Newspaper clippings, old computers and foreign languages…

By | December 28, 2015
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I hope you had a great Christmas – I know I did (but then, playing with kids toys is always fun… oh, and letting the boys play with them, too…)

If you’ve got some new technological gadgets for Christmas, great – just remember that if it’s frustrating learning how they work at any point, take it easy and try to learn a bit at a time.  (and you can look back at previous issues of this newsletter for tips that might be useful for whatever device you’ve got).

The end of the year always makes me look back over the years – and when I’m writing one of these emails it makes me think about how technology has changed over the years.

I’ve been tinkering with computers since I was about 8, so it’s changed quite a while since then.  In fact the other day I came across an old newspaper clipping from when I was at Bodmin primary school and the school got their first computer (a BBC model B) and it made the local paper.  There was my class, stood round in a circle watching one of my best mates getting to have the first go.

A bit different from how it is for Alastair and Edward – Edward starting using an iPad before he was 2!  Only in a basic way, to be fair, but still…

Anyway, it set me thinking about the computer I tinkered around with when I was young – and for some reason I was reminded of something I tried to get it to do.

I had this idea that a computer could translate into a foreign language.  Not just word for word, like a dictionary, but if it “knew” the rules for the language, it could actually translate properly.  Everyone told me I was mad, how could a computer do that, but I set to it anyway.

I had two problems – first the computers back then just weren’t up to it.  The memory on the one I was using (a VIC 20) would store about 500 words, which would need to include the dictionary (in both languages), the rules, whatever you typed in to be translated and the code for making the program look nice and so on.

Probably the bigger problem, though, was that I didn’t actually speak a foreign language, so I wasn’t really the right person to try to get a computer to translate it!

Anyway, what then seemed like a crazy idea is reality now (and has been for years, though they keep on getting better at it).

For example, Google’s translation service is at:
All you do is type in what you want to translate, pick a language to translate it to and away you go.

Software like this even helps professional translators – I have a friend who translates Norwegian and English for a living and for some things he uses a similar program to start it off, then goes through and corrects what it comes up with, rather than having to type it all in from scratch.

Automatic translation like this is not perfect – and the end result won’t necessarily sound very natural.  But if you come across something in a language you don’t speak and you want to find out what it says, it’s worth knowing you can just pop it into that website and you can usually understand the gist.

Anyway, a Happy New Year to all you and yours.

5 thoughts on “Newspaper clippings, old computers and foreign languages…

  1. Jenny Chislett

    Tim, you are much younger than me, but I had one of the first computers. We lived in Hong Kong, and an American came over to demonstrate this wonderful new machine. I was fascinated by it, rushed home and told my husband we had to have one. He came to the next demonstration and we bought one. By that time, the clever Chinese had made a copy of the ‘Apple’, so we had a fake Apple in 1985. The first program was ‘WordStar’ – I so wish it still existed, it was so easy to use and so good, but things move on, I get older, and now technology confuses me. When we brought our ‘Apple’ back to the UK,once it went wrong we couldn’t get it fixed because we knew it was an illegal fake, so we had to buy a new one!!
    Happy New Year to you, your family, and your staff – and thank you…..Jenny.

  2. C Brook

    Thank you for your weekly emails which I look forward to receiving. Today’s email explained about the translation service, so I typed a message to my Welsh friend in English. This was immediately translated into Welsh and I sent it to him as an email. I have yet to receive his comments! Thank you for this information – I shall certainly use this facility again. I look forward to further information like this.

  3. patricia

    I remember the schools BBC computer being delivered to the primary school I worked at and having to learn about it with the children but my first real computer was when my husband and a friend set up their own business and realised that computers were the coming way to run a business and as I was doing the secretarial side I was presented with an Amstrad computer and told to get on with it! Fortunately it came with a very good tutorial disc so gradually got to grips with it. I have struggled to keep up with technology and now at 80 I have been given a tablet for Christmas so will see how I get on with that but know where to come to for advice!

    1. Jenny Chislett

      Pat, I am 80 too, and was given a tablet last Christmas. I am gradually getting used to it, I use it mainly to check emails and use FaceBook…and play games, but I find typing fiddly and prefer to go to the computer and use the keyboard.
      I have a feeling that once we had got rid of our ‘fake’ Apple computer, we had an Amstrad, but over the years I have found 2 marvellous computer buffs who come and sort me out, and also built my last two computers – and they are very cheap. I’ve just had to have a new hard drive and have had them round several times to sort out various problems, and they’ve never charged me
      I have Tim’s book for tablets, so useful, he has been a great find!! We oldies must keep going!! Jenny.

  4. Tim Post author

    Thanks for the comments!
    I remember using Wordstar at some point, too – it must have been at school as I didn’t have an Apple at home.
    I find a proper keyboard easier than a tablet on screen one, too – you can actually buy a separate keyboard for the tablet but I just use a laptop if I need to type anything of any length. On the other hand Dad tells me he actually finds it easier to type on the tablet with a stylus than with a keyboard – I think because otherwise he has to keep looking up from the keyboard to the screen and back down again and refocusing.


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