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Starting the C1 again

It was time, at the start of the week, to run the C1 for a little bit. It's hard to believe it's been two months already since I jumped it from my little car.
However, having done that, it made me wonder... I have a battery in the mower. It's 12V. Could it...?

Starting the C1 from the mower battery
Starting the C1 from the mower battery.

The answer is yes, effortlessly. ☺

 

Speaking of mowing

It's what I did on Friday evening after coming home from work. With a fully charged battery, this time Marte wanted to start with a fully open choke, no air filter, and me throwing in petrol using a drinking straw like a sort of siphon. Well, at least I got her started quickly. That meant I could get everything some before sunset and/or the bugs.

Building clouds
Building clouds.

As you can see, I needed to keep one eye on the sky, that looked rather dubious. As it happens, I called that one correctly. It rained hard about an hour after I finished, through the night, and several times on Saturday.

 

More costs of Brexit

PayPal is increasing the fees paid between EU and British transactions from the current 0.5% to 1.29%.
Likewise, the EEA intechange capping of 0.3% for debit cards and 0.2% for credit cards no longer applies to transactions to and from Britain as it isn't an EEA country. As such, both Visa and Mastercard have said the fees will increase fivefold from mid October. Which will be 1.5% for debit and 1% for credit cards.

Because it clearly isn't already difficult enough to work with British companies from the EU, and vice versa.

 

A fiver from Amazon

Amazon popped up a promotion on my phone. They were offering me a fiver. I tapped the "Apply promotion" button, but pretty much forgot about it when looking at the Tc&Cs - a limit of 10,000 codes, new things sold by Amazon but not Marketplace, no books, must be at least €15, can't be used by 1-click (not that I use that).

On Thursday while on break, I remembered that I was running out of vitamin tablets. The one I take is Alvityl Boost (originally Alvityl Tonus) that is a big tablet that dissolves in water to give a weird tasting drink (they claim it's orange, but it's not like any orange I've ever eaten!) containing 10 vitamins (B1-6,B8,B12,C,E), two minerals (zinc and magnesium), 60mg of ginseng extract, and 50mg of caffeine (about the same as a regular espresso, a half cup of brewed coffee, or a strong black tea). I'll be honest with you, it's probably the caffeine that makes me feel better.

They were on Amazon for €7,89 a pack. My local chemist charges about €11 for the same thing. So I decided to purchase two.
To which Amazon said "that'll be €10,78 please".
Yeah, I'd actually forgotten about the reduction coupon. So I was rather pleased to get two packs (40 tablets) for less than my chemist sells one.
Thanks to Prime, ordered on Thursday afternoon, delivered on Saturday morning.

Two boxes of Alvityl Boost
Two boxes of Alvityl Boost.

There are versions with more minerals and/or vitamins, but I choose the one with added caffeine. Plus, I don't need added chrome, I already think this world is mediocre.

 

Big Town

I went into Big Town yesterday. Mostly as a celebration of "yay! I'm not working today!".

I only had two destinations in mind this time, the Leclerc and the burgers. I checked the websites for Action and Lidl, and neither looked to be worth a visit.

At the Leclerc, I picked up food for the week. I wanted to pick up some extra Blonvilliers Bio brown sugar (it's the perfect taste in a cuppa, makes it really mellow). I took two and noticed there were only two left. Supply issue? Well, it wasn't going to be my supply issue, I cleaned out the shelf.
The computer didn't feel the need to check my purchases, so I was through the checkout in no time. It came to a little under €60, which was good.

I stopped by the separate gardening section and asked if they had the strimmer mentioned in the publicity (a little two stroke with disc and string heads, for either €69 or €79 (I forget)).
"No, it never arrived. We ordered them. Next week perhaps?"
This is a customer service fail. At the very least, he should have taken my phone number (or directing me to reception for them to do it) to let me know when the product arrives. I get that the current health situation is affecting things, it's the same at the company I work for. My problem is the dismissal with "next week perhaps". Does he think I'm going to keep on coming by to see if it has turned up? I live 25km away. Or, worse, does he think I'm going to phone them over and over to find out?
So, okay, I guess I won't be getting that as I don't plan to go back to Châteaubriant in the near future. Hell, I still haven't sorted myself out a new phone/contract with Orange and that was due in February. I kind of want to avoid going places...so, yes, going to Nantes of my own volition was a really big deal!

Afterwards, I - of course - got myself a burger. Well, four actually. You see, I get myself a Double Steakhouse to eat when I get home, and a Double Whopper to heat up on Sunday. They were running a promo for a "mystery burger" for €2.
This was fun. It meant downloading and installing the Burger King app, signing in (uh, what was my password again!?) and obtaining a coupon code. Actually, the rules said I could use two per day. So I did.

Two Mystery Burgers
Two Mystery Burgers.

When they did this back in... 2018? The burgers were randomly selected by the computer. I got a chicken thingy, and mom got a Double Steakhouse.
This time, as you can see from the picture, I got a BBQ Bacon. Twice. As a programmer, I have serious doubts as to the competence of their randomiser. ☺
The rules state: l'attribution, selon un algorithme mathématique, d'un burger parmi une sélection and that I should have a 15% chance of a BBQ Cheese and Bacon.

