Micro Live – tape 116

This tape opens with the end of a BBC 2 News Summary, and weather.

then, another episode of Micro Live. It comes from the 1986 Which Computer Show.

Carey Hobbs of Ashton Tate has to explain to Fred what advantages a network database like dBase III can offer. I’m amused at the example database they use, where a manager in a company has a salary of £11,000.

There’s the Sagelock, a device that combats software piracy by forcing the user to input a code derived from a combination of colours. Anyone remember Lenslok?


There’s a Micro Live panel, featuring CLive Sinclair,

Clive Sinclair

Alan Sugar

Alan Sugar on Micro Live

and Chuck Peddle, inventor of the Commodore PET.

Chuck Peddle

There’s a question about whether the Motorola 68000 is the future. Sinclair is skeptical, and thinks perhaps there’s been a rush to use the shiny new technology. Alan Sugar is honest enough to admit he doesn’t even know what a 68000 is.

Comedian Nick Wilton wanders around looking at the quality of the carpeting on the stalls of the show.

Nick Wilton

Alan Sugar wins Personality of the Year.

There’s a look at the launch of the BBC Master system.

Mac and Fred are gobsmacked about a Toshiba portable (a lapheld computer, as Mac likes to call them) which has a 10M hard drive. “Astonishing”.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 20th January 1986 – 17:30

The next episode has a really interesting report on the development of what eventually became the e-paper screens on Amazon Kindle e-readers. It’s shocking that it took so long to get such products to market.


There’s a garden centre which can find exactly the right plant for you. Fred demonstrates a home micro version of such a database, with hundreds of records, and a search for a particular flower that satisfies a set of criteria takes over a minute. The raw power of the 5.25 in floppy drive.

Freff (which a bit of a croaky voice) looks at the relatively new science of fractals.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 24th January 1986 – 19:00

In the next episodes, which concentrates on higher education, Freff visits Carnegie Mellon University to look at their advanced networking computer system for all students.

It’s so hardcore about the computers that it makes liberal arts majors take programming courses in LISP and Pascal.

Part 1:

Part 2, including a fairly clueless UK university administrator who seems petrified by the future.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 31st January 1986 – 19:00

The next programme opens with a report about a computer maintenance company. You know they’re heading into full Watchdog mode when they say things like “It’s run by this man, Christopher Sullivan”.

Then, a report on a training scheme run for women who want to enter the technology industry.

Then, Lesley looks at Prestel, and whether it has failed to take off, comparing it with the soon to be introduced French system Teletel (which I think was known as Minitel in the end). Fred takes a sneaky chance to read the newspaper while Lesley does the links.

Lesley Judd and Fred Harris

Lesley isn’t very complimentary about some of the users of Teletel. “The chat pages, for instance, where hi-tech heavy breathers communicate.”

Finally, the lovely Michael Bywater (then technology correspondent of Punch, and also a sometime colleague of mine at The Digital Village) and Graham Jones, manager of Prestel, discuss whether Prestel have failed. Jones’ opening argument is not strong. “The French haven’t ‘galloped ahead’, the French have actually produced a completely different system which is for French consumption.”

Michael Bywater

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 7th February 1986 – 19:00

The next episode is, according to Mac’s introduction, about ‘electronic information’. It’s a report by Andrew Neil, editor of the Sunday Times, advocate of new technology – he was in charge at the ST when News International moved to Wapping, and electronic production, causing an acrimonious strike with the traditional print unions.

In the first part, he looks at the Stock Exchange, and looks to a time in the near future when trading goes electronic – what became known as the Big Bang.

Here’s what state of the art stock exchange terminals looked like in 1986.


Demonstrating an american trading system, a broker shows how you can trade shares electronically, using Apple as an example. “I see they’re trading at $20 and one eighth” One eighth? Did they (do they) really trade to one eight of a dollar? Rather than cents? Weird.

The next part looks at IT in the legal world.

Next, Neil looks closer to home, at the revolution beginning in newspapers, talking to Eddie Shah, who is (at that time) launching his new national newspaper, Today.

He also talks to Micronet, the prestel-based electronic ‘newspaper’.

Even Eddie Shah sees a long future for newspapers, and doesn’t think electronic newspapers will overtake them. “You can’t pick up a terminal and take it on the train with you. You can’t go to the loo with it.”

In the final part, Mac talks to Andrew Neil about the report. “Andrew, getting in and out of your office in Wapping both tonight and last night seemed quite a hazardous business. Isn’t that too high a price to pay for new technology?”

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th February 1986 – 19:00

the next episode looks at artificial intelligence, starting with a poem written by a computer.

Computer Poem

Freff visits the creator of Racter, the program which wrote the poem.

Then there’s a look at expert systems.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 21st February 1986 – 19:00

After this, recording stops, and underneath there’s the end of an episode of Travellers in Time, followed by the start of Gardener’s World before the recording finally stops.



  1. Ah, Lenslok, guaranteeing actually getting into Elite to play it was as difficult as docking without a docking computer.

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