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Time Warp

I’ve known for some time that my predecessor was something of a pack rat, and for the last 2 years I’ve been slowly finding secret hoards of equipment in drawers, cupboards, nooks, and crannies, all around the building.

And when I say “hoards of equipment”, what I mostly mean is “hoards of junk”.

Today, I found a hitherto unknown stash of old backup tapes, including these:

The last time these tapes were used was in 1991. I’m quite certain we do not have the equipment needed to read them.

Latest Version

If you have a star on the product box proclaiming that it’s the “Latest Version”, and it’s not even a sticker but an actual part of the printed design, you are practically begging me to ridicule you in 10 years’ time.

Found in the Bursary behind a bunch of ring binders. Apparently still the latest version – who am I to argue?

Retro Gaming

A recent visit to my dad’s loft revealed that he had kept both the NES and SNES from my youth, items which were quickly liberated and set up for, uh, ‘testing’.

It turns out that the NES Zapper light gun, along with most almost all light guns of the day, doesn’t work on LCD TVs, so Duck Hunt will have to wait until another day. The SNES, along with the Super Game Boy, is working fine, however:

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Along with some antique Acorn software, I also found a copy of Microsoft Access over the Easter break. The original Microsoft Access, version 1, on seven floppy disks:

Sadly, disk 3 was unreadable, or I would have had it virtualised on my App-V server by now so I could amuse visiting techies by running it on Windows 7.

Simpler times

One of the many great discoveries I found over the Easter break when clearing out yet another unexplored cupboard was this relic from the days of the school’s former Acorns network:

For those unfamiliar with the history of computers in UK education, Acorn Computers was a UK computer manufacturer who were prominent in schools in the 80s and early 90s. Although the company itself no longer exists, their legacy lives on in several subsidiaries, most notably ARM, whose RISC CPUs are used in most modern mobile phones, including the iPhone. AUN was networking protocol which ran on Acorn’s Econet network system, and the above relic was the core software used to provide network file access.

A notable feature of the packaging of this product is show to the right: this is an image of the End User Licence Agreement (EULA) for software from Acorn Computers Limited, as printed on the outside of the box. Yes, this is the ENTIRE licence. Compare that with, say, the 14-page EULA for Windows Vista, and you can see how absurdly ridiculous the legalese has gotten on modern software.

Simpler times, my friends, simpler times.

A Piece of History

The Casio QV-10 digital camera is credited with being the world’s first consumer digital camera to include an LCD display on the back, a feature that is ubiquitous today.

Recently, I found one in the office.

Strictly speaking, this is the QV-10A variant, which came out slightly later, but is functionally identical other than an increase of the internal memory from 2MB to 16MB (MSP noted in the comments that I was confused by the units given!). There is no ability to use a memory card. Other features include:

  • 0.25 Megapixel resolution
  • Manual aperture adjustment (seen here underneath the lens)
  • Macro mode switch
  • 1.8″ TFT screen
  • CCD sensor

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This transparent oddity is a Turtle; a piece of technology from a bygone age of ICT, and the relic that tmcd35 correctly guessed was the piece of hardware I had not seen since I was 5 years old.


Long before Lego Mindstorms, there was the Turtle. Originally conceived in the ’40s for use in computer science teaching in universities, this model made it’s way into primary school classrooms in the ’80s. British denizens of a my generation will remember it as the first computer-controlled robot they ever encountered, and were able to program and drive themselves using the LOGO functional programming language on a BBC Microcomputer. It connects to the computer via a serial cable plugged into the socket on the top. In the very centre is a pen grip, to which one can attach a pen through the bottom of the unit to draw pretty patterns on the floor (usually lined with paper).

The arrow on the front is an example of a very common end-user modification to identify which way is ‘forward’ to the robot. Although a technically-minded person will come to recognise the orientation from the layout of the internal components, a child normally has some difficulty determining which way a perfectly hemispherical robot is going to move.

I have no idea whether this unit is still functional. I dream of one day firing it up again, but even if I can’t, I will never have the heart to throw it out.

Pack Rat

I’ve spent the last two days going through everything in my new office to determine what needs to be kept and what can be binned.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m the first person in the school to ever do this.

Right now there is a pile of junk in the middle of the room that is about a metre high and two metres in diameter. That’s just the stuff for the regular trash. There are another three boxes of equipment in the hallway that require specialist WEEE disposal, much of which has not been functional in years, plus a ten-year-old server and its CRT monitor. The entire back bench of the office was, on Monday, filled with box upon box of hoarded installation CDs, with all the paperwork that ever came with them. There was even a box of floppy disks dating back to the 80s. Today there are 15 discs in cases, and about 90 in an empty ‘cakebox’ that used to contain blank CD-Rs. The tiny fraction of paperwork that wasn’t needless is in the filing cabinet. I’ve thrown away about three to four hundred CDs that were either duplicates, superseded, or completely unnecessary.

So, after tomorrow, when I spend what will feel like forever carting my trash mountain to the bins, the office will be tidy.

I then have to make a start on the shelves next door, and after that, the storage room.

Initial indications are that the junk back there is even older. I know there’s a server hiding back there somewhere that pre-dates the one I’ve already junked . The previous NM extracted a Sinclair ZX81 from the collection just before he left, and I recently spotted a piece of hardware in a cupboard (that I shall reveal to you at a later date) the likes of which I last saw when I was 5.

Next week will be busy.