Micro Live – tape 101

Strap yourselves in, we’ve got a bit of a Micro Live marathon coming over the next few days. And apologies if 80s 8-bit computer journalism isn’t why you read the blog.

The first programme here looks at Softeach, a training seminar for computer dealers. Tim Langdell, head of FAST, talks about piracy and copyright. Fred Harris is very concerned about ‘children who swap in the playground’.

There’s abrief look at the Compec exhibition, including an inkjet printer which can print up to 32 colours. Plus a revolutionary new memory card from Japan.

Cumana Memory Card

Then Freff looks at Westinghouse, and their hi-tech sales presentation.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 15th November 1985 – 19:00

The next episode is subtitled ‘Big Blue and the Forty Dwarves’ looking at IBM’s domination of the business micro industry.

At one point, Apple president Michael Spindler says of his company “we are not a traditional, well-managed computer company”

Before the report though, Mac does an introduction for Children in Need – they were taking pledges on Telecom Gold.

Then the main report, looking at how IBM is starting to dominate the UK computer market.

After the report, we check back in with Children in Need, and Colin Baker, Doctor Who Himself, is there to plug his Micronet 800 chatline appearance. Here’s the programme opening and closing.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 22nd November 1985 – 19:00

In the next episode, there’s a look at Infocom, the master of the text adventure, including a look at ZIL, the language they wrote the games in.


the report concentrates on Dave Lebling and his game Spellbreaker.

Dave Lebling

Lesley talks modems with John Coll. Here’s a state of the art modem. 300baud AND 1200/75.

Miracle Modem

I used to know John Coll, peripherally. He wrote the BBC Micro’s User Guide, and when I worked at Computer Concepts (who became Xara) he wrote several of our manuals too, so I’d occasionally see him at the office. It was like meeting a celebrity.

John Coll

In the news, Fred reports on Apricot ceasing production of the F1, a low cost machine that had come in for a lot of complaints that the software supplied was substandard. “On hearing that the F1 was to be discontinued, a spokesman for the user group said ‘I’m not at all surprised'”

Also: “Lucasfilm, makers of the Star Wars films, have lost their fight to stop supporters of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative using the term Star Wars to describe the policy.”

Then, Freff visits the Boston Computer Museum, the first museum of computing in the world. Here he is with the famous Utah teapot.

Freff and the Utah Teapot

There’s also a look at the winner of the second annual Interactive Videodisc Awards, and a very brief glimpse of the Commodore Amiga.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 29th November 1985 – 19:00

Before the next episode, there’s the end of a news summary, then a look ahead to programmes this evening. This was the Monday repeat of Micro Live, rather than the Friday first broadcast.

BBC2 Monday 9th December 1985

Then, more from the Micro Live team. A review of the Commodore Amiga is introduced by Mac with “And now for those of you who haven’t yet met a WIMP, here’s Fred.”

According to Fred, WIMP stands for Windows, Icons, Mouse and Pull down Menus.

In the news, Sinclair is close to raising £5m for research into Wafer Scale Integration. I don’t think he ever got that going. And the IBM portable was on the way, weighing only 11lbs.

Freff tries out a telephone painting appraisal service.

Mac looks at the development of computer memory, and Freff looks at research into new forms of storage. There’s a lovely clip, narrated by Richard Baker, where he clearly has little idea what the jargon he’s saying means, but he reads it out impeccably. “Fast data handling based on a megacycle pulse rate, large internal storage capacity, based on immediate access core stores”

And in Freff’s report, it’s lovely to hear the lead researcher say that his device can store up to 100 “Jigabytes”.

The usage of telephone directories as a unit of storage size leads to Mac having to don (presumably his own) mountaineering gear to illustrate how much information these new devices could conceivably store.

Mac Mountaineering

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 9th December 1985 – 17:30

The final episode here is also the final episode of 1985, complete with Christmas themed titles.

Micro Live Christmas

They return to the thorny issue of copyright, and the even thornier issue of software protection. They had a lot of complaints about the LENSLOK a copy protection system that would show a pair of letters or numbers on screen, which were scrambled into vertical chunks, and you would have to put a plastic gizmo with a series of prisms up against your TV screen, and it would then, in theory, unscramble the digits.

Lenslok in action

But it often didn’t work if your TV screen was too big or too small, and sometimes the wrong set of prisms was shipped with the cassette, making decoding impossible.

Gary Micklin of Essex isn’t happy with Lenslok on Elite.

LENSLOC killed my game

And as if it didn’t seem like the programme had transformed into Points of View, the next letter even has a “why oh why”

Why oh why

Lesley talks to Ann Leslie, Daily Mail journalist, about how she uses a word processor.

Ann Leslie

There’s the result of the Listener magazine code-breaking competition. And news, including Micronet rumours about a new BBC Micro.

John Coll looks at some ideas for Christmas, including things like the AMX Mouse and AMX Pagemaker, which tried to turn a BBC Micro into a Mac.

AMX Pagemaker

Olivetti’s buying of Acorn and (therefore) the BBC Micro is continuing to pay off for them, as there’s yet more favourable coverage of Olivetti in a report into technology in Formula One looking at the Olivetti Brabham team, and the technology used to track the cars on the circuit. There’s some familiar names on the screen there.


Racing drivers

Michael Bywater, technology correspondent and deputy editor of Punch, joins Mac to talk about adventure games.

Michael Bywater 2

Then it’s goodbye for Christmas from the team, with some cracking christmas graphics for the end titles. MODE 2-tastic.

Micro Live Christmas Titles

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 13th December 1985 – 19:00

The tape ends just after this episode.


One comment

  1. Thanks so much for uploading these. I saw the Dave Lebling interview on Micro Live when it aired, and I’d pretty much given up hope of ever seeing it again! Stirling work.

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