22 January, 2009


Tales from the Broadcast Multiculture

Through the "wonders of modern technology" (™), I have broadcast television running in one window of my laptop as I surf the jolly old Interweb in another. Pretty impressive, huh? Well it certainly is for an old fart like me who first laid hands on a grown-up computer nearly 43 years ago. This contraption, including its peripherals, would occupy a space perhaps 5×4 metres. You talked to it using a frightening electromechanical teleprinter (the infamous ASR33) which looked and sounded as if it would explode at any moment and could get up to the precipitous speed of 10 (ten) char/sec. For bulk input you used rolls of punched paper tape, prepared off-line on another electromechanical monster. Punching errors were corrected by sticking slivers of green sticky tape over the offending character and repunching the correct pattern of holes using a hand tool. Very much to be avoided! Bulk output was on fanfold paper from huge mechanical lineprinters. CPU cycles were measured in milliseconds and core storage (RAM to you kids) was the equivalent of 96K. By core storage I mean quite literally planes of individually threaded miniature magnetic rings, threaded, I am assured, by hand by the nimble fingers of specially selected virgins. (Which is why the British computer hardware industry collapsed, of course. It was due to the national virgin shortage of the sleazy '70s, not because those devious foreign Johnnies were more efficient.)

Yet by judicious use of macro-assembler, you could do some useful stuff with these primitive beasts. Anyway, I digress, and I nearly caught myself launching into a head-shaking homily of the "Kids today don't known they're born" (also ™) variety. Must be my age you know, senility setting in, mind wandering and all that.

What I was going to remark on was that an advert for the motor insurers Churchill has just been aired, in which the irritating eponymous nodding dog mascot ("Ho Yes!") and a companion are sharing a meal in a Balti restaurant. Given that most "Indian" restaurants in the UK are run, or at least manned, by Bangladeshis, shouldn't some imam somewhere be leaping up and down about this piece of cultural insensitivity. I was under the impression that dogs were haram in Islam, and most certainly not be seated at table as a guest. Expect a baying horde of The Offended chanting and threatening outside Churchill's HQ soon.

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