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: www.translate.google.co.uk
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.