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1980's

lived- heaton chapel, stockport
worked all decade in Manchester

This is where my one days work in Cheadle back in 1970 hit home. Apparently someone there- who I did not remember- took a deep, long lasting pathological hatred of me. I dont know why.

But by 1980 he was Chief Manager of Mosley Street Manchester where I worked, and took his revenge, with a nasty hatchet job, busting me from the Securities Deparment to a form filling job in ledger department - no cut in salary but a long period of very boring work was to follow. Which led to me buying a computer, publishing software, writing a book... all thanks to John Barnes.

Our next door neighbours had a female tortoiseshell and white cat called Chloe, who seemed to spend some time visiting with us. When they moved, by agreement we took Chloe over and she was happy to become a part of our family.

My niece Tracy had become a boarder at a school near Colwyn Bay, as her parents, June and Ron, were overseas with the Army. My father in particular took a concern for Tracy and my mum and dad spent some time over at Colwyn Bay visiting Tracy.

During the 1980's we did a lot of walking with The Stockport Field Club.

1980 holiday in Ilfracombe. Wettest year in decade.

31st May 1980 saw a battle reenactment at Lyme Park by the English Civil War Society

By this time at work we began to have more advanced computers, which had dot matrix displays in addition to the printers, but still quite primitive. The initial eight inch floppy disks (they really were floppy) were being replaced with 5.25 inch disks. And something called a word processor was introduced which used a hard sectored floppy disk (made by AES if memory serves me).

After working (and being utterly underemployed) in ledgers for a little while, I moved on to assist with the Correspondence department- dealing with money transfers and enquiries of credit worthiness, authorising quite large payments. I also spent some time as a telex operator- a typewriter with a telephone dial which could use paper tape message storage, quite possibly the forerunner of the interactive text message, as two parties could "chat" by each typing messages to each other. This was a happy time. I also worked in the Bill department, dealing with unpaid cheques in and out, and the more interesting acceptance, collection, payment, Noting, and discounting of Bills of Exchange- quite an obscure bit of banking by this stage.

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1981 Holiday in Margate. Reasonable walking- visited Canterbury Cathedral (and the older cathedral) and walked parts of old Pilgrims Ways. This was the time Prince Charles was married, and we went into London on the day before to take in the happy crowds and the sheer joy and spectacle. Watched the wedding on tv in Margate.

A large city full of people with united cause is really an experience. We did not visit to share the equally intense emotions when Diana was buried some years later.

1982- Holiday in Mumbles, South Wales. Travelled there by train. Found local transport to be very restrictive and unreliable. Travelled on the Paddle Steamer Waverley to Lundy via Ilfracombe. Lundy is an isolated island.



Our Texas Instruments TI99/4 Home Computer:

Home computer TI99/4 By September 1980 I was looking to buy one of the new fangled home computers, still quite expensive and restricted both. I wrote to Texas Instruments then in Bedford on 23/9/80 seeking more technical information on their announced TI99/4 computer and a UK version with PAL modulated tv output..
In a letter dated 13/10/80 TI advised: PAL output due 1981; no ram expansion planned; price includes one days tuition; Paul Dicks was starting a User Group.
Subsequent letter from TI dated 24/10/80 firmed up PAL release to Feb 81. On 8/5/81 TI announced PAL output would be July 1981.
About this time I had the loan from TI in Manchester of an NTSC TI99/4 console and monitor and made good progress on writing a personal double entry ledger program for my own use (it continued in use until 1998!).

I have a pro forma invoice from TI dated 27/6/81 for GBP 1705 for a TI99/4, with 32k ram expansion, 32 column thermal printer, single 5.25 inch floppy drive (capacity a mere 90 kB), and three modules. Now allow for inflation to see how that works out in 2014 prices... GBP 5,770. Wow. You can buy a LOT of computer for that in 2014.
Of course, it does still work after 25 years.... (but will be unuseable when we can't buy a tv or tuner for analogue channel 36). The thermal printer was an expensive mistake, once the initial supply of paper ran out, no more was available! and the print faded very quickly. Not that it was ever easy to read. It was too quickly replaced by yet another big box the same size as the 32k ram, this time an RS232 interface, which was joined by an Epson FX80 printer - which is still in use in 2014, some 30 years later. They knew how to make printers back then.