Still, two burgers and onion rings was my main meal yesterday. I'm eating the Steakhouse as I write this, and the Whopper? Um....
The problem with BK is that, unlike the other place, their burgers fill me.

Of course, we'll tactfully gloss over how that one burger bar visit cost almost as much as half of my week's shopping, m'kay?

 

Clive Sinclair

I'm sure the world, by now, is aware that Clive Sinclair kicked the bucket. Being a Sinclair bucket, the handle would have fallen off.

Clive would best have been described as "a flawed genius". He had the ideas, he was often ahead of his time, but his exercises in cost cutting often made the products...shall we say, "dubious"?

Let's face it, the Spectrum was crap. I say that not only as a smugly superior Beeb owner, but because it really was dismal.
But, on the other hand, it was cheap. This got in into the hands of vast numbers of children, who had the time and patience to figure out a lot of the machine. The parts inside were standard and could be understood. And, then, armed with the right PEEKs and POKEs, some interesting things could be done.
This was the era when it was possible to write computer games in a bedroom. A large number of 44-55 year old British IT professionals started by doing exactly that.
While the BBC Micro was superior in every way, it was the Spectrum range that people remember. Because it was the Spectrum range that the majority of people had bought for them. As non-nerd parents wouldn't understand the difference, they'd just see one costing "quite a bit" and the other costing "bloody hell". So they'd have picked the cheaper one. After all, you're a kid, you'd probably just end up breaking it, right?

This decision to hammer down the price had a lasting impact on the home computer scene in the eighties. Because, like Betamax vs VHS, the deciding point isn't which is best, it's which one sells. And cheap sells.
To a degree, also, the naffness of the Spectrum helped many a schoolkid understand computers in a deeper way than kids these days brought up on the likes of Scratch and Python. To get the best out of a Spectrum (and any other of the older computers) one had to be rather inventive. Sometimes you had to optimise your code right down to counting individual clock ticks. This was just how things worked in those days, and it meant you really had to understand what was going on inside. So for making a cheap bit of crap that forced us to learn what was really going on - Clive, thank you.
Okay, I was a Beeb owner, but I did the same tricks after watching a schoolmate pore over the Z80 opcode sheet to write down code (in hex!) in a notepad. I realised that exactly the same process can be used on the 6502, and learning that helped with some of my early ARM code.

It is ironic, perhaps, that The Pi Foundation followed in his footsteps. You see, back around 2010, the same was true of development boards. Sure, there were development boards with ARM on them, such as the Beagle boards. But they were expensive. Wasn't there supposed to be one with eight cores named after a type of fish, costing about half a grand?
Then along came the Pi guys and they made this dinky little thing and sold it for a nominal $35 (not that exchange rates are ever fair!). This wasn't a terribly impressive device, having only 256MB onboard and an ARM11 series processor. But it did contain a pretty ass-kicking GPU that could easily outclass OMAP video hardware. And so OSMC/Kodi/whatever-its-called was ported, and it was a little slow in the UI but it worked flawlessly at playing videos. I've watched an HD film on H.264 on my Pi. Wasn't at all fazed. That's more than my 2.8GHz Pentium4 box managed.
Even though it wasn't a great spec, the Pi was like the Spectrum. Cheap and cheerful and got things done. Pretty much overnight a solid community started up around the Pi. And since the Beagle xM cost over four times at much for twice the RAM and 300MHz extra and an inferior graphics system, it was pretty much a "no brainer" given that you could put together a complete computer (monitor, keyboard, mouse, PSU) around the Pi for less than the cost of the more expensive board.
This also had a knock on effect on the perception of the devices. You could experiment with them. If you messed up and blew the thing, well, it's not great - but it's a lot easier to replace something that costs $35 than $149.
The Pi guys followed up with several revisions to the Pi, the ridiculously cheap Pi 0 (a fiver? seriously? that's like Happy Meal prices!), and the Pi 2 that had twice the memory of the Beagle xM and a processor that was arguably faster even as it was 100MHz slower (architectural improvements). Then the Pi3, and to date the Pi 4, which brought 64 bit to the table.
Think about it. Your $35 will, today, get you a 1.5GHz ARMv8 processor, 2GB of RAM (pay more for 4GB or 8GB), 2.4/5GHz WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit Ethernet (with the option of PoE using an add-on), 2 USB 3 ports and 2 USB 2 ports, 2 HDMI ports (up to 4Kp60), MIPI camera and display ports, stereo and composite video output (but can do digital audio over HDMI), and the standardised GPIO header for adding custom hardware.
That's mindblowing for $35. It's pretty obvious why the Pi is the dominant little ARM board. And it all started with a trick similar to that played by Sinclair. Make it work and make it cheap.

The Sinclair C5 was a joke. A plastic slipper you sat in. An electric car that was tiny, that truck drivers might have only seen the dinky little flag that was stuck on the back. It was bad in almost every way, and I don't think Clive ever lived that one down.

