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Thread: Micro Men

  1. #1
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    Cortona's Avatar
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    Micro Men

    Who saw Micro Men on BBC4, then? Fantastic. I especially liked the way they mixed in the archive footage.

    I'd heard that Sinclair was a bit tyrannical, but not to the extent he was portrayed in this. Some scenes were of course invented: I wonder if he really did throw telephones through his office windows.

    It's sad that Britain led the way (ignoring CBM and Apple for the moment) in the variety of hobbyist and then consumer personal computers, only to lose the market to US giants (welcome back, CBM, Apple, MS, HP, Dell etc).

    If you didn't see Micro Men, I highly recommend it. Should be on the BBC iPlayer.

  2. #2
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    Burger Time Champion, Sonic Champion Harrison's Avatar
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    Yes, I also watched it last night. Great program. Very well made and it did give some interesting insight into those 2 companies in the 80's. Things like Sinclair throwing phones is documented and was reported in the papers at the time, so it is accurate.

    It was quite surprising to see how basic the Acorn operation was, compared to Sinclair trying to show his company as a high end manufacturer. And that in complete contrast to the products they produced, with the Sinclair system being quite basic and rough around the edges, compared to Acorn's being much better made and professional feeling.

    It was also interesting to see that the downfall of both companies finally came down to production problems meaning both companies could not deliver their last systems in the time scales promised.

    Quite a contrast to Commodore at the time, who's C64 was easy for them to manufacture thanks to them owning their own CPU manufacturing plant, and the cost of the C64 being so low compared to its retail value. Commodore had it all going so well for them, but wasted so much money developing cut down alternative computers, instead of just concentrating on the C64 and working on a true successor. But that is a different story.

    The point raised at the end about the UK being at the forefront of home computing in the 80's was true, as long as you discounted Commodore and the amazing sales success of the C64 and the stuff Apple were doing with the Apple II in the US.

    However I think there were definitely more UK companies developing their own computers in the 80's than anywhere also in the world at the time, and the UK was the market that really pushed video games into the mainstream. However it can also highlight one other thing. The US and Jap video games markets were dominated by consoles, whereas in the UK it was home computers who were the platform for video games. This made a big difference as it gave users the ability to learn how the games worked, and to try and learn how to themselves. It created a lot of back room coders, who went on to start up some of the games developers at the forefront of the video games world.

    It also made me thing after watching this program, and this was mentioned at the end of the program during the credits. The processing company ARM, originally part of Acorn Computing, is still going strong, and ARM processors now power most mobile phones, PDAs and a lot of other integrated applications worldwide. ARM is still based on Cambridge and are now a very wealthy company. So in this regard the UK is still very much at the forefront of computer technology worldwide.

    And in fact Intel's biggest threat now is not AMD as most think, but is in fact ARM. ARM have been developing a new ARM processor for netbook/notebook PCs. Many of the big Notebook makers have already signed up to ARM to use this new processor.

    But why is this a threat to Intel? That is actually quite easy. Intel enforce restrictions on all manufacturers wishing to use their Atom processor. The Atom must be clocked at 1.6GHz, ram must be a maximum of 2GB, HDD size much be 160GB or less and screen size must be 10" or less. Why? Intel don't want their low end Atom processors making inroads into their more powerful laptop processor ranges which make them more money than the low cost and minimum profit Atom.

    ARM in contrast don't place any restrictions on their processors. The new net/notebooks using ARM processors will be allowed to do whatever they wish with the processor, including it in any form factor they like. In addition ARM practice a completely different business model to most other CPU makers. They don't just make ARM chips themselves, but actually sell their CPU specs to clients so they can manufacture the ARM chips themselves. This lets ARM continue to develop processor technology without the worry of manufacturing overheads. Leave that for the clients to worry about. It removes any waiting time if ARM were manufacturing the chips and the customers were waiting for them to put into their products. A great solution to a past problem that effected those companies in the 80's.

    Microsoft must also be a bit worried about ARM. They currently don't have a version of Windows that runs on ARM chips, but Google does have a version of its new OS that does. ARM and Google working together must be a worry for the current big boys.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!

  3. #3
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    I saw Micro Men eventually (a few days after it was first broadcast). It was a really good programme.

    I also saw the 70s and 90s episodes of Electric Dreams. Unfortunately I missed the 80s one. Wasn't there a topic on this forum about the Electric Dreams programme? I couldn't find it so maybe I'm getting confused with another forum.

    I was surprised in the 90s episode that they didn't seem to have a clue how to use a fax machine and that the younger children seemed to rely on the internet so much.

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