Sunday, 21 October 2018

Manchester Science & Industry Museum

The Science & Industry Museum in Manchester is part of the Science Museum group along with the main museum in London and the National Railway Museum in York. I visited the Science & Industry Museum yesterday and greatly enjoyed the exhibits, especially the railway and aviation halls. Among the exhibits at the museum include surviving parts of the very first "proper" railway Manchester Liverpool Road (from 1830), an Avro Shackleton and Rocket - maybe the only steam locomotive that can rival Flying Scotsman for fame. You can see my photos from the museum here.





Manchester at last!

I haven't been to Manchester before and as I'm nearly fifty I thought it was high time. After last week's last minute postponement due to the weather I finally made it to the fine city in the North West yesterday. It was worth the wait as Manchester is great and I'm sure to return many times in future. I visited the Museum of Science and Industry, walked two canals and travelled around on the tram a bit too. You can see my rail related photos here. More about the museum and canals later.




Friday, 19 October 2018

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

COMAL (Common Algorithmic Language)

COMAL was a programming language first developed in Denmark in 1973 by Borge R. Christensen and Benedict Lofstedt [1]. The language was a structured language and heavily influenced by contemporary popular educational languages including BASIC and Pascal, indeed the intention of the developers of COMAL was to try and combine the simplicity of BASIC with the power of Pascal [2].

What made COMAL stand out was that it was available for 8-bit microcomputers in the late 1970s and early 1980s and was one of the few structured languages available for those computers at the time. Though like a number of "alternative" languages (like Forth on the Jupiter Ace) BASIC proved impossible to dislodge as the language "everyone" had.

COMAL did have some success though and is still used to this day as a teaching language, it was especially popular in Ireland in the 1980s where Apple supplied around five hundred Apple IIs running COMAL-80 to schools. Earlier versions of COMAL had no graphics commands but these were added later on especially to Commodore implementations of the language which included turtle graphics.

Now for some examples of COMAL, if you are familiar with languages like BASIC then COMAL will seem very familiar:

0010 PRINT "HELLO WORLD"

0010 INPUT AMOUNT
0020 PRINT "PLEASE PAY ", AMOUNT

0010 PRINT "HOW MANY TIMES?"
0020 INPUT TIMES
0030 FOR NO:=1 TO TIMES DO
0040  PRINT "HELLO NUMBER ", NO
0050 NEXT NO

[1] John Kelly, Foundations in Computer Studies with COMAL (2nd Edition) (Educational Company of Ireland, 1984) p. vii
[2] Borge R. Christensen, Beginning COMAL (Ellis Horwood, 1982) p. 6

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Golden Age (14) : Serpents in Eden

A highly enjoyable collection of short-stories featuring Golden Age era (though not necessarily genre) mystery and crime. The theme is crime that takes place in the sleepy hamlet and quiet village but apart from that there is a great variety of story here. Some of the crimes being quite mundane too such as Margery Allingham's "A proper mystery" which involves a trodden down plot at a flower show.

But there are also some rather more serious crimes such as in Ethel Lina White's very atmospheric "The scarecrow" about an escaped madman who is out to kill the woman he failed to before. My favourite though is E.C. Bentley's "The genuine tabard" about stolen historical artefacts and fooling rich Americans to buy them.