Julian Knight’s Potted IT History

Published: | Updated: | by Julian Knight Reading time ~5 min.
📖 Kb | 📎None | 🔖None

I occasionally find the need to try and work out what technology I used when, this page is a rather belated effort at capturing some of that information.

It may not be correct and it certainly will not be complete!

Timeline 🔗︎



Introduction of IBM mainframe computers


Charles Goldfarb at IBM helps invent “Generalised Markup Language” (GML) the first forerunner of HTML [1]



Charles Goldfarb developed
“Standard Generalised Markup” (SGML) language. The direct forerunner of HTML.


Information Builders introduce FOCUS for IBM mainframes. I would later (mid-80's) learn and support FOCUS.


I Left school and did summer jobs for the next 3 years in a mainframe operations department using IBM mainframes

IBM’s “Document Composition Facility” product introduced using GML


Commodore PET released. Sinclair ZX80 released. First graphical microcomputer spreadsheet, VisiCalc, launched.



I Left Uni having been exposed to the joys of Fortran Programming via punched cards, a 72 step programmable Commodore calculator, analogue computing (!) and a PDP-11.

Early ’80s sees launch of Acumen, an OLAP/BI language and database developed in the UK by Mars – based on Strategem. I would later (mid-80's) learn and support Acumen, developing a number of key business systems in it and writing a variety of utility functions including charting and date/time utilities.

I Started fulltime work in IBM Mainframe operations, also learned to programme in IBM’s APL mathematical language.

IBM PC launched. BBC Micro launched. Sinclair ZX81 launched. Commodore Vic-20 launched.

December 1981

I Purchased a BBC “Model A” microcomputer and waited several months for it to arrive!


Upgraded my BBC Model A to a Model B. My first go at soldering electronics. Blew the ADC chip and had to buy a replacement.


Taught myself to programme in a variety of languages including BASIC, FORTH, PASCAL, LISP and 6502 Assembler. FORTH became my favourite and I joined the UK FIG (FORTH Interest Group).


TCP/IP is adopted as the protocol standard for ARPANET, the forerunner to the Internet.

Acorn Electron launched, FidoNet starts up


Became an Analyst/Programmer learning COBOL and structured analysis and design.

DNS services start, JANET starts, Moderated newsgroups introduced on USENET, Apple Mac introduced


Replaced the BBC Micro with an Amstrad 6128 running CP/M, big mistake, a very boring machine.


NNTP created.

January 1987

Commodore Amiga A500 launched.


Moved from COBOL programming to “Personal Computing”, mainframe style using ISPF, APL, Information Builders FOCUS (a 4GL reporting tool), a mainframe spreadsheet called DynaSoft Dynaplan (AFAIK the first spreadsheet to use 3 dimensions) and and 4th generation tool called Acumen (which would now be called an OLAP tool).

Also taught myself PL/1 to do some utility programs. Worked with colleagues to build functions that would allow a pseudo-GUI to be created on a colour text IBM terminal screen. Following the recently released IBM "Common User Interface" GUI standards. Also built a library to use IBM's mainframe charting libraries without having to purchase the eyewateringly expensive charting package. Both libraries used to good effect creating business applications using Acumen.

Document processing was done using a mainframe SGML based tool – a good early grounding for later HTML. Later on started to work with PC’s as well, OS/2 and IBM LAN Manager. Word processing using IBM Displaywrite then Lotus Ami Pro.

Acorn Archimedes launched.


Replaced my Amstrad with a Commodore Amiga 500, a fantastic and imaginative personal computer. Learned about computer video, 3D imagery and rendering. The Amiga used Rexx for a system-wide scripting and automation language. I'd first learned Rexx on IBM mainframes.


FidoNet is connected to the Internet. IBM Mainframe spreadsheet: Dynaplan from DynaSoft already in use.


March 1990

Lotus introduce IBM mainframe version of 1-2-3 spreadsheet (DynaSoft release Dynaplan v4.0 same year).


ARPANET ceases to exist, Archie released, first commercial dial-up Internet provider.


Moved from Mainframes to PC’s full time, Introduced to Lotus Notes (release 2) and loved it. Got my first palmtop, a Psion 3. Got myself an Amiga 3000 under Commodore’s developer program. Great for 3D modelling (Imagine, Real-3D and Lightwave) and experiments with video.

WAIS, Gopher and WWW started, PGP created.


Demon Internet Services started up in June, 1st low cost (£10 per month) service in the UK.


Got my second palmtop, a Psion 3a. The Amiga’s got stolen along with all my disks and backups!! Replaced them with an Amiga 4000.


“Official” start of SPAM (US law firm Canter & Siegel spam Internet newsgroups)


Moved from using FIDOnet to the Internet thanks to Demon Internet Services.


Finally got my first PC at home after holding out for so many years!

Demon Internet offers ISDN access for £10 per month


Got my 3rd palmtop, a PalmPilot Professional


Acorn leaves the personal computing market.



Got PC number 2, an AMD 1200MHz based one with 512MB of RAM.


Got my 4th palmtop, a Sony Clie PEG-T625 (Palm OS 4.1)

March 2004

Finally got broadband! Say bye-bye to Demon Internet, hello to PlusNet.


August 2010

Got an iPad 1 32GB.


January – Got a Humax HDR Fox T2 personal video recorder. Freeview HD, 2 channels.
February – Got iPhone 4 32GB – A massive step up from Windows Mobile.

Apple iPad 2 introduced


Moved broadband onto an FTTC connection from Origin Broadband. 40Mbps down, 10Mbps up (could have more!). Bye-bye to “slow” old 2Mbps ADSL 2+, hello to downloading films in 5 minutes!


To Do 🔗︎

  • Other work stuff: Directories (LDAP, X.500), PKI, etc.

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