBC Micro.
In the October issue of Which? Computing, Helen tells Which? reporter Andrew Laughlin that she was ahead of the curve with the BBC Micro when she got to secondary school, so much so that “I was actually teaching the teachers how to use the computers.”
The BBC Micro was the introduction to computing for many people, so it was a no-brainer for me to send Andrew Laughlin along to talk to the BBC about why it’s opened up the online archive of its 1980s Computer Literacy Project.
You can read more about how the BBC got Britain in to computing in Which? Computing, where we’ve picked out some of our favourite clips (including one of a very youthful Bill Gates), as well as learn more about Helen’s early forays into computing, and you can explore the archive for yourself.
My dad worked for IBM from the 1960s until the 1980s, with his job taking us all around the world, so computers were in many ways part of my life from my earliest childhood.
Some of my favourite childhood memories include my mother using old punchcards for crafting projects: she used to make our Christmas wreath out of them.
However, I didn’t get my hands on an actual computer until I was in the sixth form, in the early 1980s: my Yorkshire boarding school had a “Computing Room” in an attic room at the top of a long flight of stairs where a couple of BBC Micros sat.
I remember fiddling about with them – although they seem a long way from my eventual own first PC, which in fact was a cast-off of my dad’s, who was upgrading.
Windows of opportunity
I inherited his old 386-based PC running Windows 3.11 for Workgroups, and it was on that that I first learned my way around the nascent web via a Compuserve account, a dial-up modem and the Netscape Navigator browser.
I remember being very proud of myself when I upgraded it with some more RAM and a faster modem – and I haven’t looked back since.
A few years ago I visited the Microsoft campus in Redmond, where they had a museum: that was like a walk through my childhood and my teens, with old IBM PCs running not only ancient versions of Windows but also various flavours of OS/2, which I remember my father having on his desk at home back in the 80s.
Elsewhere in the October issue of Which? Computing, we’ve got expert tips from Becky Horsbrugh, who’s a professional video journalist and editor, to help you get the most out of making and editing videos on your smartphones and laptops.
I’ve found that really helpful – certainly my videos have improved since I read her copy.
If you need a new mobile phone but can’t quite bring yourself to shell out for the latest and greatest smartphone, Tom Morgan has pulled together a very useful guide on how to buy a secondhand smartphone, and we’ve also rounded up the latest broadband deals.
What were your first forays into computing? What weird and wonderful hardware and software first took you online, and what do you still have tucked away in a cupboard somewhere?