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追忆短暂的英国计算机创新 Nostalgia for the shortlived era of British com

本文摘要:Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain Learned to Love the Computer By Tom Lean Bloomsbury/Sigma £16.99 《电子梦:20世纪80年代英国人如何爱好者上计算机》(Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain Learned to Love the Computer),汤姆利恩(Tom Lean)著,Bloomsbury/Sigma出版发行,售价16.9


Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain Learned to Love the Computer By Tom Lean Bloomsbury/Sigma £16.99 《电子梦:20世纪80年代英国人如何爱好者上计算机》(Electronic Dreams: How 1980s Britain Learned to Love the Computer),汤姆利恩(Tom Lean)著,Bloomsbury/Sigma出版发行,售价16.99英镑。In 1983 Britain proudly boasted the highest level of computer ownership in the world, technology historian Tom Lean tells us in his entertaining and affectionate, if for the most part nostalgic, book on the country’s relationship with computers. About one in 10 UK homes, he writes, had a computer, more than in the US or Japan. 1983年英国自豪地声称享有全球最低的计算机普及率,科技史学家汤姆利恩在他的书中写到。这本书有意思、深情,以大篇幅的浪漫,叙写了英国和计算机之间的渊源。他写到,约每10个英国家庭就有1家享有计算机,多达当时的美国或日本。

At the same time, the UK had several computer manufacturers, one of which was making more of them than any other company in the world — Sir Clive Sinclair’s Sinclair Research. There was even a Welsh computer, the Dragon 32. And the UK had an early version of the internet, Prestel, set up by the Post Office. It trialled an early version of Ocado et al, with the wonderfully terrible name, The Armchair Grocer. 同时,英国当时有数家计算机制造商,其中一家的计算机产量多达世界上的任何其他公司,这就是克莱夫辛克莱爵士(Sir Clive Sinclair)的Sinclair Research公司。当时甚至还有一种取名为Dragon 32的威尔士产计算机。英国还经常出现了互联网的雏形——英国邮局(Post Office)创建的视讯系统Prestel。


Prestel试验了类似于Ocado等在线餐馆的雏形系统,就是名字蹩脚了点儿,叫“扶手椅杂货铺”(The Armchair Grocer)。Another remarkable fact from Electronic Dreams: which UK company would you imagine was, by 1951, the world’s first to use a computer for business, and started making computers for other companies? 《电子梦》还展出了另一个令人吃惊的事实:你能想象在1951年是哪家英国企业在全世界首度将计算机应用于商业、并开始为其他公司生产计算机吗? It was J. Lyons and Co, the teashop chain. Its computer business, LEO, kept going until 1963. Lyons’ role as a computer manufacturing pioneer is the more astonishing — at least to anyone old enough to remember the ostensibly low-tech J. Lyons cafés — in that there was stiff competition from within the UK; companies such as Ferranti, Elliott Brothers, English Electric and British Tabulating Machinery were all selling British boffin-made computers globally. 那就是连锁茶商J. Lyons and Co。


Ferranti、Elliott Brothers、英国电气(English Electric)以及英国制表机械(British Tabulating Machinery)等公司都在向全球出售着英产计算机。Britain’s role in computing, as it emerges in Lean’s book, is similar to England’s place in the history of football. At each juncture, from the work of Alan Turing to Sir Clive to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, even to Sir Alan Sugar at a stretch, the UK was a prime innovator, only later to become a minor player. 在利恩的书中,英国在计算机领域的地位,堪比英格兰之于足球史。在每一个转折点上,从艾伦图灵(Alan Turing)的研究,至克莱夫爵士,再至蒂姆伯纳斯李爵士(Sir Tim Berners-Lee),以后艾伦休格爵士( Sir Alan Sugar),英国一度都是计算机行业的创意先锋,后来却显得无足轻重。Yet while the average non-Brit would probably regard Britain’s part in computing history to be about as interesting as, say, Portugal’s, the UK does still punch significantly above its weight. While few in Britain, you would suspect, used a British computer between around 1995 and the emergence of the Raspberry Pi in 2012, UK tech companies such as ARM, which has its roots in Acorn Computers, are still of global importance. 不过,虽然对那些并非英国人的大众而言,在计算机史上英国就跟葡萄牙一样名不见经传,英国却依然在这一领域尽力而为。

难以想象在1995年左右至2012年卡片式电脑树莓为首(Raspberry Pi)问世之间,在英国还有人用于国产电脑,然而,英国的科技公司,比如源于Acorn计算机公司(Acorn Computers)的ARM,在全球依然举足轻重。But the British are slightly in love with stories of national failure, and it is hard for a true Brit not to giggle slightly reading that the Post Office picked up only 6,000 Prestel users in its first year, peaking at 90,000, with just 12,000 when it died in 1991. The French pre-internet computer network equivalent, Minitel, peaked at 9m. 但英国人对于谈英国告终的故事会有一种错综复杂的青睐,写Prestel的兴衰史每个确实的英国人都会忍俊不禁。在Prestel创建的头一年,英国邮局只网罗到6000名该系统的用户,Prestel巅峰时期的用户量是9万,到1991年破产时是1.2万。而法国与之对应的互联网前身Minitel,用户量的巅峰值是900万。

This book is nevertheless very much for British readers, mostly of a certain age. I enjoyed reminiscences of people starting British computer magazines and shops in the 1970s, but as history it is a little niche. 不过这本书在相当大程度上是为英国人而写出,尤其是某特定年龄段的英国人。我就很讨厌其中回忆上世纪70年代英国计算机杂志及商店创始者的部分。

但作为历史类书籍,这本书显得小众。When it steers, however, towards the colourful history of Sir Clive — especially reminding us of the 1984 fight in a Cambridge pub with his erstwhile right-hand man, Chris Curry, by then at rival Acorn — it is glorious stuff. Lean accuses the British tabloid press of overblowing the incident, but I still feel it was a bit underblown. 书中对克莱夫爵士的精彩轶事刻画最为高超,使我们对1984年剑桥小酒馆再次发生的冲突记忆犹新,在那里克莱夫爵士与他曾多次的得力助手、当时为竞争对手Acorn效力的克里斯柯里(Chris Curry)发生争执。利恩谴责英国小报对这一事件过分图形,但我仍慧意犹未尽。


It prompted a marvellous 2009 BBC drama, Micro Men, but had it happened in Palo Alto, it would have made a Hollywood movie. 由这段插曲还派生出有一部精彩的BBC电视电影《英国电脑鼻祖》(Micro Men),如果它再次发生在帕罗奥图(Palo Alto),一部好莱坞电影说不定不会应运而生。



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