Nigel’s Memories

I finally found a few minutes to dig through my archives and have found some pictures from the mid 1980s that might be of interest.

The ACT Apricot was the first computer I actually owned (I never had a Spectrum/Commodore 64 as I was working with much more powerful machines, so why would I bother?)

The Apricot had an 8086 processor with 512kb memory and twin 3.5inch single-sided floppy disks. It ran either MS-DOS or Concurrent CP/M. I had a Fortran compiler for it, which allowed me to work remotely for at least part of the time when I was contracting in 1985 – I had a program that allowed me to connect to a VAX using a serial cable as if the Apricot was a terminal, I’d then open an editor and paste in my code from the Apricot!

The other pictures are from my time as System Manager/Programmer at Copyscan in Swindon, where we were involved in converting Ordnance Survey maps from paper copies to digital form – part of the process to make the Ordnance Survey digital. The OS couldn’t do the job fast enough, so various utility companies were paying approved contractors to do parts of it.

There were two primary ways of doing this – either scanning using a massive Scitex drum scanner (that doubled as a photoplotter) and then vectorising on a Scitex R280 computer (basically an Israeli-badged HP 1000 with custom operating system and software) or digitising into a McDonnell Douglas CAD system that ran on VAX/VMS.

The same combination of systems, along with a 1st generation Apple Mac and an IBM PC, was used a couple of years later to produce the Yellow Pages street map of London (a new map produced from scratch – starting with aerial photographs, using very early GPS equipment to pinpoint various locations, laying up the photos, digitising them, walking the streets to collect names etc, using the Scitex scanner/photoplotter to produce the various plates for printing). My part in that was as a contractor for a year, managing and transferring data between 4 mutually incompatible computer systems!

Apologies for the quality of the pictures – the original prints are long gone, and these are captures from the negatives using a cheap negative scanner.

Nigel Collins FIAP