From the Archives - Wireless World May 1983

May 1983 was my last month in High School and I was in the middle of my final exams. To distract me from my studies, was my interest in electronics and computing - which like any hobby back then, before the internet, was supported by a wide range of magazines.

Many of these specialist publications had appeared overnight as the fad of home computing rampaged it’s way through the UK (and elsewhere). There were magazines for almost every model of home computer - from Acorn to ZX User.

One more established publication was Wireless World, which in 1983 was celebrating it’s 70th year of publication. It had slowly evolved from vacuum tubes and crystal sets to microprocessors, and often had in-depth features and advanced constructional articles.

To support these constructional projects, a small army of specialist component suppliers had appeared, many whom had started trading in War Surplus equipment after WW2.

Technomatics were based in North London, and held the best range of modern digital components as well as complete computer systems and peripherals. If you were building a homebrew machine or extending a home computer, Technomatics invariably would have the parts you needed.

Each month they placed a two page advert in Wireless World, listing their most popular parts and bargains. As a school student I would write off and order these by mail-order, as I lived several hundred miles from London. The parts would normally arrive within a week.

Some 38 years later, I stumbled across the Technomatic advert in the archives. Like a lost treasure trove, it provides a snapshot of the UK home computer industry at that time - complete with prices. If you wanted to compare the cost of a 6502 against a 6809 or Z80 - it’s all there. If you were searching for a 2716 eprom or a 6116 RAM - the details are in the listing.

What amazes me most is the spectacular cost of peripherals - a dual 5 1/4" disk drive for a BBC Micro was a massive £799. This was the time when a pint of beer was about £0.50.

1983 was the peak of the UK home Computer industry. By 1984 many of the UK manufacturers had gone bust, and those that survived were left with huge losses.

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Ah yes, I well remember the two-page ads - Technomatic on the one hand, and often Watford Electronics on the other. These magazine archives offer a means of tabulating the price drop of everything - components, peripherals, computers.