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‘My friends call me the BlackBerry queen!’ Meet the people clinging on to old tech – from faxes to VCRs | Technology

More than 40 years since the fax machine became an office mainstay, it seems the party is finally over. With telecom providers no longer required to offer fax services, these machines may soon be consigned to the dusty attic of bygone tech. But for the TikTok generation, who’ve never known life without wifi, concepts such as fax, dial-up internet and Friday night trips to Blockbuster Video aren’t just outdated, they’re completely alien. Even so, not everyone has forgotten about the charms of older technology. From the clattering keys of an old typewriter to the nostalgic joy of a chunky Walkman, some people have never left their favourite tech behind.

‘I prefer videos because I enjoy owning something physical’

Billy Cunliffe, 79, Wigan, retired

It took me three weeks to save up £60 to buy my first secondhand video player in 1981. Now I’ve got seven players and more than 6,000 VHS tapes which I’ve collected over the years. Although I do use Netflix, I prefer videos because I enjoy owning something physical, and I’ve got a lot of content you can’t find on digital channels. I love my old movies, and I’m also a big rugby fan. I’ve recorded every Wigan match that’s ever been shown on television.

Billy Cunliffe at home with his huge collection of VHS tapes, vinyl records, cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes.
Billy Cunliffe at home with his huge collection of VHS tapes, vinyl records, cassettes and reel-to-reel tapes. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

I feel like VHS offers better picture and sound quality than DVDs, which scratch easily and stop working. The downside is that it’s really hard to find VHS tapes and video players now, and when you do they can be expensive. People are going back to their roots and many now feel that older things look nice, so the prices of vintage tech are going up. I’ve started taping over some of the things I no longer watch as I find it impossible to get new blank tapes. Luckily I’m an engineer, so I’ve been able to repair a lot of my own video players and I take really good care of all my tapes. I’m a bit of an expert now.

As well as all the videos, I have more than 200 reel-to-reel tapes [magnetic tape audio recordings, popular in the 1950s and 60s], which include a recording I made of a televised Beatles performance at the London Palladium in 1963. I had to hold the microphone up to the television to record the sound, but the quality is just as good as the day they played. I’ve always been a big fan of vintage technology. My granddaughter loves vinyl and cassette tapes so I think she’s following in my footsteps.

‘I feel fax machines do still serve a purpose’

Lisa Ford, 54, St Louis, Missouri, nurse

I work in a hospital and still use the fax machine a lot. It’s really practical, secure and straightforward. There are situations where you have to share information in a non-paperless way, so I do feel they still serve a purpose. I like them because they’re incredibly easy to use, and it’s visual rather than virtual, so you can see the confirmation that something has been sent and received. If you want to send a document virtually, you often have to convert it to PDF or another format, which is more complicated than a fax. I still use a pager too, which is great when you don’t have phone reception or internet access because [it uses radio signals so] it will still go off.

Lisa Ford with her pager and typewriter.
Lisa Ford with her pager and typewriter

While new tech is more efficient in many ways, I feel there’s a bigger security threat because we don’t know how our data is being harvested and what it’s being used for. There’s also a nostalgia element with traditional tech, which explains why I have an old, heavy typewriter. I use it around the holidays for writing cards and notes, and it’s always a conversation starter when people see it.

‘People look at my BlackBerry phone like it’s an ugly kitten’

Aren Devlin, 39, London, actor

Aren Devlin’s BlackBerry.
Aren Devlin’s BlackBerry. Photograph: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

I’ve been using BlackBerry phones for almost two decades, and I’m known by my friends as the BlackBerry Queen. I got my current handset five years ago and I’m holding on to it for dear life. I love the tactile keyboard and knowing that I’m not accidentally pushing the wrong buttons. People look at my phone and ask to hold it like it’s an ugly kitten. They’re fascinated by it, but also shocked that I still use it. Although I love my BlackBerry, I know I’m living on borrowed time because some of the functions are no longer working. At the moment, it still works for calls, emails and WhatsApp. I can take photos, but they’re not the best quality. Luckily I don’t use the camera much so it’s not a big problem for me.

