Thursday, June 20, 2024

Watch this BBC report about computer addicts … from 1983


1983: Meet the COMPUTER ADDICTS | Newsnight | Retro Tech | BBC Archive

The BBC has just shared another video from its archives, this one showing a report about computer addicts way back in 1983 when computers were just starting to find their way into the workplace and home.

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The first subject is shown bounding into his office at a local council, making a beeline for his massive Commodore machine. Nothing out of the ordinary so far, but then the report shows him in a pub on a workday lunchtime — not chatting with colleagues or downing a pint but instead playing on the video game there called Mr. Do!

The truth about Chris’s computer addiction starts to really become apparent when we see him at home in the evening, sitting in front of another computer, a scene that prompts the BBC reporter to comment: “The revolution that brought the computer into the home didn’t change his social life — it destroyed it.”

And it’s not just his social life that’s gone. Chris’s marriage also looks to be in jeopardy as we see his wife complaining that she never sees anything of him because he’s always on his machine in his room.

The report also visits Graham Hawker, an early home-based gamer who has clearly thrown his lot in with the technology. “The computer is perfect, it doesn’t make mistakes,” Chris says. “It responds in an absolutely predictable way so in exploring anything that the computer is doing with you, anything that happens that you didn’t want to happen is purely your fault, it can’t be the other side because the other side is perfect.”

Finally, up pops senior citizen Phyllis Arrandale, computer geek extraordinaire. Phyllis, who runs a small store in the daytime, doesn’t only enjoy using computers, but loves making them, too.

“This is quite amazing,” the reporter says. “You’re not content with programming computers, you want to make them yourself.”

“Well, it’s a challenge, it’s exciting,” Phyllis replies, adding, “If I’m successful with this project, I shall do something a little more adventurous.”

Phyllis reportedly lived for another 20 years and so must have been in her element as more sophisticated technology came along for her builds.

The report notes that a year earlier, in 1982, there were about 700,000 home computers in the U.K., with the cheapest costing about 70 British pounds and “something a bit more sophisticated costing two or three times that amount.”

Another BBC report from yesteryear shows children visiting London’s Science Museum in 1959.

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