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Teleputers and Cable Systems
At the end of 2006, British Telecom [the former PTT] launched BT Vision a service which provided terrestrial digital television [Freeview} through an aerial, and on-demand internet-delivered television [IPTV] through a broadband telephone connection. The service used a set-top box. The software was Microsoft’s Mediaroom. An old man smiled and thought the Teleputer of 1980 had been given another great- grandchild to go along with the Media Centre, a modern fusion of television, computing, networking and multi-media that the Teleputer pioneered in 1980. Aldrich could probably be said to have invented what is now known as a Media Centre.

The early 1980s was a time of intense public interest in information technology in the UK. The Government recognised this interest and awareness and appointed its first Minister of Information Technology, Kenneth Baker, who served from 1981-1984. There was much public debate and writing about the social, economic, industrial and even political dimensions of the new technology. There were many conferences and new ideas were appearing all the time.

In 1979 Michael Aldrich had invented online shopping using a modified domestic television. He did not consider a large floor-standing television to be a friendly home terminal. So he invented the Teleputer and then manufactured and sold it. With the Teleputer he realised that home information systems would only be efficient if each home had access to large bandwidth. He believed that about 50m bps would suffice for interactive services plus additional bandwidth for television. But broadband of this speed was unlikely to be deliverable down telephone wires. He concluded that the UK would need re-wiring for broadband.

Out of curiosity he worked up a plan to re-wire the country. By co-incidence, at the point that he had almost abandoned the plan because it would mean changes in UK laws, he was asked to become an advisor to the Government on information technology. He wrote a paper, called here ‘The Original Discussion Paper’, setting out his ideas for discussion with his fellow advisors. This led to him becoming the co-author of a government report. The rest is history.

This section of the Archive covers the Teleputer story and the Cable Systems story and includes a series of three 1983 articles on Aldrich’s ideas for a Wired Community.



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