I think it’s good to not have all the apps because I could see myself wasting too much time. The newer phones that are constantly beeping and buzzing also disrupt our concentration more. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to get another BlackBerry when this one breaks as they’re no longer being made, but I won’t consider getting a new phone until then. I’m very conscious of my carbon footprint, so if something’s working and I enjoy using it, why would I replace it? I think the constant turnover of new technology is wasteful.

‘I hope my Walkman never breaks’

Tess Caven, 56, Essex, strategy and marketing manager

A Sony Walkman from the 1980s.
A Sony Walkman from the 1980s. Photograph: AKP Photos/Alamy

I bought my current Walkman in 1989, and although I live and work in a very tech-driven world I still enjoy using it. My dad was stationed in what was then known as Burma during the second world war and used to tell us amazing stories about his experiences, and in the 90s I recorded them on cassettes to make sure I’d always be able to listen to them. Even though I know I could have them digitised, I like listening to them on the Walkman because you can hear all the crackles and sounds in the background. It takes me back to when I spent the day recording the stories, so there’s a real sense of nostalgia as well.

I’ve also got some old mixtapes that I’ve kept since the 80s which my children enjoy listening to. They’ve got Spotify too, but we like the sound of the Walkman because it’s less polished and gives the music more depth. The downside is that although vinyl is really popular again now, you can’t buy tapes and players easily. I hope my Walkman never breaks – I’ve no idea how I’d get it fixed.

‘I find using a typewriter meditative’

Carla Watkins, 36, Colchester, photographer

I’ve got eight typewriters, three of which are in working order. I use modern technology as well, but I love using my typewriters for letters and journal entries. I have one friend I keep in contact with entirely through typewritten letters, which is lovely. In a digital world, it’s nice to get a big chunky envelope full of the kind of news you don’t see in a Facebook update.

I find typing meditative, because there are no distractions – you can focus better. Finding people to fix them can be difficult and expensive – it’s a bit of a dying art – but I’m determined to get some of my other typewriters restored. I’m scared of taking them apart myself in case I can’t put them back together again.

Carla Watkins with her collection of typewriters.
Carla Watkins with her collection of typewriters. Photograph: Carla Watkins

My oldest typewriter is from around 1910, and I like thinking about the history of these machines and what has been written by the generations before us. I also have a landline phone with a rotary dial, which I love. I will spend afternoons having long chats with my friends, and because I can’t do anything else at the same time I’m able to fully engage with the calls. I’m definitely an old-fashioned girl at heart.

‘When you play on Atari, the focus is completely on the game’

Neil Thomas, 42, Cotswolds, museum owner

I got my Atari VCS games console in 1985 when it was handed down to me by a family member. I loved playing on it as a child. My favourite game was River Raid, where you’d fly a plane down a river, shooting at things. Just over a decade ago, I found the console in the attic and began to use it again. The main attraction is that the game is instantly there on the screen – there’s no waiting for downloads, as you do with modern consoles. I also feel the gameplay is really good on the older consoles. Without flashy graphics, the focus is completely on the game itself.

Neil Thomas playing River Raid on the Atari VCS.
Neil Thomas playing River Raid on the Atari VCS. Photograph: Sam Frost/The Guardian

Over the years, I have begun to collect more old consoles and computers, and in 2017 I even set up a website and YouTube channel for other retro tech enthusiasts. As a result, people started sending me their old consoles and computers. I’ve since opened two museums in the Cotswolds where people can come and play games.

I think the revival of older consoles is happening partly because there’s a nostalgia to reliving your youth, and partly because people want to share the history of video games with their children. Ten years ago, you could pick up secondhand consoles for virtually nothing, but now they can be expensive due to their growing popularity. Luckily, we have a lab in the museum where we take care of the consoles and fix them to ensure they stay in great condition. I’ve also found a use for all the floppy discs I’ve been sent – they’re wallpapering the museum.

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Chemistry Problems & Quantum Computing

The researchers compared the results of a conventional and quantum computer to minimise error calculations, which could eventually be scaled up to solve more complicated problems.

Scientists in Sweden have successfully managed to use a quantum computer to solve simple chemistry problems, as a proof-of-concept for more advanced calculations.

