This week begins a 10 week series of Retro Gadgets. Technology which has featured in my life and evokes childhood memories.
Listen in on the audio recording above. I have included a surprise at the end which wasn’t recorded at the time.
If you grew up in the ’70s or ’80s, you may have experienced some of these gadgets. You might be still using them or maybe they are gathering dust in a drawer.
The first of these is an absolutely awesome gadget. A gadget which opened up the national curriculum to the use of calculators. It also introduced us to mobile gaming. Leading thousands of young people to huddle around each other in the schoolyards of the early 1980s.
Released in the summer of 1980, the Casio MG-880 was ostensibly a calculator aimed at young people. The 1980s saw a revolution in the teaching techniques applied to mathematics in schools. Initially seen as a way of ‘cheating’. Soon, however, it was accepted as a legitimate means to ‘check’ calculations, whilst continuing to show workings-out’ in answers.
Casio had something up their sleeve though. Their customers not only received a calculator, but they also received a musical instrument and game. This was genius marketing, Casio tapped into the school market and rewarded the kids at the same time.
The calculator functionality allowed for addition, subtraction, multiplication and addition. In addition to this, results could be written to memory, recalled and directly subtracted or added to further calculations. Percentage calculations were also included.
It was a beautifully designed device which hasn’t aged at all.
MG-880 provided musical entertainment by either a preprogrammed ‘Oh When the Saints’ or by users composing their own music. Musical keys illustrated by the relevant Solfège above the enabled buttons allowed for simple compositions.
The sound came from a piezoelectric speaker. The result was a fine 80s sound that comfortably sits alongside games to follow. I was fond of playing the Star Wars’ theme. For for those interested is 1-5-4-3-2-8-5-4-3-2-8-5-4-3-4-2.
IYou can hear this being played at the end of the attached podcast.
It was no secret that switching the calculator to ‘music’ mode in a lesson would result in its swift confiscation.
The Game (Digi-Invaders / Space Invaders / Invaders)
The ace in the pack was in the inclusion of the Game. This took the form of a button mashing invaders themed game utilising the simplest of graphics, the number display itself.
The invaders game required the using decimal-point to cycle through 0-9 and n which denoted the mothership. Digits slowly advance across the screen from right to left. The player matches the number and presses ‘fire’ to remove it. Each level became faster and more difficult. Lives are lost when invaders reach the base.
The game was an instant hit across the planet, from my school in Hitchin, England to schools in New Zealand, every child wanted to own one and more-so, they wanted to excel at the game. Millions of the devices must have been sold with a substantial amount of them confiscated by over-enthusiastic teaching staff!
As with all fads, the MG-880 fell out of favour to be replaced by more advanced handheld games and creating a new boom in entertainment. Perhaps thousands of them still exist in boxes on the shelves of staff-rooms around the world.
This was the beginning of Casio’s boom. Relentlessly creative, they produced some the most ingenious of technology of the 80s. From calculators to watches with built-in calculators and melodies, they were the kings within their marketplace.
Don’t forget to listen to the audio using the link above. It was recorded at BBC Radio Suffolk & broadcast on the 11 May 2019. Listen to the VERY END! I have included something geeky and special.
Thanks to Matt Marvel at BBC Radio Suffolk for inviting onto his show. Keep tuning in for the next 10 weeks for more gems!
It only seems like yesterday when I was talking about the World Wide Web turning 25 years old and now before we know it, it’s now 30 years since the first HTML web page was authored and published by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
The Web is, without doubt, the greatest invention of all time. It has made our planet smaller, brought together people from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe. It has made the world a much more accessible place, we can reach out to our idols and they can communicate back to us. We can transverse the globe and watch sunrises on opposite sides of the planet as they happen.
It truly is a modern wonder of the world. Cheers, Sir Tim!!
With the wonders of the web brings ‘Smart Assistants’, they are on our phones, computers and now independently as ‘Smart Speakers’, another true wonder borne from the internet, serving our every need and answering the answerable. These ubiquitous electronic pucks offer a gateway to enormous artificial intelligence-driven knowledgebases that are themselves learning as well learn from us, Machine Learning is driven by millions of users.
Of course, every now and then our assistants flicker or make strange noises, we might wonder if these are simply glitches or the first sparks of self-awareness?
I spoke to Mark Murphy at BBC Radio Suffolk about both Smart Speakers and the 30th Anniversary of the Web. Listen in above and don’t forget to LIKE, SHARE and SUBSCRIBE. See you next time!!
Following my previous post which can be found here, I talked this morning to Mark Murphy on BBC Radio Suffolk about WannaCry and the effect it has had on the NHS, what needs to be done to stop it happening again and what we can do to protect ourselves.
To read and in depth article on how to protect your computers from such attacks, click here
PLEASE ensure your computers have all their updates installed and make sure you have Anti-Virus software installed.
Fantastic to be back on BBC Radio Suffolk this week, even more special that I was invited to James Hazell’s home for a very special outside broadcast, where we talked about effectively working from home and I got to play Star Trek Pinball!!
