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11.06.17

How Strong Are Your Moral Values?

Posted 11th June 2017

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The Real You logo

Hey! You, over there! Ever wonder how moral you are? Don’t look at me like that. It’s a straightforward enough question, and easy enough to answer. Isn’t it? No?

Well, never fear. I have a BBC Micro program here which will tell you ALL you need to know. Published by Collins Soft in 1985, The Real You contains 16 tests to – and I quote the back of the packaging – “inspire you and challenge you to discover who you really are”. And one of those tests is simply titled: Morals.

The test consists of 50 questions, and I thought I’d run through some of the most interesting ones here. Feel free to download a copy and play along at home1, though the below gives you enough of a flavour, I feel.

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  1. You’ll need a BBC Micro emulator, and the disc doesn’t auto-boot unfortunately. Type CHAIN"REAL" to get it working. 

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16.03.17

Silent but Deadly

Posted 16th March 2017

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Daring Fireball, 15th March 2017:

Jon Rubinstein Named Co-CEO of World’s Biggest Hedge Fund, Fired 10 Months Later

Mary Childs, reporting for The Financial Times 10 months ago:

Bridgewater has chosen former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein as the new co-chief executive of the world’s biggest hedge fund, replacing Greg Jensen as part of a 10-year handover from founder Ray Dalio.

Mr Rubinstein, who also sits on the boards of Amazon.com and Qualcomm, is expected to join Bridgewater in May and to share the co-CEO role with Eileen Murray.

Now:

Bridgewater Associates co-CEO Jon Rubinstein is stepping down and transitioning to an external advisory role in April after 10 months on the job, the firm told clients in a note Wednesday.

“While over the last ten months Jon has helped build a plan to re-design our core technology platform and has brought in a group of extremely talented executives to build out our technology leadership, we mutually agree that he is not a cultural fit for Bridgewater,” Bridgewater founder, chairman, and co-CIO Ray Dalio wrote in the note.

Except that this isn’t how this piece was written when it was first published. It originally went as follows:

Jon Rubinstein Named Co-CEO of World’s Biggest Hedge Fund

Mary Childs, reporting for The Financial Times:

Bridgewater has chosen former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein as the new co-chief executive of the world’s biggest hedge fund, replacing Greg Jensen as part of a 10-year handover from founder Ray Dalio.

Mr Rubinstein, who also sits on the boards of Amazon.com and Qualcomm, is expected to join Bridgewater in May and to share the co-CEO role with Eileen Murray.

Not where I expected Rubinstein to wind up.

Screengrab here, taken from Google’s cache.1

What’s happened is pretty clear. John Gruber originally saw the FT article about Jon Rubinstein, didn’t clock that it was from ten months ago, and published in haste. Once he saw that the news was out of date, and Rubinstein was actually stepping down, he edited the article to correct the error… but didn’t mention his correction anywhere.

Not exactly fake news of the century, of course. Still, I thought it was worth pointing out, if only because Gruber is one of the good guys. And as the good guys, we should all be as transparent as possible about what we write. If we fuck up, even on a small piece such as this, we need to admit it. Otherwise, who knows what other mysterious edits happen with Daring Fireball after the fact? The issue is one of trust, and it only takes a small breach of that trust to make you doubt an entire site.

I could happily go back through Dirty Feed’s archives and do some nifty editing to ensure I’ve always been right about everything first time. But it’d be a pretty dishonest way to write.


  1. No idea why the spacing is incorrect on the navigation bar there, but I thought editing to make it correct wouldn’t be in the spirit of this article. 

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04.12.16

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Leave RISC OS

Posted 4th December 2016

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So, like, here’s the latest goss, dudes and dudettes1:

Both articles assume a certain level of interest in the operating system RISC OS, and a familiarity with the crappy politics of the platform. If you have that: great, dive right in.

If you don’t, let me sell the articles to you a different way. The first piece captures some of the frustration in leaving the first computing platform you fell in love with. The second piece touches on something I’ve meant to write about for ages, but never quite managed – about how I became less and less interested in computing merely for the sake of computing.

Yes, it’s a love story. Although I must point out that despite the inferences of my friends at school, I have never stuck my knob in the cassette port of a BBC Micro.


  1. I am never using that phrase again in my life. 

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11.10.16

Tom, Dick and Einstein

Posted 11th October 2016

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In celebration of Ada Lovelace Day, here’s an interesting article from the May 1984 edition of Acorn User – on the dangers of just targeting boys in Information Technology classes, and the impact that could have on girls’ future careers…

May 1984 Acorn User article

It is perhaps somewhat pathetic that an article published in Acorn User in 1984 manages to be more progressive than huge swathes of Silicon Valley. Maybe if more people had listened to Robin Ward back then, we’d all be a lot better off.

