Bits and Bytes (TVO)

Bits and Bytes was a wonderful educational television series produced by TV Ontario and starring Luba Goy (as the instructor) and Billy Van (as the total newcomer). Back in 2012, I setup up a YouTube channel for this show — partly out of nostalgia, but also because of my appreciation for its style, goals and how well its aged over the decades.

Its first season aired in 1983/84 as part of a(n even more) comprehensive programme called The Computer Academy, and it was syndicated and/or rebroadcasted in other countries, including in Australia (where it was broadcast until, iirc, 1994).

At this time, computers had really only just started to enter the 'mainstream' (and therefore, the home), so this season served, not only to demystify personal computers, but also to introduce the 'average person' to the foundations of computer use, and more importantly, computer theory. Indeed, this show first aired in Australia just after my parents bought me my first computer (a Commodore 64, btw), and looking back, it played no small part in setting me down a path that has seen me working in the fields of Computer Science, Information Technology and Electronic Engineering, as well as in the Research and Development, governmental and commercial sectors.

And it's interesting to note that, although the technology (i.e. the computers and their peripherals) have well and truly aged to the point of quaint nostalgia, many of the underlying principles — and their explanations — remain relevant to this day; indeed, this short clip on the differences between interpreters and compilers (yes, this is the kind of detail they went into in this show) still elicits comments and messages of appreciation, even from university students — no small achievement for an introductory computing show from the 80s :-)

Truth be told, I also quite like the show's sound design and original music (pardon the tracking problem of the first clip):

The second season aired in 1991 and featured Billy Van, now in the role of teacher, however between the fact that it focused on the less characterful world of 286 and 386-based PC systems, and my lack of personal history with show, I have less to say about the follow-up season. This personal aspect notwithstanding, I'm still most grateful to Steve and Mike (who I managed to track down via the Toronto CBM mailing list) for archiving and sharing their copies of Season 2 and the Computer Academy videos that accompany Season 1 of the show.

  • Last modified: 2022-01-06 16:42
  • by Peter