Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dances with Silica Shop.

Whilst trawling around the dustier nooks and crannies of the Interweb this morning, I came across the picture above - a scan of a mid eighties advertising flyer from Silica Shop - the place where I first cut my computing teeth with a Saturday job whilst still at school. I worked in both their head office which was located in Hatherley Road, Sidcup, and later in their Tottenham Court Road showroom. As well as selling home computers, I was taught basic system administration on the companies' massive (for the time) DEC PDP 11/44 mini computer (oh those huge and unwieldy 8" floppies!) The 11/44 could not reformat its' own disks for re-use; we had a very unreliable electromagnetic disk bulk eraser, but when it packed up, as it did with tedious regularity, I would put a pile of used floppies under an old fashioned rotary dial phone then ring the phones' extension number - the electro magnet in the ringer would then wipe the disks ready for later re-use. Magic.

I found another Blogger with Silica Shop memories - you can read his thoughts here.

I hate to grumble (actually, no that is rubbish - I love it!) I am not a fan of the hot weather; anything over 22 degrees Celsius and I stop working - not fun. I am one of those people who go from a pasty white corpse - like complexion to horribly burned without going through the tanned bit in the middle. I just slap on the sun block, or better still stay indoors until the sun goes away. Still my new high end iMac is due for delivery in the very near future; I doubt I will be going out at all once I have it up and running.

The TV advert below dates back to 1983; it features the very first production desktop computer to have a graphic user interface (GUI) (Okay there was the Xerox Star, but no-one other than geeks like myself have heard of it). It predates the Macintosh by a good eighteen months and in many ways was far superior to the early Macs. It was called the Apple Lisa and it cost a whopping $10,000 - no wonder it did not sell very well! A real ground breaking piece of kit; I remember seeing one in a computer store just off New Oxford Street in London, and then getting escorted off the premises by the security guard when I had a sneaky go on it - remember this was literally years before Microsoft came out with their derivative Windows desktop - all other computers used obscure and arcane command line instructions - there were no user friendly graphics to make things easy, just an intimidating blinking cursor on an otherwise empty screen. Anyway, I was only trying to find out if it played asteroids! It didn't, but I did manage to print out my name on a laser printer (another Apple first) before my untimely eviction.

Take a look at the "businessman" in the advert - recognise him?


  1. Ha-ha!
    You don't see ad's like that anymore.
    Just look at how much TEXT there is.
    I know obviously like anything technical you want to see the spec's but to me this comes across like PC p0rn.
    Look at ad's nowadays, say the Apple website (only cos that's the only computer buying website I've been on for ages), it's all clear plain minimalist not "dulling" your senses with technical spec's as "you know your above that..your buying into an ideal", like car ad's.
    Me I want to know all the spec's not that fact it comes in red and under profession studio conditions can look mean and moody (Pergout I'm looking at YOU!).
    I want to know the geeky things as its a bit of machinery that's used for a specific perpous (ie: getting from A to B in comfort, style and safety). The way I look at it is young men who bodykit their car, yeah it LOOKs great but does it improve the car in any way?
    Well no.
    It's all bluster and vague.
    And girls really don't make a bee-line for blokes in cars*
    Mind you when I was in my early 20's that's what summed me up...anyway I'm now COMPLETLY OFF topic and rambling!

    I remember Silica Shop well as my Dad and parents friends used to get their computer stuff from there (and the little shop in Belvedere Village that's now a cafe and before that a Video shop, AGAIN with the off topic-ness! EEK!)
    To my younger eyes it was very stuffy, complex and seeming full of scary bored looking assistants who were 18 at least! (I was about 13/14).
    Who knows one may have been Proto-Pewty!
    It's now a charity shop with rails of old clothes on the forecourt bit.
    Sad really...

    Talking of old rotary phones, found one in my loft in the most discusting beige and grey colours. Sadly it doesn't work with modern phone lines, when you plug it in you don't get ringing from any of the other phones in the house.

    Now see I love the heat.
    Actually I love searing dryness, best/worst time ever was when I was on a beach not far from Cape Canavril years ago where my shoes MELTED under the heat (I'd left them by the car while I went swimming and they were new)...
    No actually I love anything apart from dampness as it sets my asthma off. Hot and damp is suffocating, cold and damp hurts. Anything dry I'm great with you just have to adapt to the weather.
    That's a thought though, "Pewty with a tan!".

    The TV spot really can't be explained how futuristic it would have looked.
    This was the first example of "point & click". It's funny to think that my phone has about 1000x the processing and capability...oh and memory and...etc etc…

    *Actually they do if they're shallow but then thats the best type when you’re a young bloke #nudge, nudge#

  2. Bought my first Amiga from Silica Systems through an ad in "Crash" magazine...fond memories.

  3. I worked at Silica Shop in Sidcup from 1986-1990. Anyone else?