Currently, conventional supercomputers are used in quantum chemistry to help scientists learn more about chemical reactions, which materials can be developed and the characteristics they have.

But these conventional computers have a limit to the calculations they can handle. It is believed quantum computers will eventually be able to handle extremely complicated simulations, which could lead to new pharmaceutical discoveries or the creation of new materials.

However, these quantum machines are so sensitive that their calculations suffer from errors. Imperfect control signals, interference from the environment and unwanted interactions between quantum bits – qubits – can lead to “noise” that disrupts calculations.

The risk of errors grows as more qubits are added to a quantum computer, which complicates attempts to create more powerful machines or solve more complicated problems.

Comparing conventional and quantum results

In the new study by Chalmers University, scientists aimed to resolve this noise issue through a method called reference-state error mitigation.

This method involves finding a “reference state” by describing and solving the same problem on both a conventional and a quantum computer.

The reference state is a simpler description of a molecule that can be solved by a normal computer. By comparing the results from both computers, the scientists were able to estimate the scale of error the quantum computer had in its calculation.

The difference between the two computers’ results for the simpler reference problem was then applied to correct the quantum computer’s solution for the original, more complex problem.

This method allowed the scientists to calculate the intrinsic energy of small example molecules such as hydrogen on the university’s quantum computer.

Associate professor Martin Rahm – who led the study – believes the result is an important step forward that can be used to improve future quantum-chemical calculations.

“We see good possibilities for further development of the method to allow calculations of larger and more complex molecules, when the next generation of quantum computers are ready,” Rahm said.

Research is happening around the world to fix the problems limiting the development of more advanced quantum computers.

Earlier this month, Tyndall’s Prof Peter O’Brien told about his group’s work in addressing a key challenge in quantum technology and how quantum communications will make eavesdropping ‘impossible’.

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12 Outstanding Tech Resources To Improve Your Skills

If you want to improve your tech skills and don’t know where to start, this list introduces you to some of the resources out there.

If you’re familiar with our advice pieces, you’ll know that we regularly mention various resources you can use to upskill in tech.

We’ve steered readers towards courses from the likes of Udemy, Udacity and Coursera for learning tech concepts from machine learning to data literacy skills. And we’ve pointed out Python meet-ups run by Python Ireland among others.

But what if you’re not sure what these platforms are? Or you aren’t sure which one is the best one for you and your learning style? Maybe you like the idea of Python Ireland and you want to find other similar groups.

Here is an introduction to some of the best resources out to hone your tech skills.


Founded by two Stanford University computer scientists, Coursera is a global online learning platform for techies of all stripes.

It has partnerships with major companies like IBM and Google, as well as with universities such as Stanford and Imperial College London.

If you need a bit of guidance, scroll to the bottom section of the Coursera homepage and you’ll find articles that provide advice on how you can achieve a career in areas such as data analytics using the site.

In terms of courses, it provides everything from short certificates to longer postgraduate degree programmes.


This one is for anyone who wants to brush up on their coding skills; the clue is in the name. Codeacademy offers free short courses in a variety of languages such as Python, C++, C, C+, Bash, Go, HTML, R, SQL and Ruby.

Codeacademy is particularly useful for people who like interactive learning, as it has links to cheatsheets, projects, video and coding challenges under Resources at the bottom of its homepage.

It has a pretty active online community, too.


This Coursera rival – its founders are MIT and Harvard scientists – carries thousands of courses. Like Coursera, many are university-level, with edX making use of its partnerships with the likes of Boston University, University of Cambridge and Google.

Scroll to the bottom of the homepage and you’ll find boot camp courses in topics such as fintech and cybersecurity, as well as longer courses.

Data Camp

Like Codeacademy, Data Camp is quite hands-on and has a lot of short, free courses. It’s best for people who are interested in data science and related technologies.

You can select a specific skill you want to brush up on (like data literacy, NLP, machine learning) or you can explore different career paths such as data scientist, data analyst and statistician.

If you just want to get to grips with a particular tech tool (ChatGPT, Tableau) you can do that too.