Thanks to James and Isaac for the invitation, fabulous fun!
On Friday, I spoke to Mark Murphy on the Morning Show on BBC Radio Suffolk about the breaking news story concerning the massive data breach at Yahoo, possibly converning over 500,000,000 user accounts and by far the largest leak in history.
Listen to the short interview where I explain what I think happened and what Yahoo users should do to ensure their accounts are kept safe and secure from now on.
Yahoo has released a statement concerning the breach, we can be read here
When I started out as ‘The Gadget Man’, I always thought that Watches were the obvious gadget, something you would recognise as a gadget, be it Dick Tracy, Star Trek or Thunderbirds. Being able to communicate with your nearest and dearest by talking to your wrist seemed to be the a really futuristic thing to be doing, so it was my first port of call. Having now tested 8 smart watches and wearables, I was really looking forward to getting my hands on the Huawei Watch.
If you haven’t heard of Huawei, you should have. They are one of the leading communications and technology companies in the world and have been manufacturing Smartphones for some time now, but it is the Huawei Watch that I wanted to see.
The Huawei Watch is a premium Android Wear device, noticeably weightier than other models and with a much brighter, high res screen that stays on the whole time. Like the Moto 360, the Huawei Watch sports a round screen, but unlike the Motorola device it uses the entire screen and the ‘flat tyre’ is absent. This means that their are no external sensors on the screen, so auto-brightness is not an option, but saying that; I prefer this trade off because using the whole screen makes the watch look all the more realistic.
This is one of the first Android Wear devices to officially support iOS so iPhone users are not simply tied to the Apple Watch. When I say officially, I can confirm that I have paired a Moto 360 with an iPhone as well, but it isn’t officially supported.
As with all Android Wear devices, it makes use of Google Now with the ‘OK Google’ trigger to do lots of difference tasks. There is no speaker in the watch, just a microphone, so don’t expect to use the watch as a speakerphone (just yet). Personally, I’m surprised that this functionality hasn’t been added to Android Wear, it was present in the Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 more than 18 months ago and worked really nicely. I’m certain the trade off against battery use was one of the reasons not to include it, but it’s a shame though.
Aside from the pre-installed apps supported by Wear, other apps are reliant on what is installed on your handset. I’m a keen (electric assisted) cyclist and I’ve personally tried a number of cycling related apps, as soon as these are installed, the watch automatically installs a Wear capable add-on, whether this is a information window or live map, it’s always intriguing to see what the developer has deemed worthy of the watch-face. Some good and some not so.
The Huawei Watch uses sapphire crystal as it’s watch face which is much harder and scratch resistant that other toughened glass and seems less prone to fingerprints. The display is a 1.4 inch AMOLED display which gives excellent blacks, this is because AMOLED screens use self illuminating pixels and don’t require a generic back light, so blacks are not lit at all. This sounds great, but in bright sunlight the display suffers which is a common problem with the technology. The watch has built in Wifi, which allows for updates without the need for a phone in the vicinity, but as will almost all wearables, you really need a phone nearby to get the full potential.
The watch itself is manufactured from cold forged stainless steel and the watch strap is a very high end leader fastener. All in all the watch feels expensive and very high quality. The rear of the watch has a magnetic four pin coupling for charging and in the centre is a heart rate sensor which works with Huawei’s fitness software and Google’s ‘Fit’ system.
Battery life is really pretty good for a watch that is effectively switched on the whole time, but in standby mode a different clock face is used which uses lots of black and therefore lots of pixels are being lit. Very clever decision by Huawei.
I was particularly looking forward to reviewing this watch as it looked like a real contender to the Apple Watch. I love the circular face smartwatches that make you feel that these wrist worn wearables are something more that a boring square display. I was fond of the Moto 360 which is slightly larger and the Huawei device certainly didn’t disappoint.
The smart watch is still finding it’s feet and I would suggest it will find them by the next generation of wearables. Whether is can be established as a replacement for smartphones is a question we will have answered eventually, but until then the Huawei Watch does a superb job of using the available technology to it’s maximum.
Thanks to Huawei for the loan of the watch, I’m very grateful for your efforts.
In the words of Deep Purple; “The Nights Are Closing In”, and with it the increase of Seasonal Affective Disorder or S.A.D. which affects around 3-6% of the UK’s population.
I‘ve been testing a SAD Therapy Lamp from Mini Sun which helps to lessen these symptoms through light therapy. Use of the Therapy Lamp for 60 minutes a day, not only produces the correct levels of serotonin to help fight the effects of SAD, but also comes in a very nice padded carry case similar in size to an iPad.
I sat the device to the side on my desk which gave the impression of sitting by the window on a sunny day. Having suffered from SAD in the past, I found it comforting as the natural light produced by the lamp gave a feeling of the sun shining on my face.
The lamp is available in both white and pink designs and can be purchased via Mini Sun‘s website and is an excellent addition during these dreary winter months.
To find out more, listen to this mornings recording above which also features a discussion about Ed Sheeran quitting social media.