I first rubbed shoulders with computers some five or six years ago, though
this was only in the data-prep department where 20-odd key stations loaded data to
disks for subsequent transfer on to mag-tape and then to a main frame. However, I
picked up a little bit about programming, and in due course learned how to display
simple (and completely unauthorized) pictures on a VDU screen, with hard copy to a
teletype. I also discovered, quite by accident, several methods of crashing system
software, and derived a certain degree of pleasure plus appreciable easement of
boredom from informing visting ‘brass’ that the system was ‘down’. I also acquired a
reputation for rapid restoration.
In due course, operating on the principle that a system which is working
efficiently and satisfying all users is ripe for change, Management reminded all
concerned that perfection is stagnation, to be avoided at all costs, by rehashing all
routines and systems.
From my angle the only favourable effect of this change was the consequent
opportunity to obtain hands-on experience on a CMC Realities terminal. Since I was a
trespasser on the system some devious detective work was required to discover the
passwords associated with the various accounts, such passwords being the pre-requisite
to any worthwhile response from the machine. But with this information I was soon
experiencing the delights of CMC Basic, a very powerful language. Star Trek or
Hamurabi are fantastic games with 64K of immediate and masses of megabytes of virtual
As I mentioned, though, I was a completely illegal intruder in to the system,
and always had to be ready to log-off whenever I saw someone approaching. The
frustrations were nail-biting, and resulted in my purchase of a Nascom 1 some fifteen
I started off with a bog-standard system plus T2 monitor, but have expanded
until now I have 32K of memory, T4 monitor and Crystal Basic 2.2, a language which
started off in just under 7.5K, but is slowly increasing in size as I think of
additional commands, write them in machine code and incorporate them in to the Basic,
a fascinating process.
Despite the steady growth of my Nascom, the one peripheral which I really
longed for was a printer. After putting together some 5 or 6K of machine code (this
fella’s a masochist, ED.), seeing it operate successfully, and writing it to tape,
copy it down on paper the hard way was a real grind. And then I saw an advert for
reconditioned teleprinters, at something less than 140.00.
Maybe I should explain that price. I have an arrangement with my wife whereby
I may spend whatever I wish on the Nascom, provided she spends the same amount on
jewellery or other goodies for herself. It makes Nascom add-ons a bit pricey – I would
have liked an IMP, but at 650.00 (+ VAT)! However, to return to the teleprinter.
My wife knows nothing, or rather less, about teleprinters, but just when I was
reasonably fixed on buying one, she noticed an article in one of my computing
magazines wherein it was mentioned that teleprinters come in sizes ranging from that
of an ordinary typewriter to something more resembling a grand piano. It took a lot of
talk to persuade her that the one I was going to order was at the smaller end of the
range, and I don’t think I would have managed it had I not shown her a picture in an
encyclopaedia of a nice small teleprinter (making sure my thumb obscured the caption
which said “the latest model”, and thus hardly likely to be for sale on the second
hand market). In the end I ordered one model 7 Creed telepinter.