Faster forward lots of years. It's 2020 (the year that reality forgot). Major governments are making infeasible proposals of doing away with combustion engines in about twenty years. Battery cars are going to be the way forward. The Renault Tweezy is a thing. It's basically a high tech more car-like C5, isn't it?

I can only hope that, before he died, Clive took a good long look at everybody and said "I bloody told you so, back in 1985!".

Because he bloody did.

 

 

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J.G.Harston, 20th September 2021, 00:03
Had a Spectrum *bought* for them? I did a paper round for a year to save up to buy mine. I then spent most of my time with it writing software to try and make it "Beeb-like", designing and building hardware add-ons and drivers, starting with - of course - a decent keyboard. One a parallel ASCII, one a matrix. And joystick and printer interface, and loads of code to communicate with a Beeb to transfer data back and forth. And then attempting to write a BBC-BASIC-alike before just taking Z80 BBC BASIC itself and writing the MOS interface wrapper. 
 
I've spent more than 30 years trying to get people to pay me do this. :D 
Steve Drain, 20th September 2021, 10:30
Although I agree that the BBC B was technically far superior, the Spectrum was far from 'crap'. 
 
I had had some exposure to micro-computers in the Navy when I went to a computer fair in 1982 and saw a whole range of offerings - Lynx anyone? The Spectrum was by far and away the cheapest and I ordered one of the first 16k models. That one, and the handful of later models I bought never actually broke, although the displays were never free of dot-crawl. I was instantly hooked and got very involved in the whole scene. 
 
After leaving the Navy all my Physics PGCE coursework and lessons plans were done on one with my own, Kappa brand, keyboard. I was mostly using RM480s in my first job and I did not really come close to the Beeb until 1986 when I was asked to take on the network in my second job. I have been an Acorn devotee since. However, having used BetaBASIC on the Speccie, I was disappointed with BBC BASIC and I have spent the rest of my life trying to bring it up to that standard. ;-)
David Pilling, 20th September 2021, 16:03
It struck me that the news of Clive Sinclair ("Uncle Clive") did not make the top headlines - these days he is not considered that important. 
 
I had experience of his earlier offerings - Hi Fi - which were over spec'd. Always sounded good in the adverts but never performed as well. 
 
I think that is why I did not buy his calculators or computers. 
 
As an A level student I could not work out how to find square roots with a (four function) calculator, and wrote off to Sinclair to ask for a copy of the manual that came with their calculator which explained, and they sent me a copy - that was kind. 
 
Sinclair set off as editor of Practical Wireless magazine in the early 60s - moved to marketing transistors to hobbyists and then small radios. I'd say the glory days ended with the Spectrum. 
 
So he was from our world, electronics tinkerers, hobbyists. Raspberry Pi is today's version. 
 
...and yet, and yet, he did not build an empire, Sinclair Computers are a rapidly fading footnote, it did not turn into something like Apple. 
 
We could say the same of Amstrad, who took over the Spectrum. Alan Sugar mocking Acorn for their academic approach - yet ARM is the big thing to come from this era. 
 
"Chris Curry founder of Acorn - joined Sinclair Radionics in April 1966 where he worked for 13 years." 
 
Rick, 20th September 2021, 22:06
"the Spectrum was far from 'crap'" 
 
We'll have to agree to disagree on that. I'm thinking of the horrible colour system leading to attribute clashes (and some games just didn't care so the background would change around a moving character), the horrible keyboard, the extremely idiosyncratic way of entering programs, and my friend (the Speccy owner) didn't dare move when it was loading. Oh, and shall we mention the naff edge connector for the joystick interface so if you got a little too excited, the machine would crash. 
It was awful. But it was comparatively cheap. 
 
"with my own, Kappa brand, keyboard" 
 
So you agree the rubber keyboard was best left as a toy for fettishists, right? ;) 
 
Conversely, I don't think I've ever used a home computer with a keyboard quite like the Beeb. In comparison, the silly little membrane things you get these days are...what's the right word...insipid? 
 
"I was disappointed with BBC BASIC" 
 
Ah, but you aren't comparing like with like. The default Sinclair BASIC was a joke, which is why Beta BASIC was created. 
Nobody saw a need to replace BBC BASIC because it was so much better than the sort of stuff you'd see in books and magazines (remember those Osborne programming books?). 
 
I mean, by that logic the Spectrum was a complete joke because you couldn't add a second processor. ;) 
 
Could you even add a disc drive? I don't mean the 128K model with the weird 3" drive, I mean like a generic 5.25" drive. 
Could you add a printer? A real printer, not that thermal ribbon thing. 
 
"and yet, and yet, he did not build an empire" 
 
I was thinking about this while at work and it's actually hard to think of any British empire. I guess the closest we have is ARM. Perhaps world domination just isn't in Brit DNA? 
After all, we tried that for real and did it will, bit it was a pain in the arse managing all those pink bits. 
Piers, 21st September 2021, 14:45
I used to jump start my car from my C5 most winters. Only drove every few weeks, but I could keep the C5 on trickle charge easily as it fits in a modern house's garage unlike any actual car. 
 
Mind you, the replacement car's electric so needs to be plugged in all the time anyway. Maybe I should've got into the habit earlier.

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