The White Heat of Technological Change

Although everything was analogue, a quiet revolution had been going on and digital technology was actually coming our way. Ordinary people hadn’t noticed anything, but the politicians and decision makers were aware that computers were growing in importance - and they had been for a long time.

Indeed, it was way back in 1963 that Prime Minister Harold Wilson gave a speech which has become famous as a landmark. In it he spoke of the “White Heat of Technological Change”.

white heat

Harold Wilson’s “White Heat” Speech

In the sidebaron the right, just below the picture of harold Wilson, you’ll see a timeline of computer history. Click on it to visit the computer history website and find out how computers began and how they developed. You can see where they stood in 1963 and how right he was to draw attention to their continuing development.

During the following decades, technological progress continued. The 1970s were the era of magnetic tape storage and computers like this were often seen in science fiction films:-


Magnetic tape was used for memory.

But miniaturaisation was happening and by 1970s microchips had replaced transistors and had allowed small machines like the Commodore PET (right) to appear. A few pioneering teachers even began to experiment with them in their classrooms.

The turning point came in 1980. This was the year IBM produced its first computer small enough to fit on a desk. They called it the “Personal Computer” (or PC for short) and it marked a distinct change in awareness.

Computers began to be seen in offices and factories, and even in homes.

Next: Computers appear in offices

© Brian Smith 2015