Ideas As My Maps

With no feelings of guilt, I find it useful to trawl back to a few memories, I feel I have skipped 30-40 years and am returning to a freer state of mind recently. I feel these earlier days are useful to mine. In the words of Dylan in My Back Pages;

We exchanged s Crimson flames tied through my ears
Rollin’ high and mighty traps
Pounced with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
“We’ll meet on edges, soon,” said I
Proud ‘neath heated brow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
“Rip down all hate,” I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow.
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.

As humble as it seems now, a magical place and time for me was actually the West London Computer club, formed in 1983 at the Fox and Goose pub on Hangar Lane. We met on the first Tuesday of the month. Each of us gave talks. I showed the prototype of Picsell, a CPM colour portable, a project I was developing for my client Pfizer Pharmaceuticals in New York.

We swapped software, news, ideas and drank beer. It was a time before the internet and I quickly became interested in the idea of linking up people interested in personal computers by using them to go online. One of the members had developed a modem – I bought one. It was called the Demon Modem, useful to me because I could hook it up to my BBC Micro. It was supplied with Bulletin Board software, written in Basic to use the modem. I set up a second phone line and used two double sided floppy disk drives to hold the data.

The bulletin board was named Mega-Anchovy and I ran it for two or three years in the dressing room next door to our bedroom. We could hear the clack-clack of the floppy drives during the night as each person would log in, perhaps leave a message, download some files or even upload them.

A message is left one day, from a journalist asking if he could feature it in a Sunday supplement magazine article. Unfortunately, so much of the past has been lost, 35 years ago erodes most of the artefacts we accumulate. The article was a full page, illustrated. I am not sure why je chose me for the article, perhaps because of the name I gave the bulletin board.

Determined not to be defeated and to lay this ghost to rest, a few weeks ago I did some research at the British Library, if only to photograph this one page of my past. I was unsure of the year, convinced that it was the Sunday Observer that featured it, I ordered the bound volumes from Yorkshire, 4 at a time for each year. No sign of it.

Blurred Memories from 1983-7

As I looked through the pages, I used my phone to snap any pages that caught my eye and I assembled these into a little video sequence as shown here:

Most of them stick to a theme of tech/80s consumer items.

One day I will find the article, if anyone finds it then please let me know james @ (the name of this website dot org).

Thanks.

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