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Eric on computers…

1975 Article

Eric and Ern
Article by Eric from Computing Magazine April 1975

I bet you think I know nothing about computers. I do, because I’ve got one. He is shortish, tubby, has short fat hairy legs and his name is Ernie Wise. Anything a computer can do, Ernie can do quicker. Ask him how much money is in the theatre when it is packed with process ranging from 50p to £2.50 and he’ll tell you the answer before you can say Einstein.

You don’t have to feed in a lot of dreary data. You just say “what is it worth to play two nights at Cleckheaton”, pat him on the head and then his machinery takes over. His eyes light up, his brain whirrs and he snaps out an answer. Ten to one he’ll add some further information such as “by the way, you owe me 75p for those lagers I bought the other night”.

Ernie actually stands for electronic random numeral indicator extraordinary. When the official Ernie breaks down at Lytham St Annes, they send for Mr Wise. The only trouble is, stuffing all those premium bond numbers down his mouth gives him indigestion. Every time he burps, out comes a number like 1AB27631.

But to be honest, I lost all faith in computers when the electricity board sent me a bill for £24,000. It should have been £24, but when I complained they came up with a remarkable answer. “It’s just the computer’s little joke.”, I was told. “He’s a great Morecambe & Wise fan and knew you wouldn’t mind a spot of fun.” How about that?

If I asked that computer what it thought of this feature so far, no doubt the answer would be “Rubbish!” And I don’t blame you. Readers are probably asking at this moment what the blazes I’m taking about. There’s no answer to that, but I can let you into one little secret.

The editor of this magazine isn’t human at all. How can she be when she asks me to contribute? She’s a robot made up of metal, transistor parts and a few bits of sticking plaster. She’s a bit of a drinker though, likes pints of oil, so naturally I’ve agreed to send her a crate of oil if she can come up with a winning pools line.

The dictionary definition of computer is electronic calculating machine; sounds a bit like Brian Clough. But no matter how often I am reassured, computers still worry me. I have a sneaky feeling that one day they will take over the world with Ernie Wise leading them. Just think what he could do in show business – tonight on TV “The Ernie Wise and CBX 1349 Show”. The only problem would be, if chirpy CBX took over my face-slapping routine Ernie’s cheeks would be raw.

Frankly, I’m waiting for a computer that is going to give me all the details about Luton Town’s next game. Just think what that would mean; a computer breakdown of the other teams strategy a week in advance. We could sweep everything before us. I thought that’s what we were heading for this season. So I asked my human computer, Ernie, what the season had in store for Luton and he forecast the League Championship and League, FA and European Cups. But what I forgot was that he was drunk at the time. Well, after all, he’s only human.

One day I suppose we shall all have mini-computers installed in our homes and it will do everything. Well perhaps not everything, although I remember a TV play once when a computer-built man took over from a husband. No wonder Ernie Wise looks so smug. So that’s what he gets up to when I give him the night off.

He’s actually been smiling quite a bit recently. In fact he’s really getting quite frisky. All the excitement is making his hair stand on end.

But fortunately, you still can’t see the join.

© Computing Magazine 1975

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