Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Micromen review

Having the good fortune to have a day off from work, I had the opportunity to watch Micro Men, which I had mentioned last week. The programme looked at the early 1980's rivalry between Sir Clive Sinclair Spectrum computer and his former work colleague Chris Curry and his Acorn computers.
The programme is around an hour and half long, showing there declining relationship, there building new companies and empires, and in the British computing industry getting the most important contract of the early 1980's. This was the BBC computer literacy project. This was designed with an emphasis on education it was notable for its ruggedness, expandability and the quality of its operating system. Acorn won this competition in 1981 and with it, the computer was used on The Computer Programme.
In the next few years we see how fruitful the 2 companies become. Acorn, the programmers toy of choice, whilst the Spectrum is the gamers choice. But both are dissatisfied with there lot, as they want a share of each others market. When the fade of 1984 comes in, as computer aficionado's we know the computing world would never be the same.
Both colleagues take wrong turns, Curry with the doomed electron and Sir Clive's QL. When they finally meet for a drink Curry says 'If we joined together we could have taken on IBM.' Back then, as a teenager it felt like it could have happened.
I do feel this area is rarely covered by social and computer historians. In the 1980's we had great games like Manic Miner & Jet Set Willy by Matthew Smith, who made a fortune and disappeared to commune in Holland. Gaming companies like Imagine Software, who climbed great heights and went belly up before our eyes in a BBC documentary. Very few books have been written on this era excluding one on the Spectrum and a Chapter on the Game Elite (originally made for the BBC and then transported to the Spectrum). Its a shame really.
In all it is a melancholy trip down memory lane, of when we were young, were full of dreams and could take on the world. How middle age makes fools of us all.

No comments: