Tea shops, how little I know and why I feel a bit daft

By | December 1, 2011
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In the Computers newsletter this month:
  • Tea shops, how little I know and why I feel a bit daft
  • A particularly nasty new email scam – don’t let it get your hopes up
  • Helpful videos with subtitles – and without

It just goes to show how little I know. Last time, I ummed and ahhed about whether or not to include the article about Lyon’s tea shops and the first business computer in the world. I thought people might not be interested. In the end I included it because it was interesting to me at least (one of the perks of writing this newsletter is I get to choose what to write about.)

As it turned out, it’s one of the most popular articles I’ve written this year. Lots of people wrote in to say they’d enjoyed it and some even had some interesting stories of their own to add…

“The computer doesn’t make mistakes…” Really?
For example, one of our readers had a boyfriend back in the early 60s who worked for Lyon’s tea shops – and when his pay came in one week it was five pounds over. A good extra sum back then! When he very honestly reported it they told him “LEO (the computer) doesn’t make mistakes.” So he got to keep it – and they had a good meal that night!

It’s something you hear far too often: “The computer doesn’t make mistakes.” In a way it’s true (without getting into quantum physics and why it just possibly could make a random mistake) but the people who make computers, the programmers and the operators do make mistakes. Which means the result is as if the computer had made a mistake. (There’s even an acronym for it: “GIGO” for “Garbage in, garbage out” – put rubbish information in and get rubbish information out).

Another reader was the operator in charge of one of the first government owned computers. He told me about how it not only took up a whole room, but the room had to be specially air conditioned so the computer didn’t overheat. Apparently it could even run two programs at once as long as they weren’t too large, which for the time was really pretty advanced – certainly nothing IBM or any of the big American companies could do for a long time after.

All about the price of hot-dogs…
One other reader worked on some of the early programs for some of the first business computers back in the 60s. One in particular was for the Rank Organisation, calculating the profit from hot dogs sold in the cinema foyer where The Sound of Music was showing. An odd thing to specifically calculate, you might think, but apparently The Rank Organisation had sold the rights to The Sound of Music to someone else because they thought it would be a flop. So the only profit they were making was from the hot dog sales – and they wanted to show they were making something out of it…

Thanks to everyone who emailed in – it’s always nice to know that people are enjoying the newsletter and finding it useful!

Oh, and I’m feeling quite daft. I mentioned last time the theory that the British were healthier than most other countries because drinking tea was good for the innards – this is back when hygiene was generally poor. Several people pointed out that it’s not terribly surprising, given that you boil the water to make tea. I’m feeling pretty daft for not spotting that… Oh well, not the first time…

A new scam you should watch out for
I’ve recently seen a new email scam to beware of. It’s similar to some previous ones, saying it’s from your bank and you need to open an attachment (which will actually be some kind of internet nasty designed to get your bank details).

This one is clever because it’s based on something real – the new(ish) Halifax saving accounts where every month you have a chance to win =A3100,000.

The email you get says that because you’re a Halifax customer, you’ve been entered into this automatically and you’re lucky enough to win. All you need to do is open the attachment to claim it.

Of course, it’s a scam and the attachment is designed to get your bank details. If you don’t bank with Halifax, you wouldn’t be taken in but if you do, it could be quite persuasive – after all, you’ve probably seen the TV adverts so you know the competitions are real.

But I doubt the Halifax would email you to tell you you’ve won. And they really shouldn’t need you to tell them your bank details, either!

So if you get an email like this, don’t get too excited. If you’re not sure about it, generally if you have to open an attachment to put your details in, it’s a scam. If you’re really not sure, phone the bank to check.

Helpful videos now with subtitles (or without)
I mentioned last time that we’ve been busy putting subtitles onto Tame Your PC in 6 Easy Lessons and Get More From Your PC.

They’re sets of videos that show you how to do various things on the computer, with me talking through exactly what I’m doing as I show you. Lots of people have said they find it even more helpful than the best books. (The best books being, of course, the ones I wrote, naturally… ahem…)

But because it’s me telling you how to do it, and describing what I’m doing as I show it to you, that only works if you can hear what I’m saying as you watch – and I know quite a few people who are hard of hearing or even completely deaf read this newsletter. So now you can get copies of the videos with subtitles added as well as the original versions, without subtitles.

Read more about it…
You can read more about the videos (and if you like, order them on free trial) here:

www.helpfulbooks.co.uk/TameYourPCin6Lessons.htm (the set very much for beginners)

and here:
www.helpfulbooks.co.uk/GetMoreFromYourPC.htm (the set that’s slightly more advanced – there’s more about what level they’re at if you click the links)

The second set (Get More From Your PC) is probably more appropriate to most readers of this newsletter than the first set – but if you click the links it’ll tell you more about what’s covered and what level they’re at.

The same links tell you about the normal versions as well as the versions with subtitles. (If you already have the normal version but really could do with the subtitles, you don’t need to just buy them again – just email us and we’ll sort something out.)

Well, that’s it for now – aside from anything else, I’ve still got some Christmas shopping to do!

Tim Wakeling

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