Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain Learned to Love the Computer

February 21, 2020 - Comment

Remember the ZX Spectrum? Ever have a go at programming with its stretchy rubber keys? Did you marvel at the immense galaxies of Elite on the BBC Micro or lose yourself in the surreal caverns of Manic Miner on the ZX Spectrum? For anyone who was a kid in the 1980s, these iconic computer brands

Remember the ZX Spectrum? Ever have a go at programming with its stretchy rubber keys? Did you marvel at the immense galaxies of Elite on the BBC Micro or lose yourself in the surreal caverns of Manic Miner on the ZX Spectrum? For anyone who was a kid in the 1980s, these iconic computer brands are the stuff of legend.

In Electronic Dreams, Tom Lean tells the story of how computers invaded British homes for the first time, as people set aside their worries of electronic brains and Big Brother and embraced the wonder technology of the 1980s. This book charts the history of the rise and fall of the home computer, the family of futuristic and quirky machines that took computing from the realm of science and science fiction to being a user-friendly domestic technology. It is a tale of unexpected consequences, when the machines that parents bought to help their kids with homework ended up giving birth to the video games industry, and of unrealized ambitions, like the ahead-of-its-time Prestel network that first put the British home online but failed to change the world. Ultimately, it’s the story of the people who made the boom happen, the inventors and entrepreneurs, like Clive Sinclair and Alan Sugar, seeking new markets, bedroom programmers and computer hackers and the millions of everyday folk who bought in to the electronic dream and let the computer into their lives.

Comments

Anonymous says:

A great book if you grew up in this era are or interested in the home computers of this time. I was fortunate to grow up and live through this whole era. Back in 1981 when I first got my hands on a zx81 I was 13 years old. It was really what got me into programming. If you lived through it then this book is a great trip down memory lane covering all the trials and tribulations of the computers of the time, and the companies that developed them. If you didn’t live in this era then this book gives a great history lesson on how things really were.Its easy to look back at these…

Anonymous says:

Excellent I loved being transported back to the 80s whilst reading this book.My route was ZX81 followed by a Sharp MZ80K. With hindsight, a Spectrum would probably have been a better choice.If you have a keen interest in micros and British history then this is the book for you.

Anonymous says:

a really strong recommendation for anyone who grew up through the exciting technological times of the late 70’s and 80’s or who has a love for retro computer technology of a particularly British bent Apart from the odd habit of occasional repetition (for example, he tells at three different points in the first few chapters that computer valves were the size of light bulbs), this is a sparely written, yet fact filled book which also manages to engage. The author clearly likes his subject matter very much, and his enthusiasm is engaging. A little bit on the short side for my tastes, but, still, a really strong recommendation for anyone who grew up through the exciting technological times of…

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