Moore 2 Life:Exploring the waterways

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Chas' Life, PC SOFTWARE

This is about software in use over the ages while I was playing with computers.

BASIC

Back in 1981 I got my first computer, a ZX 81 made by Clive Sinclair. When it was switched on it was instantly running a program called Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code or BASIC. It came with a book describing how to write using that 'high level' language invented in 1964. This was how I learnt how to communicate with my new toy. It was fascinating to discover what the various commands could do. The command line '10 PRINT "Hello" ' would put the word Hello on the screen. The 10 is the first line number. Programs were available on cassette tape. Mostly games. "That's correct Chris!" or "Chris got 8 out of 10 right" was the simple response. Several other computers came on the market like ORIC and AMSTRAD, all still running BASIC.
Then computers were fitted with floppy disk drives and a system called CP/M was used to save and load programs.

IBM invented the Personal Computer. Many software companies created Operating Systems and programs like Word Processors, Spread Sheets and games. IBM created its own OS2. Machine Aided Cognition and Multiple Access Computing (MAC) was developed by the United States of America's Department of Defence.

B I O S

The processor first runs a program called Basic Input Output System. The BIOS is stored in a special chip called Read Only Memory (R.O.M.). This program is not lost when the computer is switched off. After checking its memory chips and the keyboard it looks for a disk in the A: drive. The computer is looking for a BOOT disk or Operating System. If there is no external disk in the drive it will BOOT from the C: drive which is the hard drive inside. (Some machines had two floppy drives and the second is referred to as the B: drive). Now that you know this, it is VITAL that you have a BOOT disk in case the hard drive ever fails. The computer will not know how to work without it! Keep it safe. I know what trauma it caused me when, one day my computer failed to BOOT from the hard drive.

MS DOS & WINDOWS

Microsoft created a Disk Operating System (DOS). WINDOWS is a Graphical User Interface (GUI) which enables the user to run programs by pointing at pictures, called ICONS, with a mouse. This action converts your requirements into commands for MS.DOS to carry out.
We have all got sucked into this American operating system and the majority of computer on the market have it pre installed. There have been many so called upgrades. Every one creating a demand for the next best thing since sliced bread. Each upgrade demanding more power and more memory. The latest 'Vista' has absolutely everything MS thinks you should have built in. It takes a long time to boot up because it tries to run almost everything even if you do not need it. All these active programs in the background tend to make the one you are using run slowly. Some of the programs even complain if you are not on line.
Microsoft requires payment for a licence to use it. Other software companies had to have their programs for Windows approved by MS before release.

APPLE MAC

This Operating System is installed on dedicated Apple Computers which are popular.

LINUX

This is an Operating System. It is 'open source', free and is considered to be powerful, flexible and reliable. Companies like Google and Amazon depend on it. Get hold of a LINUX boot disk and you can run it on any computer using a different set of software entirely. A LIVE CD is one that is booted from. If you are happy with it you can make the computer boot up in Linux. If you are unsure you can arrange to choose which Operating System the computer will boot up with by installing it in a separate partition on the hard drive. It is like having two separate hard drives.
Linux is available in different forms or Distributions. They have their own versions of software and configuration tools and are referred to as Distros. UBUNTU, MANDRIVA, ZONBU, GENTOO and FEDORA are but a few available. They have different attributes. Some computer manufacturers are starting to supply them with a version of LINUX pre installed. UBUNTU seems to be the popular one for beginners wanting to explore LINUX in 2008.
There is a magazine called LINUX Format which also has a web site. www.linuxformat.co.uk
It is well worth getting on the internet for more information. There are a number of sites to log on to and several forums to see for helpful hints and solutions to problems. Each distro has a dedicated range of sites like http://ubuntuforums.org for instance.
Hardware extensions to your computer like printers, cameras, USB memory and external modems may prove a problem so do not get rid of your 'trusty' operating system just yet.
There are however a number of handy programs which are bundled with the distros which I have listed here :-
FIREFOX is a web browser, ABI WORD is a word processor, GNUMERIC is a spreadsheet, GCD MASTER is an audio CD burner while OpenOffice.Org provides a program like MS Office.
So I am sure there are other programs out there to suit your needs.

I have not yet tried to install LINUX on my computer. Just waiting for some confidence! My first concern is getting on the internet with my USB modem, a Huawei e 220 from TMobile. Then there is my Lexmark printer / scanner which did not like Vista for a start!

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