In the first part of the blog we looked at how over the past 60 years that the Queen has been on the throne, she has seen the end of ancient technology such as videos, analogue TV, Teletext and cassette tapes. I take a look below at three more pieces of ancient technology that I found in a recent loft clearance:
Ancient Technology: 4. Pagers
Nothing says mid-Nineties more than a pager. Stumbling across my old pager in the loft, I recall that I was inspired to buy one by Doogie Howser of Doogie Howser M.D fame, not to be confused by Doug Hauser from Total Recall. For those unfamiliar with the short-lived pager, it worked by one person sending a message to a pager by using a telephone.
The message would then show up on the pager’s LCD screen, a bit like a mobile phone that could do nothing but send SMS.
By 1994 it was estimated that there were 60 million pagers being used worldwide, the majority of which were made by Motorola (above).
Obviously with the growth of mobile phones, pagers have become almost obsolete. Ironically though, it seems that the Doogie Howsers of the world are still using them as they remain popular in hospitals where mobile phones struggle, because of the poor coverage and the fact that radio transmitters would interfere with medical equipment.
Ancient Technology: 5. Floppy Disk
Amongst the cassette tapes in the loft was a box of floppy disks which I used to store data on for my Amiga 600 – which I will come onto later.
The floppy disk was invented by IBM’s Alan Shugart back in 1967. And I can still remember in the late Seventies a time when my dad gave me an old 5.25in floppy disc and told me it was worth a thousand pounds.
As a six year old lad, I guarded that floppy with my life, until one day I spilt some milk on it and I felt like my world had caved in!
In 1981 Sony launched the first 3.5in floppy disk, which is the one that most people will probably remember and the one I found in plentiful supply in the loft. Before the days of the web, it became the essential tool for transferring data between computers. Incredible to think that with only 1.44MB of storage, the floppy disk stayed in use for nearly three decades.
By the late Nineties, files sizes grew so large that the floppy disk was beginning to become less and less popular and by April 2010 the storage device was officially laid to rest. And my dad has never asked for that £1,000!
Ancient Technology: 6. Commodore Amiga 600
Next to my floppy disks was a dusty Commodore Amiga 600. Although I grew up on the Sinclair machines of the ZX81 and the ZX Spectrum in the Eighties, I fondly remember the Amiga 600 as it safely guided me through my University years in the early Nineties.
The Amiga was a family of computers from Commodore, a computer hardware manufacturer popular in the Eighties and Nineties from Canada which operated from 1954 to 1994. Commodore sold approximately 6 million Amiga units during their 7 year lifespan and eventually ran out of steam as the PC drones flooded the market with only Apple surviving the Windows based onslaught.
The Amiga was lauded as the first multimedia computer and at the time had sound, graphics and video capabilities well ahead of the competition.
Commodore enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Sinclair in the Eighties and I can always remember the playground arguments that you were either in the C64 or ZX Spectrum camp.
In the Nineties this rivalry switched from Sinclair to Atari as the Atari ST went head to head with the Amiga 500. The Amiga 500 emerged victorious by outselling their nearest rival by 1.5 to 1 despite reaching the market later.
As well as using the Amiga 600 to type up University assignments, like many, I was also addicted to the quite brilliant Sensible Soccer, arguably the first realistic(ish) and playable football game to appear on a home computer.
And in one of my first jobs after leaving University I downloaded an Amiga emulator onto my PC and played Sensible Soccer during working hours, convincing my technically naïve manager that the game was merely a screensaver. He didn’t fall for that one for long!
Commodore’s Nineties success was fleeting and by 1994 the company filed for bankruptcy. Although the company was picked up by Escom and later on Tulip Computers and Gateway, Amiga’s demise was confirmed as the Millennium came to a close.
I hope you enjoyed reading this 2nd part. Join me next for the third and final part when I talk about Tetris and why making your own fizzy drinks was once the rage! The link is below.