Saturday, October 12, 2019

Historical Technology Books - 31 in a series - Your Computer (1982-05)

Technology isn't just computers, networks and phones. Technology has always been part of the human experience. All of our ancestors have looked for ways to help them survive and do less work for more gain. has a host of old technology books (from mid-19th to mid-20th Century) available in many formats and on a host of topics. Many of the technologies discussed within these books are being put to use again these days in the back to the land" and homesteading movements. You might even find something that could address one of your own garden or farm issues but has been lost to time and history. Enjoy! --Douglas

Historical Technology Books - 31 in a series - Your Computer (1982-05)

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NEXT MONTH, with ZX-81 software on flexidisc offered free with every issue, Your Computer is presenting a new idea in program storage to the micro market — an idea which could have a dramatic effect on the currently expensive business of buying software. The flexidisc method eliminates the time-consuming chore of entering a program line by line, and if adopted commercially could reduce manufacturing costs to such a point that micro users would benefit from a fall in program prices to one-quarter of their present levels.

The flexidisc is the size of the ubiquitous 7in. forty-five or single, and is made of pliable plastic. In its grooves, in the form of high- and low-frequency sine waves, it can contain the kind of program that would occupy one side of a conventional software cassette. You transfer the software that the flexidisc contains on to one of your own cassettes simply by playing the disc on your record player and recording it. Once the program is safely committed to cassette the flexidisc is stored away as the master copy, to be brought out only if you wish to record another duplicate. Of course, in next month's Your Computer there will be full step-by-step instructions on how to use the disc, plus a thorough account of its workings on the technical level.

When the micro enthusiast, hungry for novel applications for his machine, sets about buying new software it is clearly not the cassette itself that concerns him but the quality of the software it contains. Given that the cassette can satisfy the essential loading requirements, all that it becomes is a container for programs — and compared with the flexidisc, an expensive one at that. Reduce the cost of the container but not the quality of the product held in it, and very soon you find yourself on the brink of a software revolution.

For a better idea of the finances of manufacturing cassette software, we could cite one program-producer who recently revealed that a cassette which sells for £5 costs an estimated 22p to make. For that manufacturer to be able to obtain the same percentage profit margin, the selling price for a flexidisc would be 66p on a production price of 3p.

In the ZX-81's short IVi-year life, software prices for the machine have fallen considerably. Micro users look to commercial software for new ideas, and if the flexidisc means that software becomes even more affordable, new ideas will develop quickly and it will herald a breakthrough which will have an impact on both the user's pocket and the development of micro programming.


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