Scan nicked from 8BS’s Acorn User archive.

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26.08.16

Being Boring

Posted 26th August 2016

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Recently, a prominent startup founder tweeted the following:

“Twitter seems very boring lately.

Actually, maybe it’s the whole tech industry—there’s less drama, fewer interesting characters to follow.”

It struck me as one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen posted on Twitter. It seems to be based on the idea that they only follow people talking about the tech industry. And if you only follow people posting about the tech industry on Twitter, of course it’s going to get fucking boring.

I follow my fair share of people posting about tech on Twitter, obviously. Speaking purely personally, none of them are the most interesting people in my feed. (The most interesting people tend to tweet about old sitcoms, or sex, or sex in old sitcoms.) But what I love reading about on Twitter is merely my personal preference. The bigger issue here is: if you only surround yourself with voices which talk about tech, do you even care about the things that tech is supposed to be enabling?

You don’t write a blogging platform for the sake of writing a blogging platform; you write it to help people tell a story. You don’t write a messaging app for the sake of writing a messaging app; you write it to help people communicate. You don’t work on self-driving cars for the sake of working on self-driving cars; you do it to improve people’s lives. Stories, communication, lives… which are not about tech. If you aren’t interested in all the non-tech stuff going on around you, why even care about tech itself in the first place? Tech isn’t there just for the sake of tech; it’s there to free people to do a million and one other things.

I work in television transmission. And of course, I have a natural interest in the technology behind what I do, and the processes involved. Hell, I still get excited about counting the news on air. But that can’t be the only thing I’m interested in. I have to care about the material I’m putting out too – what the intent behind it is, and what it means to viewers. Otherwise, it’s a) impossible to do my job properly, and b) extremely boring.

I have to care about the people and stories my work is enabling, as well as the fucking mixing desk. Even if the mixing desk is also really interesting.

If you work in tech, but all you’re surrounding yourself with is voices of people in the tech industry, you’re doing a terrible job. If you aren’t listening to the voices of the people who use your tech, then for a start you’re not getting enough context about life in order to help develop the most effective technology in the first place. But then, I have no clue why somebody would only want to listen to people talking about tech anyway. It’s such a tiny part of what life is.

Only following people who talk about tech on Twitter and then being surprised to find it boring is just the same as only following fishmongers on Twitter, and then getting bored at endless complaints about the wholesale price of cod. At best, it shows a terrible lack of self-awareness. And it does nothing to persuade people who already think the tech industry is far too insular for its own good to think otherwise.

Go and follow writers. Go and follow archivists. Go and follow sex workers. Go and follow people who are just using Twitter to do stupid jokes. Go and follow anyone who isn’t just talking about the latest Apple rumours and Android Nougat. The world may suddenly seem an awful lot less boring.

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01.04.15

Acorn Fools’ Day

Posted 1st April 2015

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Detail of The Micro User scan

April Fools’ Day tends to get a bit of a bad rap these days. Every year, my Twitter feed gets more and more filled with complaints about how lame it is. As someone involved in a few April Fools over the years, I admit I find myself getting a bit defensive about it. My argument: it’s easy to get hung up on the “prank” aspect of it, with a roll of the eyes, or a scowl. The very best April Fools take the prank aspect as a starting point… and do something interesting instead. The real joy in most good April Fools gags is them going off and doing something else entirely.

The best example of this that I’ve been involved with was pretending the script for the Red Dwarf movie had been leaked. Sure, of course we were trying to fool people into thinking it was true. But beyond that, the actual script extracts we wrote as part of it… kinda have their own interest. They certainly set my mind thinking as to how a Red Dwarf movie would work – which ends up being far more interesting than the actual prank itself.

Still, I get it. Perhaps the internet does make the day lose a bit of its lustre. These days, as soon as you wake up on April 1st and check online, you’re inundated with EVERY WEBSITE DOING A FUNNY. It can get rather wearing, especially when there’s so much crap about – and as you’re automatically on your guard, the whole thing is far less fun. In the old days, it was different. The April edition of a magazine might plop on your mat, way before April 1st… and maybe, just maybe, catch you unawares. The whole thing had a… less mechanical air.

