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back to article Computer expert and broadcaster Ian McNaught-Davis dies at 84

Ian McNaught-Davis, star of the BBC's The Computer Programme, has died at the age of 84. His funeral is being held in London this afternoon. MAC, as he was affectionately known to his friends, was an accomplished mountaineer, television broadcaster, mathematician and computer expert, who lit up the screens of tech enthusiasts …

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Anonymous Coward

The Old Man Of Hoy

Fascinating documentary about the climb of the Old Man Of Hoy in which Ian took part:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYfxQBE9QkI

A TV natural even half way up a sheer cliff face.

RIP MAC.

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Re: The Old Man Of Hoy

Yes, the Old Man of Hoy documentary is well worth watching - they took £200,000 worth (in 1967 prices) of outside broadcast kit by boat from Glasgow to Hoy, landed on the beach and dragged it up the hill on sledges. Epic stuff. Reminds me a bit of the moon landings.

I remember Mac as the presenter of The Micro Programme when I was in my early teens, and later discovered that someone "with the same name" was a famous mountaineer and president of the International Union of Alpinist Organisations (UIAA). It was astonishing to eventually discover that he was one and the same.

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Gold badge

Re: The Old Man Of Hoy

Mr C Hill,

Thanks for posting that Old Man of Hoy link. That was absolutely brilliant.

Watching people broadcast live, on shonky equipment, in a roaring gale, on a vertical cliff face and sounding so relaxed is amazing.

This is one of the great things about the BBC. Every so often, somone has a really stupid idea. Which is usually either insanely difficult, or right at the technical edge of what their equipment can achieve. And then they wander off and do it

Admittedly the equipment is so much better, cheaper, lighter and more versatile now - so probably nothing is as hard as those early days of TV.

It's funny, I didn't remember McNaught-Davis at all when I read the article. But I clicked on the link anyway, because of fond childhood memories of the Adventure Game. And knew his voice. Although I'm sure they cheated. I thought you were only allowed to use the green cheese buns once...

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Silver badge

Re: The Old Man Of Hoy

"The Adventure Game"

I honestly can't think of any television program that I enjoyed more that the Adventure Game. Even today I still play the Escape Room games as they remind me of the program.

I must admit to not ever hearing about McNaught-Davis, shame because he appears to have been an excellent all-rounder.

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Silver badge

I remember Mac fondly from his Beeb presentations. He always seemed enthusiastic and explained things perfectly to my precocious pre-teen ears. things. Although I sometimes wondered if he'd like to strangle the technologically challenged Serle, I know I did.

RIP Mac.

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Anonymous Coward

I think Chris Serle was there as the beginner, the BBC were trying to show people that computers weren't all that hard. If Chris could do it then anyone can. One of their programmes had a sweet shop owner doing her accounts on a CBM PET, classic.

Lesley Judd was the one who wound up most of the viewers, Mac read out a message someone had posted on the Micro Live BBS system that was very critical of her, priceless.

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Micro Live BBS

It's impressive that MAC was reading a BBS, ans people were posting stuff. Wonder what year that was.

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Anonymous Coward

Gronda, Gronda.

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Anonymous Coward

doogyrev

see above

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Bronze badge
Pint

Probably owe him a lot more than we realise.

If it wasn't for great men like "MAC" a lot of us would not be doing what we do today. He had such a great way of making the computer world come alive, the most important thing was he wasn't just about one aspect, he delivered the same passion for business software, games, the inner workings of the micro and the applications computers would be put to in the future.

He deserves his rest.

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If each year he was on the earth were a phone book, his life would represent a stack 84 phone books high.

Always able to explain technical matters in a digestible manner, a great presenter, always compelling with good humour and the perfect foil to eager Fred Harris when peering into the latest VDU display on the BBC in the eighties.

I seem to recall the first time I ever saw an acoustic coupler it was in Mac's hands.

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Silver badge

"..with this, perfectly ordinary microcomputer..."

Fondly remember him intoning as above, drawing the viewers' attention to the Model A at his side.

Inspiring presenter and real expert (never knew he was a mathematician). A rare thing.

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Unhappy

RIP Mac

Try his first wife's maiden name,

This is more than just a game,

One of the good guys.

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Silver badge

A small

but memorable part of my childhood has also died upon hearing this news.

I remember Sunday mornings for that one program....

Like Space 1999 the day before.

RIP fella....

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Anonymous Coward

RIP, a really good presenter who could explain computers to the beginner really well.

I watched many of the micro live and other BBC shows recently as they're available at the archive.org site. The computer industry seemed so much better back then, it wasn't all dominated by big US companies trying to spam us with adverts.

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Silver badge

Funnily enough was just watching Micro Men on 'Tube just the other day and those old theme tunes from my early micro days brought back so many memories.

I remember at the time experiencing a lot of excitement over the coming computer age and seeing these wonderful machines entering our lives. These days just seem grey and boring in comparison. It was a very positive time for me.

