A Brief History

Then ...

I started using computers thirty years ago, when I was still at school. In those days, computers were a rarity in schools. Upholland Grammar School had a single Z80-based microcomputer tucked away in a small room behind one of the classrooms. I had to get special permission so that I could spend an hour or two each week using the computer to teach myself how to program.

It was a Research Machines 380Z and it had 16 kilobytes of memory. The only permanent storage device was a cheap cassette recorder hooked up to it via an audio socket. When the computer was switched on, it booted into a low-level monitor system where you had two options: start feeding in Z80 machine code by hand, or load a Basic language interpreter from the cassette recorder. The computer was very sensitive to the playback volume setting on the cassette recorder, so the Basic interpreter rarely loaded on the first attempt.

... and now

These days, I work with high-performance Linux systems based on quad-core 64-bit AMD Opteron processors. Each machine has many gigabytes of memory and is connected to terabytes of data storage capacity.

At home, I have an Intel Core2 quad-core machine with 8 gigabytes of memory which runs Linux. My wife and I use it for our work and for email and web surfing. By the standards of the computers which I used as a PhD student, it's a desktop supercomputer!

A Personal Timeline

Computers, operating systems, languages and data formats that I have known. I still use entries in red in my daily work.

Year Hardware Operating systems Programming languages and data formats
1980 RM 380Z   Basic
1981 GEC 4000 OS/4000 Fortran 66
1984 IBM VM/370 VM/CMS Fortran 77, REDUCE, Camal, EXEC2
1985 DEC VAX VAX/VMS Maple
1986 Sinclair QL QDOS BCPL, Forth, 68k assembler
1987     Macsyma, VM/370 assembler
1988     Scratchpad, Mathematica, Rexx
1989 HP 9000 Unix (System V) C, awk, shell scripting, TeX
1990 HLH Orion Unix (BSD)  
1991 Sun Microsystems   PostScript
1993 80486-based PC Windows 3.1 Intel x86 assembler, C++
1994     Visual Basic
1995   Windows 95 Perl 4, HTML
1996     CGI
1998 Pentium-based PC Linux  
1999 Compaq Alpha Tru64 Unix Perl 5, Perl/Tk
2000     XML, PDF
2001     Java, MySQL
2002     PHP
2003 Apple Powerbook G4 OS X, Windows XP  
2004 Open University studies
2005 Open University studies
2006 Open University studies
2007     PostgreSQL
2008 64-bit multi-core AMD/Intel   CSS, XHTML, JavaScript, AJAX
2009     Ruby on Rails
2010   Windows 7  
2011     Oracle
2012   Android  

Old dog, new tricks

In November 2003, I enrolled on a part-time graduate diploma with the Open University, which is Britain's leading distance-learning university.

I was awarded the Postgraduate Diploma in Computing for Commerce and Industry in December 2006.

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