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Tales from the Treasure House: computer says slow

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Tales from the Treasure House: computer says slow

It is safe to say that there isn't a schoolboy or girl in East Yorkshire that hasn't heard of or used a computer, or indeed the internet. They simply can't remember a time when computers weren't a vital part of people's lives and, for those of us who do recall the advent of computing, many of us can't imagine how we ever lived without them.

At work and play, computers and the internet have revolutionised our society and transformed our lives. But with our existence now being so interwoven with the latest technologies, it can be useful to hark back to the dawn of computing, when this technology was new, in order to gain a sense of perspective.

In the East Riding Archives at the Treasure House in Beverley, visitors can do just that with records from the 1970s, showing early attitudes towards this amazing new machine called a 'computer'.

The former Humberside County Council set up its own 'Computer Sub-Committee' as an early form of what we would now refer to as 'IT' and produced a committee report on the issue of 'computerisation' made on 14th July 1978, weighing up the pros and cons of the technology. In an age where we now consider computers to be vital, it's amusing to read about the cautious approach that was taken towards spending on computer development:"Some investment is required now to meet current commitments. Beyond that, it may be felt that except where computerisation will produce cash savings, computer spending should broadly follow that on Council services generally."

At the time, Humberside County Council ran three 'principal machines' at three separate sites across the area. Its main 'installation', as it was then known, had a memory of just 128K – small wonder then that the committee concluded that the installation was on the verge of being overloaded!

Archivist Sam Bartle said: "We all know that computing has developed at a lightning speed, and these papers, in showing how basic computers were back in the 1970s, illustrates that fact for us."
Other papers in the archives include an old 'Computer Studies' exercise book in which the pupil explains that a computer is "an automatic electronic calculating device which manipulates information (called DATA)." The book contains various diagrams and explanations about early coding known as 'BASIC'.

For more information call (01482) 392790 or visit the Treasure House on Champney Road, Beverley.

Photo Pupils at Kelvin Hall School get to grips with a computer in 1968

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Tales from the Treasure House: computer says slow

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