And yes of course Chris Serle and Mac were a central part of the experience for me.

RIP

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The Computer Programme, MAC and the live prestel hack were definitely big influences on me choosing IT, so much so that 30 years or so later, I knew instantly who you meant by MAC, will be sadly missed.

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Not a mention of him on the BBC site

for shame BBC.

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Silver badge

He had the knack of making you stop and really listen, with you realising you were doing so.

R.I.P.

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Anonymous Coward

Inspirational Programme

Great series, thanks Ian RIP

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Silver badge

Bless him!

I appreciated his work!

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It was the way he said the words "computer' and 'micro' with his northern accent that sticks in my mind, among a great deal more stuff. MAC was from the era when your dad or uncle passed on the benefit of their experience, rather than the cool older brother/sister giving you useless tit-bits of info like now.

Well remember tuning into Micro Live every Friday evening, and feeling that excitement about what was happening in computers. MAC seemed to look down on computers as entertainment, so you have to wonder what he thought of the whole smartphone concept.

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RIP Mac

Mac was the reason why I got interested in PC's.....even though to begin with, I paid £49.99 for a 1k ZX81, (from WH Smiths), expanded that to 16k with the Rampak and after that I borrowed my brothers Spectrum and bought myself a VTX5000 modem - ah, those were the days.

Here's a snippet I well remember: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rirq-uFFKRc

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Re: RIP Mac

I used to fix the VTX5000, along with the Prism 1000 (Telemod2) & Prism 2000 (they were a very easy fix), along with dare I say it the Voyager series of auto dialing modems down in dear old Devon.

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A say day for us all

Way back in 1983 I appeared on Making the Most of the Micro Live and had the pleasure of meeting Mac in person. A great presenter at the beginning of the modern digital age ... RIP

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Pint

Adventure Game was mint.

I remember watching Mac beat the game, sorry for his passing.

"gnoballib a yb depmac namgaws ylloj a ecnO"

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MrT
Bronze badge

One moment on Making the most of the Micro...

... I remember when they arranged for a Beeb in New York to send a program listing to one in the UK, with MAC sitting there explaining what was happening, must've been a live show since it didn't get edited...

He wasn't flustered at all when the program gave an error - he just went to the relevant line, spotted that the US ROM included 'color' instead of 'colour' so the command wasn't recognised on this side of the pond, corrected it and ran the 'message' - it drew a big red apple on screen with the text (IIRC) "Greetings from the Big Apple". All the time, explaining things, "of course, the spelling is different" etc. Very reassuring presenter - RIP.

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Anonymous Coward

My kids are going to be educated using his excellent presentation work via youtube. RIP

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What an awesome style, never heard of him before, I moved to the UK long after this, but will go back and watch the whole series on Youtube.

RIP MAC

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Sad day

I remember him well. It is a sad loss. The BBC Micro was my second computer and I loved watching his programmes, The trial and error of placing my light sensing diode in its rubber sucker on the TV screen to down load a free program for the BBC Model B. Mac introduced a lot of people to whom computing was a strange thing done by men in white coats in locked rooms to the joy of a writing your own code and making it work.

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Sad day

I remember him well. It is a sad loss. The BBC Micro was my second computer and I loved watching his programmes, The trial and error of placing my light sensing diode in its rubber sucker on the TV screen to down load a free program for the BBC Model B. Mac introduced a lot of people to whom computing was a strange thing done by men in white coats in locked rooms to the joy of a writing your own code and making it work.

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I remember the programs well.Also I still remember in school sitting there typing the code in from a mag to play a new game.

First we had the commodore pet. Saving all the typed in code to tape and when we got a BBC computer saving to floppy disc

Also we had a little line drawing robot using software i think was called LOGO

Tell it to move froward 10 pen down move 10 pen up

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Drogna

Was one of the downloads avaiable over Ceefax for the Beeb. Took the best part of an hour to download, one screen (page) at a time. Very addictive to play, even on a green screen where most of the colours looked the same...

IIRC Mac also wrote one of the appendices to "Everest the hard way", explaining the logistics planning program he'd written for siege climbing. Reams of printout from which got lugged to basecamp.

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Working with Mac

I'm one of the lucky ones who worked with Mac, as a TV director on a couple of BBC projects after the days of Micro Live. As an engineer-turned producer, I got a dream job of making a pilot programme on the experimental european HDTV standard (1250 lines, known as Eureka95 - was in competition with a Japanese 1125 line system, Muse or Hi-Vision). The programme was to be shown at the IBC trade fair in Brighton in 1988 (yes we had HDTV then), to an audience of chief engineers and company bosses. Mac was our first choice for the gig, and happily he took the job on, not only presenting in the studio recording, but doing a personal appearance at the Brighton premiere. It can't have been for the money, but because he took on jobs that interested him.

He was fantastic to work with, as patient and unflappable when the cameras weren't rolling as he appeared to be on screen, and with a wicked sense of humour. Great company and a wonderful raconteur.

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