It looks like I joined the user group before I actually had ownership of the PAL output TI99/4.

The first issue of TI Home, the quarterly magazine of the first UK User Group, dated February 1981 was entirely by Paul Dicks. In the second and third issues there were very brief pieces by myself and Peter Brooks. In issue 4 there was nothing from me but a very long article by Peter. Issue four had a list of members- total 19 members. From Issue 5 both myself and Peter were regular contributors.

As time went on membership grew and life became hard for Paul Dicks to manage it on his own. TI and Paul passed the membership on to a "professional" public relations firm just before TI stopped producing the TI99/4a in November 1983 - from then on, the more technically literate members joined a new group started by Clive Scally. I contributed to TI-MES from Issue 2. Clive ran TI*MES Winter 1983 up to May 1987, when he passed membership on to a "club" organisation.

Whilst waiting for software to appear I played my games module- Video Games 1, which had three games. One called Pinball was really a form of paddle ball. The score display went to six digits. I made a high score of 10028010, or putting commas in, 10,028,010 which has 8 digits and did not crash the module, although the on screen score display at the next game, for the current score was left with a floating 10 on the right, as the 7th and 8th digits were not cleared, and the last score and high score displays only displayed the first six digits of that high score. Can anyone beat that score?

Started writing programs. Wanted to buy programs- autograph of stainless stephen, music hall comedian There was a lack of software for the TI, I was buying it from America and saw no reason it could not be sold here. In the absence of anyone else, I obtained licences from the copyright owners and Stainless Software was born, slowly growing with more licences and the addition of UK written programmes. (Afterwards, the late Ian Martin of Timeless Software also sold American programmes).
I like to think I had the first software licence from Waddingtons Games (remember them? They originally did Cluedo and Monopoly)- I have a license from them dated 25/3/1982 for their game Black Box invented by Dr Eric Solomon. A subsequent software house was not correct in claiming exclusive licensing from Waddingtons!
. I first wrote to US publishers asking for licences in March 1982. I wrote to Not Polyoptics in June 1982- they had a range of simple logic programmes that proved quite popular.
One American software author I paid small sums of money to was Mark Sumner, a young man who was doing a lot of jobs to raise the funds to take time out to write some science fiction books, with one series published by Del Rey and one by Ace - so I was also sponsoring a literary creator! One series of his books inspired an SF tv series called The Chronicle around 2001.
I priced my retail prices at a level equivalent to other software on sale at the time, and chose to offer what was probably a high level of royalty to the writers, up to 35% of gross retail. Due to international tax rules I also had to deduct UK income tax from royalty payments sent overseas, and pay that over to H M Collector of Taxes. Retailers needed a discount of course! and later on VAT was to take a cut.

I operated part time, and never planned on profits- just ploughing back any surplus in new equipment, and investigating software and hardware for review, purchase, or licensing. There was advertising to pay for, blank tapes, documentation, packaging.

Stainless Software did grow large enough to have to register for sales tax - based upon turnover, not profit - , but only for a short period, as by November 1983 TI had nearly been brought to its knees with losses on the computer and ceased production. There was then an unseemly scramble to pick up game modules before they disappeared, and sales of programs on tape all but disappeared. The last sale from Stainless was in October 1985.

Stainless was also big enough to attract the attention of commercial pirates, and a number of pirate tapes were seized in Scotland. No other TI software supplier admitted to piracy of their product.

My early involvement with the TI - led to my being approached by a book publisher who wanted a TI99/4a book on the shelves.

So in Summer of 1983 I wrote Getting Started with the TI99/4A, which was published by Phoenix Publishing. I was paid an advance up front and altogether probably received a couple of thousand pounds. Alas because I was registered for sales tax, my receipts were taxed for sales tax AND for income tax - books have novalue added tax, but supplying authorial services is taxable It was cool to see my name on book shop shelves, and to have my book in libraries. It was even sold in Australia. And the text is now freely available on the web- although the actual book was still listed on Amazon.com when I looked in 1997.


