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When i was at school in the early 1980’s, we had a handful of  ‘8 bit’ micro-computers in our computer studies class (a row of black boxes named Lynx, and one, a nice shade of beige, with a few red keys on the top row of it’s keyboard, named ‘BBC Micro’). My friends owned computers like the Sinclair ZX-Spectrum, which seemed to take forever, to load from cassette tape, the simple games they played.  In hindsight, this was the start of the ‘Personal Computer’ revolution, which is now part of ‘all’ our lives. And what, to me, was all rather dull – at the time, is now something i am keenly interested in.

My ‘computer studies’ schoolbook, of which i never studied, starts by explaining the need to plan your work, writing simple system specifications, then more complex  ones with the aid of flowcharting, then on to how  a computer system works; the  input of data into, the large ‘mainframe’ computers of the day. (All data was manually punched on cards, and input in large decks (boxes) of cards. Programs (software) were run via reels of punched paper tape.) Then we are introduced to programming a computer, using a simple ‘assembly’ language ( CESIL ). We learn then, how the computer encodes data, how the computer uses two state devices and binary, and binary logic and enough to understand how even our modern digital world was built.  The stage is set, this is learning, ‘from the ground up’, albeit with 1970’s/80’s computer hardware.

Somehow, in this age of almost instant, global,  digital data transfer,  i have, at last become interested in computers and binary digits (bits).  Now, i read my old textbooks, thirty years too late to submit my homework. Yet, i find it is still all relevant; a bit is still a bit; a byte is still a byte. It matters not, what hardware or software, is used to hold or transfer data; we still transmit a bit at a time,  and still receive – bit by bit, a byte. It seems to me, the fundamental principles are, after all, still fundamental.
I am not expecting my homework to get marked now. I cannot even remember my ‘computer studies’ teacher’s name (unlike my firebrand of an English teacher). So any comments and suggestions are very welcome to set the record straight, and fill any gaps in my scant knowledge.

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