First Bytes in Computing

I bunked off school at age twelve to watch a crane install a computer through the roof of a local hauliers. Ever since I have had an unending attraction to all things technological.

Later in Computer Studies we still learnt about punchcards but 1977 was a year of change. The first microprocessor computer I actually touched was nothing more than a circuit board and processor. When one of the other kids managed to make it smoke by giving it a divide by zero command I was hooked.

So at sixteen I did a brief stint as a lab technician before joining the Air Force in Air Traffic Control. This brought me into contact with computers in the workplace and this amazing contraption the size of a wardrobe called a MuFax. We used to have to test it everyday but you could send an A4 page of words, a photo or a diagram in something less than newspaper quality but it took up to 10 minutes. It was mostly ‘tested’ with funny drawings or inspirational quotes, I think these were the early memes of our military network.

We also used a computer system for other purposes but on the over night shifts we sometimes chatted with other operators at bases in Scotland. This was by means of a simple line of text typed into the bottom of the screen and their reply displayed at the top. I am not sure if it was even stored anywhere but it was an early prelude to things like Instant Messengers.

Concurrent with this there was a micro revolution and Sir Clive Sinclair brought us the ZX81 and The Spectrum. I remember a crowd of us around a 16k ZX81 playing Football Manager. Every so often one of us would go off to perform his guard duty or other task but always straight back to have one more go! The Cold War wasn’t quite so hot anymore but that would have been a good summer for the Russians to invade!

I taught myself Basic and then took a couple of RAF computer courses. I came out of the Air Force and managed to get a place on a TOPS computer training course in Manchester where I learnt about boring business languages like COBOL and RPG2. Actually the whole school algebra thing suddenly made sense. Now I even knew how to apply it in the real world.

So jobs came and went but my one constant was computers. As a hobbyist and as an operator, implementor and champion. Through vocational computer courses over the years I finally found myself applying my knowledge as web-designer, a trainer and network manager at a University in The Netherlands.

Whilst working there just before the millennium turned over, I started a degree in Computing and Media and one of my elective courses was Poetry. Something I had played with for years but my professor lit a fire underneath me. I was revisiting old stuff, rewriting, creating and renewing my passion for poetry and writing.

What did I write about? Things that amused or inspired me, technology, peoples relationships with computers, the internet and random stuff.

Later on my return to the UK, I became involved in Secondary Education in film making and media but particularly in a project  with a colleague that we called Films for Learning. Some of the articles I wrote at the time may be included in this collection. Not poetry but an insight into what I was seeing and how inspiring it was to work with creative students.

I shared a chapbook of my poems with my Father and he said I reminded him of Ogden Nash. “Who’s Ogden Nash?” I said. Later I went off to the bookstore and found a suitable volume and this interchange with my Father was the trigger that started a real War of Words. An exchange of poetastery where rapid fire poems were exchanged through email that dragged many of my siblings into a Poetry War!

Thats just about it, I have always had a passion for poems and technology and hopefully I managed to light some fires of my own along the way. This collection is a glimpse inside my head and I hope it surprises some of those people who only ever knew me as  ‘The Computer Guy’ who came to sort out their computer problems.

March 2016
Peter Roe

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