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[Comments] (2) Radio Download: I didn't post last week because I was at a Canonical all-hands meeting. We listened to a lot of talks and then they gave us Chumbies. While I was there I learned something really cool I wanted to share with you. I know you'll be interested because I already talked about East German computers at length and you're still reading this weblog.

I met a guy, I'm pretty sure it was Mirco Müller, who grew up in East Germany. He'd never heard of the PolyPlay (which I'd forgotten the name of at the time), but he was conversant with the home computers of the time, and he mentioned that radio stations would broadcast programs for kids to record. They'd count down and then send a game or some other program over the air. You'd record it on a cassette tape and then use it in your computer's tape reader.

This is such an awesome idea and I'd never thought of it because it's so damn socialist. At the point on the technology curve where computer cassette drives make sense, you need to have private ownership of computers, but government ownership of radio stations and a government policy encouraging kids to mess around with computers (see previous entry for contrasting policies).

Otherwise the people who run the radio station won't want to make a timeslot to broadcast data, and the people who wrote the software will want to sell it instead of broadcasting it. You could have this scenario in a world with very primitive but very cheap computers, where such a show could be popular, but that brings us into the realm of science fiction--where I intend to milk this idea for all it's worth.


Posted by Thomas Thurman at Mon May 25 2009 01:30

This has brought back some happy memories! There was something similar in the UK; it may have been related. The really wonderful thing about it was the language it was written in: they called it "BASICODE", and it was an incredibly primitive VM. You loaded it off a tape before you loaded the program you'd downloaded.

Each version for each computer had two parts. The first part converted your computer to be able to load BASIC text from the BASICODE standard audio format. The second part, which was the really cool part, was a subroutine library with line numbers running between 0 and 1000, to work around the fact that different BASICs did things different ways. So you were forbidden to use, say, CLS to clear the screen: instead you had to write, say, GOSUB 520.

There were games and stuff you could download: they were broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at half past midnight as part of a series called "The Chip Shop"; it was known as "The Chip Shop Takeaway Service" (honestly). I think my parents may still have the universal converter cassette in a drawer somewhere.

Posted by Jason Scott at Sun Jun 07 2009 10:32

I was going to say, dude - I think this was being done worldwide way back, late 1970s, early 1980s.

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