Tim Danton

A detailed and well-researched explortion of 1980s home and school computers: the two were often the same. All the main players are here: Research Machines, Acorn, Sinclair, Amstrad, Atari, Commodore, as well as some of the lesser-known machines.

The interations between the companies are interesting, as are the beliefs and intentions of some of the individuals involved. The relationship between Acorn and Sinclair over the BBC Micro are well-known, and include a fist-fight in a Cambridge pub when Clive Sinclair thinks Chris Curry has been underhanded. But I learned a lot about how Sinclair, Alan Sugar, and several others never really believed in home computers, even as they were changing the face of Britain (and my own life). Sinclair in particular saw the future as being pocket TVs and electric cars – and so was strangely right, and radically ahead of his time.

It’s strange that so much innovation happened in Britain, at a time of de-industrialisation. In many ways the times were right. It’s possible to build an 8-bit computer and its operating system by hand, without enormous outlay in supporting technology – which isn’t in any way to belittle the innovation and talent involved. But later generations required more industry and investment that the British players simply couldn’t find, so the world moved on to IBM PCs and games consoles. I have to say I still miss the Acorns and Amstrads and Ataris I had, and it was great to see them celebrated in this book and learn more about how they came about.

5/5. Finished Wednesday 1 November, 2023.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)