From the late 1980s my systems design activities increasingly involved computers and computing. In my early days, we were preparing quotations using Lotus 1-2-3 and an Amstrad 80286-based machine with 640 kilobytes of RAM and a 20 megabyte hard disk! Or if you weren't quick enough, the alternative machine ran using two 5¼" floppy disk drives. After a while the department changed to the Quattro Pro spreadsheet application, later part of the Corel Office suite. We couldn't afford a computer on every desk.

My early specification writing was using pen and paper. The first word processing workstations replaced a few mechanical typewriters downstairs in the Typing Pool, and there were endless trips downstairs with bundles of hand-written stuff for the staff to enter. I can't remember the early PC word-processing applications, but I do remember using WordPerfect 5.1 on an 80386DX MS-DOS machine. Slowly the company PCs were updated until we were forced to migrate to MS Word (ouch!). As usual no training was offered. By the time there was a training budget, the computer-literate bunch sailed through the advanced course.

The internet rapidly became the preferred method at work for searching for components and sub-systems, and I was browsing using Netscape Navigator (now simply Netscape) and then Internet Explorer for some years before having the facilities at home.Back to Top

My enthusiasm for computing was sparked by those early days at work. A contractor offered to sell me an Amstrad PCW, and I jumped at the chance. £250 bought a monitor with built-in processor board, memory and a floppy disk drive, a printer and a rather natty stacking arrangement. It had a non-standard monitor screen size, non-standard keyboard, three-inch floppy, unique 9-pin dot matrix printer and several idiosyncracies. It used the CP/M operating system but the word-processing application had the OS built-in. Just switch on, insert a program disk, then replace with a data disk and off you go! I quickly discovered its limitations but battled on for a few years. I upgraded its 256k memory to 512k, added a double-density 3½" disk drive, added a colour 24-pin DMP and bought graphics and spreadsheet applications.Back to Top

I bought my first Windows-based desktop computer for home use from a work colleague in 1998 specifically to browse the internet, but also to have the option of bringing work home with me. It was a desktop model equipped with a dial-up modem, sound card, graphics card and Windows 98SE. I set it up in the third bedroom (now a study) on a desk I bought from work for £5. The previous owners had conveniently installed telephone points upstairs in our house so connecting to the internet should have been a doddle (how wrong I was). Still, it was a learning experience. I have been online since January 1999. Back to Top

The first PC was okay for internet browsing and sending and receiving email, but for other tasks I soon ran out of disk space. After several failed attempts to upgrade the hard disk (something to do with the BIOS), I splashed out on a newer model from the local supplier. He kindly replaced the CD-ROM drive with a CD-RW as these were all the rage, so to speak. I had 10 gigabytes of disk space, plus 600 megabytes per CD, so I thought that would last me ages! I began using Mozilla Thunderbird and Firefox. Four years and four months later...Back to Top

In April 2005 I took advantage of an offer to buy a PC by instalments, with tax benefits, through the payroll. By way of a change, I purchased a notebook - a Dell Inspiron 6000 Intel Centrino model fitted with a DVD writer - and later added a BT Voyager wireless router and broadband access from Lixxus. Suddenly I found a new freedom - I could take the PC anywhere in the house, or outside (within limits) and still be connected to the internet. This wasn't quite so advantageous because of screen viewability when it was sunny, and who wants to sit outside in the cold? But to be able to compute in the dining-room or the lounge and not be restricted to the study - what a novelty! Back to Top

For my 25-year award I had a Canon A70 digital camera (now a Canon A510) and save my photos and video clips to hard disk and DVD. I have a photo quality printer (Epson Stylus Photo R300) but I only print photos when digital media are inconvenient. In May 2005, we bought a Toppy and spend many hours archiving favourite TV shows and burning some to DVD (for personal use). The Epson also prints to CD/DVD labels and has a built-in multi-slot card reader. I use Fellowes/Neato print media for CD/DVD labels (p/n 99962), booklets and trays/liners (p/n 99966) with Neato MediaFACE graphic design software. These were purchased online from Viking-Direct. Back to Top

At our church, we record morning and evening Sunday services for the benefit of those who are unable to attend. Historically, recordings have been made using 90-minute audio cassettes. In the last few years, the sound system has been upgraded and a by-product of this is an improvement in sound quality on tape. I am planning to ditch the regular use of tapes and record services to PC instead. The recording software I like is PolderbitS Sound Recorder and Sound Editor. Recordings will be distributed as MP3s and players will be provided for those who do not already have one (many are elderly).Back to Top