Irish meet-up groups

Going along to events run by Irish tech community groups can be a fun way to keep on top of new tech trends and meet like-minded people.

You can find lots of different events on Meetup no matter what you’re interested in. Dublin Linux Community meets monthly, as does Python Ireland and Kubernetes Dublin.

If you want something more casual, there is a coffee chat for indie hackers in Dublin in early June. And it isn’t just the in capital: there are online events and conferences, as well as things going on in Cork, Galway and Belfast.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is another one to consider if you want to do an online tech course, even though it’s not as well known as some of the other names on this list.

Its short video lessons are good for beginners and it provides lessons and learning paths for children, too.

It is a non-profit organisation and it aims to educate people all over the world for free.

LinkedIn Learning

The educational offshoot of LinkedIn has business and tech courses galore for anyone who wants to perfect certain skills.

If you already have LinkedIn, LinkedIn Learning is a good bet as you can add your certificates of completion to your profile.

It’s not free, however, but it does offer a one-month free trial.


Software educational platform Pluralsight provides learning plans for teams as well as individuals. It’s quite skills focused, perhaps more so than some of the other resources that include non-tech courses on their sites.

You can pick up new skills like cloud tech, programming and test your progress using specially designed exercises.


Best for creative techies, Skillshare carries courses in things such as graphic design and photography – but many of these areas are arguably tech focused.

If you’re interested in things like UX and UI design or how tech tools can be used for creative purposes, you may find a short course that takes your fancy.

It’s got a lot of creatives on its books that are willing to, yes, share their skills.

Digital Skillnet

An Irish resource for all things technological, Digital Skillnet is a great site to keep in mind for future educational and upskilling opportunities.

If you prefer the familiarity of an Irish-run organisation, it has plenty of information about the types of careers you can break into.

Whether you’re an employer looking to find resources and courses for employees, or an individual looking to reskill, upskill or find a tech job, Digital Skillnet should definitely be one of your first ports of call.


Udacity is pretty good for anyone who wants to try out a tech course as it has a lot of short and beginner courses as well as longer ones.

It also has an AI chatbot running in beta which offers to assist you when you visit its website.

You can pick from courses on topics such as programming and development, AI, data science, business intelligence and cloud computing.

Scroll to the bottom of the homepage for in-depth career-related resources.


One for bargain hunters, Udemy constantly runs sales on its courses. It has hundreds of thousands of courses, too, so you won’t have difficulty finding something.

It’s good for beginners as many of the courses are short and delivered through video. What’s cool about Udemy is there is so much on the site that you can quite easily find courses on a certain topic from beginner right through to specialist level.

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How News Helicopters Ushered A Fresh Television Genre In Los Angeles

By Darren Wilson

Fifteen minutes of fame was not enough for Johnny Anchondo. Local television devoted some 100 minutes of live coverage to this repeat offender, following one of the wildest chases Los Angeles has seen in recent years. In that time, the 33-year-old criminal ran a stop sign and caused an immense mobilization of the police as he stole two pickup trucks, rammed into dozens of vehicles at high speed and escaped from at least 15 patrol cars that were hot on his trail for some 12 miles. All of this was recorded by the all-seeing eye in the sky, news helicopters.

“Chases are the best. They are dynamic, they move fast. Things can change in an instant. Sometimes they seem endless from up there,” says Stu Mundel, one of the journalists who have been following events on the city streets from a helicopter for decades. “And I say this from the bottom of my heart, it’s genuine, but I always wish things would end well,” he adds.

News Helicopters Ushered A Fresh Television Genre In Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, chases are now a television genre in their own right. Journalists like Mundel fly for hours over a gigantic urban sprawl of 88 cities with 11 million people. From way up high, they report on traffic, crashes, shootings and fires in the metropolitan area. But few events arouse the audience’s interest as much as the chases through the city’s vast thoroughfares. The police chase starring Anchondo attests to that fact; the video has over 28 million views on YouTube.

The genre was born in this city. The idea came to John Silva, an engineer for a local television station, while he was driving his car on a freeway near Hollywood. “How can we beat the competition?” he wondered. The answer came to him behind the wheel. “If we could build a mobile news unit in a helicopter, we could beat them in arriving to the scene, avoiding traffic and getting all the stories before the competition,” Silva told the Television Academy in a 2002 interview.