Around June/July 1985 I purchased a complete set of public domain software from Guy Stefan-Romano, and made this the basis of a disk based library offered to members of TI*MES which at this time was a sole proprietorship of Clive Scally - so the Disk Library was basically me.
When Stainless Software ceased, I requested all the UK programmers to release their programmes to the disk library and most of them agreed. The collection then grew with major additions from Jim Peterson and other user groups and personal contacts with programmers.
When the user group passed to communal hands, the Disk Library paid over surplus funds to the group's central fund - I have a note of GBP 300 being passed on in 1989. The last recorded supply from the disk library was April 1993.

Dealing so much with America I found a number of pen friends and wrote to many of the TI greats. I exchanged letters with Ray Kazmer for maybe 15 years, as well as programs, and biscuits (Ray sent Oreo Cookies, we sent Jaffa Cakes, made here in Heaton Chapel, Stockport). Ray also sent George a cuddly Garfield and a cuddly Odie.

Ken Gilliland (Notung Software and commercial artist) was a friend of Ray's and we exchanged programs with Ken also.

Guy Stefan Romano took care of the Amnion Software Library, and we were able to send him a Kenwood Beater for his mixer at well below any price he could find- he sent lots of TI stuff and a copy of a recipe book he had written.

Jim Peterson was a great TI supporter, writing monthly articles for user groups, publishing a huge amount of software and finally collecting together TI shareware/public domain programs.

I consider myself privileged to have been a part of a great community.



image of unreadable magazine printing, black on black Several TI99/4a program listings of mine published in the magazine "Computer and Video Games" for a small payment. In February 1983 they listed "Pompeii" and outdid themselves by printing the listing on a full page image of a volcano erupting. I couldn't read the listing and I'm sure no-one else could either. Later in October 1983 they printed a listing of my "Slalom" which was far easier to read.

1983- Holiday in Mumbles, Gower Peninsula, Wales- with a rented car. Excellent walking.

1983- Christmas at York with June and Ron, Mum Dad and Tracy. George was almost present at this time...

1984 and our son was born, at 0547. Weight 3530 grams Length 53cm Head Circumference 35cm

A good experience, I fell in love with him at once (what a wonderful smell! - really nice).

By now I am working in Managers Department in the bank, heading up a small admin team and assisting with staff loans. Alas my manager at this time was NOT sympathetic, and cancelled my booked leave to stay with Cathy after George was born, and expressed himself well on my tiredness due to lack of sleep.

A mention of a past colleague here, Carole Pountain, with whom I shared the delights of Flora Tristram's writing. A lovely lady, Carole made a stuffed felt toy for George. Alas she did not survive to the time I left the bank.

November 1984- First UK TI99/4A convention, held in Manchester at the Ritz Ballroom - huge number of people turned up. George attended.

George's first Christmas with June and Ron in York- also with Tracy. I see on a photo taken at this time a green and red felt ball made by a work colleague, Carole Pountain, a lovely lady. I was very sad to hear of her death some 20 years later.


In September 1985, the Royal Bank of Scotland chose to call all of its branches in England and Scotland just The Royal Bank of Scotland, so it was goodbye to Williams and Glyn's Bank after just 15 years.

20.9.1985 Kodo in Concert in Manchester- the Japanese huge drums- at this time they were still selling their own recordings, not having been signed up yet. Very impressive performance.

1985 visits were to Styal Country Park, Dunham Massey, and Sale Water Park. Summer holiday was just days out this year.

Although colour tv had commenced in 1969, the old black and white 405 line service continued until the start of 1985. The first of many obligatory media changes to be required, as we honoured our respect for the environment with new technologies requiring ever more power, dangerous substances, and obliged Joe Public to throw away perfectly good equipment, as the Government was raising a few pennies selling off bandwidth and the quality of sound, pictures and programs deteriorated. Progress?

1985- visited Mum and Dad for Christmas day.

1986- visits to Lyme Park and Etherow Park both in Stockport. Summer Holiday- rented an old farm house in the Lake District, near to Penrith - a car was essential here. Much enjoyed.