Which leads us to this article. Some of my favourite April Fools growing up were in the pages of Acorn User and The Micro User; two Acorn computing magazines I was absolutely besotted with. I thought it’d be fun to take a look at some of the April Fools they ran over the years. It’s not a complete rundown of every single one they ever did – just a sample of some of the more interesting ones. Neither are they all gold: I’ve not cherry-picked just the really good ones just to make my point. But it’s a nice reminder of the days when April Fools gags were given just a little time to breathe.

It’s also perhaps a reminder that some of the best April Fools gags are often ones targeted at a very specific audience, rather than a general one. By their very nature, April Fools are a bit self-indulgent – and they’re one place where in-jokes can run riot to very good effect. (Another reason why I think some of the Red Dwarf ones I’ve been involved in work so well.) If you don’t have the background knowledge required for some of these, they’ll inevitably fall rather flat. I’ll give some notes as we go, but that’s very much Worth Bearing In Mind.

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23.02.14

Obscure Videogame Music

Posted 23rd February 2014

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asysYears ago, I created – along with Jeffrey Lee – a website about two of my favourite RISC OS games, Asylum and Oddball. (I did the design and some of the writing for the site, and Jeffrey did all the ACTUAL WORK involving the software.) Both games were loads of fun – but to get them running these days, you either have to have a RISC OS machine, get a RISC OS emulator up and running, or mess around with an SDL version. One thing that doesn’t need any setting up however, is listening to the fantastic music from Asylum.

From the relatively calm music for the easy levels, through to my favourite track for the medium levels, and this absolute insanity for the hardest levels – and that’s only three of the eight pieces – any lover of videogame music should give it a listen. They aren’t very well known, but I think the tracks are absolutely gorgeous. Aching for a remix of some kind.

So: do you have any favourite lesser-known music from games – from obscure tracks from famous releases, right through to something which once sold four copies in 1982? I’d love to put together a mix of them, similar to my BBC Micro TV themes mix from last year. Add ’em below, or send a tweet across. Any platform, any genre, any year. GO.

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19.01.14

Unused Song 2.

Posted 19th January 2014

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Take a spin-off of a spin-off: a 1995 SNES game, based on The Flintstones live action film, based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Take a music track found in the cartridge, which isn’t even used in the game1.

And from this obscure origin, find one of the most gorgeous chiptunes you’re ever likely to hear.

Funny how life turns out.


  1. For the reason why it was unused, see the description attached to the YouTube video – uploaded by the writer of the track, Dean Edwards. 

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14.01.14

A Personal Anthology

Posted 14th January 2014

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Emotional Public Domain Software.

That’s what the opening title of the program reads. This is BBC Micro public domain disc BBC PD #171, “Something About Me”. The catalogue description reads: “…by Oliver Debus. A personal anthology of graphics, digitised images and scanned pictures.”

And that’s what we get. Dated 1989 in one of the program files, you can download the disc image file from 8BS – but I’ve captured a video of it below, to save you the trouble of emulating. (Contains brief, low resolution nudity.)

At first pixellated glance, at a slideshow of 320 x 256 black and white photos, this might seem far removed from anything teenagers are doing now. But come on – pictures of yourself, of famous people you like, of things you’re interested in, of silly cartoons, all with captions – sent out into the world for other people to see?

This is just a 1989 version of Tumblr. How fabulous.


  1. Technically, in fact, this disc only runs on a BBC Master. Disc #75 however, dated 1991, contains an amended version by Duncan Lilly, which changes the visual transitions to work on a normal BBC Micro. 

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06.12.12

Oh, a magic door! Well, why didn’t you say?

Posted 6th December 2012

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Kryten uses a BBC Micro

It is a truism that fandom has hugely changed over the last twenty years. My favourite example of this is Red Dwarf Series 1: it was only released on VHS in 1993, five years after broadcast. Before then, it was only passed around as grotty nth-generation off-airs. Meanwhile, Red Dwarf X was released on DVD a week-and-a-half after the final episode – and on iTunes throughout the run.

Another thing changed from that time is public domain software libraries. Gone are the days where you could order floppy disc upon floppy disc full of fascinating stuff, and have to wait excitedly for it to arrive. I distinctly remember wanting to order nearly every disc from that BBC Micro public domain library; I could only afford a handful. Now, everything is just a click away.

Out of the whiz-bang demos and, erm, mouse drivers, one disc in particular I did manage to order sticks in the memory. That was BBC PD Disc #165 (formerly a Mad Rabbit PD disc), Red Dwarf Documents“Answers to ‘Frequently asked’ questions about Red Dwarf, a complete episode guide and other text files of interest to the Red Dwarf fan.” (Proper Red Dwarf fans will realise that the disc number should clearly have been #169.)

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