Micro Live – Alan Moore Interview – tape 174

Our 8-bit marathon continues, with the first in a new series of Micro Live. It leads with Alan Sugar’s announcement of his PC Compatibles.

Alan Sugar

There’s an interview with Clive Sinclair about his sale of the Spectrum brand to Amstrad.

Sir Clive Sinclair

They look at the impact the Amstrad will have on software prices, as some packages, like Lotus 123, will cost as much as the computer itself. And Acorn’s Brian Long is asked whether he has any advice for Alan Sugar – a rather patronising implication, since at this stage, Amstrad have already released the very successful CPC464, then the PCW8256 word processor. Long comments about Amstrad repackaging older technology. “In this industry, the technology will continue to advance, and somebody has to make the machines that Alan Sugar is going to copy in three years’ time.”

Brian Long

Discussion of the Amstrad PC gives Fred a chance to talk about the difference between 8, 16 and 32 bit machines.

There’s a look at the new Mercury telephone network. then, another look at computer graphics, with a report on Virgin’s computer graphics company, then John Vince, from Rediffusion, looks at some of the winners from the Computer Graphics 86 awards.

Happily, this entire episode is available on BBC iPlayer

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 17th October 1986 – 19:30

The next episode looks at games, with Mac being very dismissive of most game genres. “Sports games, to me, are perhaps the most appalling use of computers.”

Fred is a little more positive, looking at some adventure games, scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and a pinball construction set. Plau, Marble Madness on the Amiga, a game I really liked in the arcade.

Marble Madness

Next, there’s a look at a computer controlled sail, the Wingsail, designed by John Walker.


John Walker

The software for the sail was designed by Frank Dale, in Forth, a language he feels he has to defend. “Lots of disparagers call it a write-only language, because they claim that once written, you can’t ever read it again.”

Frank Dale

Fred and Mac look at word processors (or ‘word prossors’ as Mac seems to say). And for once, they’re not using Acornsoft’s View program, but instead using Wordwise Plus, a program that I helped write, in my first job as a computer programmer at Computer Concepts.

Wordwise Plus

A small slice of fame there.

Next, Stephen Arkell looks at the Big Bang, as the Stock Exchange opens up to computer trading.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 24th October 1986 – 19:30

The next episode starts with a look a drag racing cars, which have a micro on board, and they talk to Peter Miller, designer of the board, who also feels the need to defend Forth as a good language for control systems.

Peter Miller

Then there’s a report on the Strathclyde emergency fire brigade call-out system.

Lesley continues her look at the word processor. Elaine Dannatt from Wang talks up their multi-user system for big business.

Elaine Dannatt

Then, Lynne McTaggart from Which Computer looks at the general Word Processing market. The discussion of the deficiencies of Wordstar is quite scathing about its usability.

Lynne McTaggart

Next, Fred talks to Professor Desmond Smith of Heriot Watt University, about his research into optical computing, something which has still to produce a practical computer.

Desmond Smith

Nice to see Fred taking health and safety serious, with his safety glasses as he demonstrates a laser triode.

Fred and his Safety Glasses

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 31st October 1986 – 19:30

Before the next episode, there’s a brief excursion to Channel 4 for a brief interview with comic writer Alan Moore by Paula Yates.

Then back to BBC Two for more Micro Live with a scary exposé of how easy it is to use a radio receiver to pick up the radio frequency emissions from CRT monitors, so that you can read whatever’s on the screen. Sean Walker designed the equipment to pick up the signals.

Sean Walker

On picking up the signals from an Apricot computer: Fred: “Is it because the Apricot is worse than other computers?” Sean: “I think they should have a broadcast licence”

It’s a scary report, especially when they use the device at the Compec exhibition, and talk to the computer vendors about how insecure their systems are.

There’s a discussion about the implications of the report with Alistair Kelman.

Alistair Kelman

Then there’s a report on a small air freight company, and the problems they’ve had selecting the right computer system and software. Kathy Lang from PCW magazine gives some advice

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

In the next edition, there’s a follow-up on the security report in the last episode, and the second part of their report on computers in small businesses, with John Drew, a vet.

John Drew

In a discussion about dealers and consultants, David Tench of the consumer’s association talks about how customers might protect themselves against problems with a purchased system.

David Tench

His advice seems to be that customers should pretend to know nothing, so that if something goes wrong it’s the responsibility of the dealer.

Then, Fred looks at how unfriendly software is a little like navigating an unfamiliar building. David Canter of Surrey University visits the Barbican to illustrate how difficult it is to find your way around.

David Canter

Fred talks to David Canter about his report, and Mac talks to Paul Bailey of DRI about GEM, the user interface that Amstrad were bundling with their new PCs.

Paul Bailey

And from Microsoft, David Fraser shows their new desktop offering, Windows (or ‘Window’  as Mac calls it).

David Fraser

But David Canter isn’t impressed. “I don’t think it’s quite as straightforward as your two sales managers have indicated, really.” “People ought to be warned about being seduced by the pretty pictures and moving arrows”

The programme ends with a quick plug for Children in Need, running on BBC 1.

Mac and Children in Need

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 21st November 1986 – 19:30

The next episode jumps a bit forward in time, as it’s from 1987. The Mormon Church have one of the biggest genealogical databases in the world. They collect birth, marriage and death information from all over the world, and the programme looks at the computerisation of this massive database, which was previously held on microfiche records.

It’s a very interesting data resource, but it comes out of such a weird reason. “Their temple is the exclusive preserve in which they can consult their records, and reenact the marriages of the dead. Once remarried, the dead can be converted to Mormonism.”

Next, Fred looks at spreadsheets and explains why they’re such a useful application.

Anita Straker, former head of the Primary Project for the MEP talks about how computers should be used in primary education.

Anita Straker

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 31st January 1987 – 18:15

And the tape ands just after the last episode.



  1. Incredible…great work…keep it up. …You are archiving video history…very important!
    Interesting to see Lynn Mctaggart in her pre-“The Field” instead of speaking about cosmic energy…talks about word processing. …An example of the power of ‘self-transformation”.

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