I don't recall it but I have a note that in September 1986 I went to the Personal Computer World Show in London, and found it quite boring, but - I managed to find a stall with THREE TI99/4A modules on sale at low low prices - three different Atarisoft modules. Somehow I also managed to win a new watch for Cathy in one of the free draws - handy as she needed one!

Mum and dad visited us for Christmas day.

Following George's birth, it became virtually impossible for Cathy and I to worship at St Paul's together, and this became something of a disappointment. Although "creches" were in theory arranged, they often didn't happen, which meant a wasted journey. Then when strict -and for us impractical if not impossible- rules were imposed on the sidesmen without discussion or consultation, and the main entrance was blocked off leaving the side entrance - handy for folks with cars- open, there was something of a loss of communication. One week we didn't go to Church, then the next. And nobody at the Church noticed- noone contacted us to see if everything was all right or not. That was that.

And having run out of local churches we havent been to church since - after some 17 years of weekly attendance. And no one has ever asked us to attend a church. This does not indicate a loss of faith- just a loss of interest in the local groups calling themselves churches!

It is fairly common for people to stop going to church when they start a family. And there is no sign that the church hereabouts has the first notion of why or what to do about it. Or even cares.


1987- Summer Holiday in the Lake District near Kirkby Lonsdale, we rented an old house. Much enjoyed, but our car was essential to getting around.

We had new double glazed windows put in the house, using pvc for the large bay windows and timber for the smaller ones (the timber ones were well rotted by 2006!).

1987 visits again were to Etherow Park and Lyme Park, also Styal Park.

Mum and Dad visited with us for Christmas 1987

1988-

By now, with George old enough to travel by train and bus, Cathy not working and me commuting to Manchester by train, we had little need for the luxury of a car, and became one of the rare car-less families.

In 1988 our holiday was in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. George's first sea side visit. Colwyn Bay now has a major disadvantage as a seaside town. There is the beach, then a railway, then a motorway, then the town. And access from the town to the beach is very restricted- and there is NO development by the beach- the railway is too close. We had a restful holiday, and spent a day at Llandudno, riding on the Great Orme cable car and tramway.

In 1988 we paid our first visit to the Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, where they had a battery operated tram out as well as a visit from Lion celebrating its 150th birthday- Lion is perhaps better known from its starring role in the film "The Titfield Thunderbolt" made by the Ealing Studios. The Shaw family have had a ride behind the old engine!

In 1988 we also visited Buxton and the Poole's Cavern there (visits are restricted due to highish radioactivity in the rocks and gasses). We also visited Etherow Country park in Stockport.

For Christmas 1988 George had a desk -still in use in 2007!- quiet Christmas on our own.


1989- visit Manchester Science Museum

1989- George starts school - attending the local Church of England primary school, St Thomas, Heaton Chapel.

1989- Summer hols at Scarborough. A nice town badly spoiled by local people who earned their money from Tourists but hated them and did not make any attempt to give value for money. Nice castle but not a place to revisit. We even had to complain about the services (!) amounting to an offence under the Trade Descriptions Act, of the local council, and whilst our complaint was upheld, the prosecuting authority was the local council, so no surprise that no action was taken.

Visits in 1989 included Bramhall Hall (saw the restored wall painting for the first time); Styal Mill and Buxworth Basin (pronounced Bugsworth)- a derelict canal arm once used for shipping limestone.

Manchester Town Hall had a celebration of some sort where we discovered French guitarist Dan ar Bras, and bought a couple of tapes from him. Nice music. Also bought a tape from story teller Taffy Thomas.

In 1989 we celebrated Christmas in our own house with my mother and father visiting- the last time Mum visited.


In the 1980's Dads eyesight was fading fast, due to the Diabetes and Glaucoma. He fought it hard, never really accepting it, but ultimately he became totally blind and reliant on others.

At this time Mum was continuing with a long held hobby of embroidery, but as her fingers became less nimble she moved on to knitting characters which she gave to charity shops.

Cathy and George and I visited my parents weekly, and George was friendly with next door's cat, Sam, who was a black and white cat. Sam died of ear cancer some years later.

The Poco a Poco (formerly The Empress) where Cathy and I saw a very young David Bowie perform alone and accoustic guitar, was pulled down and a much smaller pub was built on the site.

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