In July 1958, a Bell 47G-2 helicopter made the first test trip for the KTLA network, becoming the first of its kind anywhere in the world. By September of that year, Silva’s creation, known as the Telecopter, already had a special segment on the channel’s news program. Before long, every major television network had one. Silva died in 2012, but his invention transformed television forever.

The chase genre’s crowning moment came in June 1994, when the Los Angeles police chase of a white Ford Bronco was broadcast live on television. In the back of the vehicle was O.J. Simpson, the former football star, whom the authorities had named the prime suspect in the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. Bob Tur (now known as Zoey Tur after a sex change operation), the pilot of a CBS helicopter, located the van on the 405 freeway being followed by dozens of patrol cars. Within minutes, there were so many helicopters following the convoy that Tur found the scene worthy of Apocalypse Now. The audience was such that TV stations interrupted the broadcast of Game 5 of the NBA Finals to follow the chase, which lasted two hours.

Motorists wave to ex-football star O.J. Simpson as he flees from the police in the back of a white Ford Bronco pickup truck driven by Al Cowlings in Los Angeles, California, in June 1994.

Motorists wave to ex-football star O.J. Simpson as he flees from the police in the back of a white Ford Bronco pickup truck driven by Al Cowlings in Los Angeles, California, in June 1994. Jean-Marc Giboux (Getty Images)

“It’s a very interesting thing. It may sound morbid, but it’s not. People follow [police chases] because they are like a movie, we want to know how it will end and how the story unfolds: will good triumph over evil? Or will this person manage to escape? We journalists are objective, but the adrenaline and excitement is genuine,” says Mundel. In his years of experience, he has seen how technology has evolved. In the 1990s, people used a paper map as a guide. Today, viewers can see a map superimposed on the images Mundel captures with his camera.

Four out of 10 chases are initiated after a vehicle is stolen. The second most common reason for them are hit-and-runs by drivers who are drunk or under the influence of drugs. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, most fugitives are hiding a more serious crime: homicide, rape or violent robbery. In 1998, only four out of the 350-plus drivers arrested after a chase were let off with only a traffic ticket; five hundred chases were recorded that year.

A growing phenomenon

In 2022, 971 chases were recorded. On average, chases last about 5.34 minutes and cover about five miles, although the vast majority (72%) end within five minutes and do not travel more than two miles. 35% of documented chases ended in crashes with injuries or fatalities in 2022. That figure represents a slight decrease from 990 in 2021. In 2019, there were fewer: 651 chases and 260 crashes.

A few decades ago, authorities tried to reassure Angelenos by claiming that a person had a one in four million chance of accidentally being killed in a police chase of a criminal. “There’s a better chance of being struck by lightning,” the police department estimated. But things have changed. An official report presented in April indicates that, over the past five years, 25% of chases have left people dead or injured. That almost always includes the suspect, but the number of innocent people who have been hurt has also increased.

News Helicopters Ushered A Fresh Television Genre In Los Angeles

News Helicopters Ushered A Fresh Television Genre In Los Angeles

Although there is plenty of material on the street, uncertain times for local journalism have limited coverage. Univision and Telemundo have dispensed with their helicopters in Los Angeles. Fox and CBS have joined forces and are using one aircraft instead of two. For the time being, KTLA, which invented the genre, remains committed to having a helicopter in the air.

The days may be numbered for these televised events. Some metro police departments have asked their officers to stop chasing criminals at high speed for the safety of the public. Instead, they have employed technology with high-definition cameras and drones to chase criminals, as has happened in cities like Dallas, Philadelphia and Phoenix.

The Los Angeles police have said that they are studying the implementation of the Star Chase system in some of their vehicles. Star Chase features a launcher that triggers a GPS transmitter, tagging a fleeing vehicle and allowing the authorities to track the position of the person who has escaped in real time. Another measure under consideration is the use of an industrial-strength nylon net that traps the rear axle of the fleeing car. All of this could yield dramatic footage for the eye in the sky.

Thank You For Your Support!

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