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John Ainsworth ARPS

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Photography - Video - Clarinet - Computer - Woodturning


COMPUTING

Computer

My first contact with computers came in the early 1970s when working in the Civil Service, in a statistics department, and the need arose for the detailed analysis of large sets of data.

I took courses in basic computer systems and systems analysis and the program language FORTRAN. At this time input to computers (main frames which filled a large room) was via punch cards and I remember well filling in forms containing my programs which in turn were punched by machine operators. Then once the program was working correctly, following the same procedures for data. Data input would take several days to complete - how things have changed! To-day, with direct input, data can be updated in real time and analysis need take only seconds.

This contact through my work led to an interest in computing that carried through to my private life. My first home machine was a BBC 'B' micro with 16K RAM and storage on cassette tapes input via an audio cassette recorder. Eventually I obtained a 100K floppy disc drive and at the time this seemed an incredible amount of storage capability, only to be surpassed when this was exchanged for a double 100K drive which recorded on both sides of the floppy giving a total capacity of 400K and allowing easy back-up. Bliss!

I used this machine to write a number of programs, for instance - home accounts, a records database (music LPs) and my wife's genealogy.

My last BBC machine was a "Master" and then after working with PCs (Apricots initially), at the office, I bought an Amstrad 1512. This machine had 512K RAM and two 5.25" floppy drives - but still no hard disc!

I remember being surprised, on my first contact with PCs, that the operating system (OS) had to be loaded each time the machine was switched on. With the BBC micros the OS was in firmware (ie. on a chip) and so was available immediately after switching on. It is easier to upgrade a "software OS" but I think it would have been interesting if Microsoft had also offered Windows on firmware to overcome the long wait whilst machines booted up. The BBC used EPROM chips which were re-programmable but chips are generally so much cheaper now that an exchange system should not have been prohibitive. I accept, however, that with the constant need to upgrade Windows to overcome security issues, and this being achieved by automatic update over the Internet it is probably no longer a practical proposition. Also the latest computer processors are so powerful that the delay on booting has been minimised.

Since that first PC I have had a 386, a Dell Pentium I 133Mhz and a continually changing self build. This has included an Athlon 64 3400 64 bit, 3.4Ghz with 1Gb RAM and a total hard disc capacity of 480Gb.  Then a machine based around a Pentium 4 64 bit 3.2GHz processor with 2GB RAM and total hard disc capacity of 500GB on board plus 420GB external. Then a machine  based around a Gigabyte GA-P35-DS4 motherboard with a Pentium Quad core 6600, 4 x 2.4GHz processor, Gigabyte GeForce 9600 GT graphics, 4Gb RAM and a total of 1Tb of hard disc in three SATA drives. Currently (2015) I have a machine based around the Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-4770K CPU @ 3.50GHz, 3501 Mhz, 4 Core(s), processor with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics, a Sandisk 240Gb SSD drive a 1Tb hard drive and a 2x3Tb NAS for backup.
This is a very powerful machine and should satisfy my demands for the foreseeable future.

 As for Windows - I have just upgraded to "10", which is proving to be faster, more user friendly and the most reliable so far. This version has continued the "app" style of presentation started in Windows 8, though it can be used in 'normal' Windows style if preferred. I use it with a mouse as the "app" style ideally needs a touch screen, which at present I don't have.

My main uses of the PC now are digital imaging  with Photoshop CS6, video editing with Sony Vegas and music notation with Capella 7, plus, of course, the design and upkeep of this web site and the Internet.

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