British Kids Using Computers, 1980 – 1981

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Slatyford Comprehensive School, 1981. Photo: The Mirror

All of the photos shown here are from The Mirror/Daily Mirror archives and collected by Us Vs Th3m. Click the link to see more.

The first one shows the lads on a Video Genie, known as the Dick Smith (of Dick Smith Electronics) System 80 in Australia and New Zealand, where it was important as an alternative to the scarce and largely unaffordable TRS-80. It appeared briefly in North America as the PMC-80.

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Longbenton High School, Newcastle, 1981. Photo: The Mirror

The Research Machines 380Z was developed and produced in Oxford for the education market starting in 1977. It was succeeded in 1981 by the Link 480Z, although the 380Z continued to be produced until 1985.

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Benfield Road High School, 1980. Photo: The Mirror

Another 380Z (the CPU is under the TV). The aloof pose of the young lady on the right reminds me of the young lady in this photo. Not everyone found the new technology thrilling, or even interesting.

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Space Invaders World Championship, 1981. Photo: The Mirror

Okay, so the kids aren’t really “computing,” but it’s a beautiful shot. The description identifies the scene as the “National Space Invaders Championship” of 1981, but that event, probably the most famous video game tournament in history, took place in late 1980, and it was exclusive to the U.S. (The Golden Age Arcade Historian talks about it here.) The Space Invaders World Championship was held in 1981.

13 Responses to “British Kids Using Computers, 1980 – 1981”

  1. 1 Barrie April 2, 2014 at 9:03 pm

    Cool pics. The Space Invaders competition was held in April 1981 on the Easter weekend in the Picadilly Hotel in London. It was heavily backed by Ingersoll who were the UK distributors of Atari back then. Got loads of coverage according to the Atari Owner’s Club Bulletin the following month. 1st prize would have been amazing at the time.

  2. 2 2W2N April 2, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    Thanks so much, Barrie! What was first prize?

  3. 3 Barrie April 3, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    It was the Ingersoll Electronics UK Atari National Championship. Initial rounds were on Space Invaders and the finals on Missile Command. Overall winner was “Stephen Bradley, a composed 11-year-old who beat all comers, mostly male, aged from six to sixty. The prize was “A week for two in America, as a guest of Atari – a fun-packed week which includes visits to Atari in Sunnyvale (California), San Francisco and New York – and a trip to Disney World!”

    • 4 HRH Bucket May 30, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      I was there. I played Stephen Bradley in one of the earlier rounds. I was runner up in the Junior Final. The winner in the junior final got an Atari 400 computer. The runner-up (me) got an ingersoll soundaround which was a early sony-walkman like device.

      The funny thing is that the bloke who came second deliberately lost the fina because he wanted to computer.

      • 5 2W2N May 30, 2014 at 3:16 pm

        Do you all have any pictures or material from the competition? I would love to feature them here!

        • 6 Steve Bradley March 21, 2016 at 10:10 am

          I have a completely scrapbook featuring all the newspaper articles stretching all across the water to Oz!

          • 7 hrhbucket June 11, 2020 at 10:10 am

            I would love to have that. I came 2nd in the junior final. I won an Ingersol soundaround. I can confirm my name if you have the details of the winners to prove it.

      • 8 Barrie May 30, 2014 at 3:22 pm

        Is that John Noakes comparing by the way? And is that Todd Carty (of Grange Hill/Tucker’s Luck) playing nearest the photographer?

  4. 9 Steve Bradley March 21, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Hi – Steve Bradley here – got loads of memorabilia from the original event if you want to share it?

  5. 12 Barrie Ellis March 21, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    @Steve Bradley – do you remember if that’s John Noakes from Blue Peter with the microphone?

    • 13 Steve Bradley March 21, 2016 at 6:32 pm

      Hi Barrie – I don’t recollect John Noakes being involved but the Compere was in the middle of the picture; oldish fellow. He had a claxon to signify the start of the heats and I think his jacket was red.
      The chap you’re talking about looks more like Mike Read from Radio 1 but I don’t remember him being there either. Definitely not Todd Carty at the front. Google pictures from the original Grange Hill and you’ll see the likeness is not there. There wasn’t much celebrity involvement during the three day event and most of the post event celebrity involvement was channelled more towards the celebrities themselves and new product endorsement rather than any limelight for myself or Stuart (winner of the junior event). It was a fantastic prize though – an entire week in NY, SF and LA and then my parents arranged to meet us for a second week in Hawaii. Was an occasion that would be a dream for any 11 year old!

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