Gerrards Cross Computer Club – History

Gerrards Cross computer club was initially formed in the late 1980s when the BBC Microcomputer project made computers for use at home affordable. A BBC Micro Model B was around £400 but also required a portable cassette tape deck to load and store programs and a TV for displaying the output.

The IBM Personal computer had been around since the mid 1980s for businesses but was still expensive for a home user. A typical small computer with 1 Mbyte of RAM and a 10 Mbyte disk was initially around £8000. You also had an 8 inch Floppy disk drive that could store around 500 Mbytes of data or programs. There was a very basic Operating System called DOS (supplied by Microsoft) which provided a standard way of accessing disk files, keyboard, and screen – monochrome of course! Memory was a maximum of 1 Mbyte but of that only 640 Kbytes was available for running programs or storing data.

IBM made the internal device interface specification publicly available and by the early 1990s other makers were making IBM compatible computers that was driving the cost down. By around 1992 an IBM compatible computer with 100 Mbytes of disk and a 5.25 inch floppy disk of 1.2 Mbyte capacity cost around £1500. Memory could be "extended" to 2 Mbytes my using some clever tricks.

Microsoft added to the picture by providing a programming language called BASIC. Some companies were making the computer more usable with business programs such as VisiCalc - an early spreadsheet. Microsoft produced an early version of Word Processing - Word for DOS which could be configured to run from a floppy disk By this time floppy disks had shrunk to 3.5 inch and capacity increased to 1.44 Mbyte.

Microsoft then started working on a more user friendly operating system, initially in partnership with IBM. Windows was born by which time the cost of the hardware together with a Windows license was around £1500. This was still relatively expensive but was beginning to  be adopted for home use. The author bought a computer for £1500 with Windows Version 3 around 1992 which was around the time he joined GXCC.

Our aim then was to find low cost, or free, programs to do useful things, Microsoft by then had Word for Windows and Excel (around 1992) but the cost was about £150. GXCC had an active membership then of about 20 members. Even then our membership consisten of professional and amateur enthusiasts. Some are still active members.

Costs have fallen dramatically over the years and the size and speed of computers, and the memory and disk sizes, have increased dramatically. The operating systems have evolved almost beyond recognition.'

We also have more devices to consider. Apple produced the Macintosh computer which unlike the Windows/PC open architecture was totally proprietary and initially expensive but is now more affordable. We also have mobile phones, which are now powerful computers in their own right, and have evolved into tablets etc.

We now cover all the basic Operating Systems and platforms.

John Steele