In the words of Wallace and Gromit, Friday was a Grand Day Out. The morning found me holed up in a radio studio at Broadcasting House together with presenter Simon Cox, recording the first show for series 4 of Radio 4's Click On.
That's going out Monday afternoon at 4:30pm, and will cover flying eyeballs, videogame music, ultrafast community broadband (with studio guest and ZDNet UK contributor Malcolm Corbett) and YouTube's moneymaking. Or lack of it.
Normally, that would be treat enough for one day. I've seen Click On grow from the initial pitch – the BBC calls those 'offers', because the BBC does everything differently – to a regularly recommissioned mainstream programme. Two years ago, it was a major victory to get Radio 4 to consider technology as worth covering in its own right – now, one of the big problems is getting to stories before the terriers at You and Yours get their teeth fastened. I'm still stupidly happy every time I walk under Ariel's truncated organ into the Broadcasting House foyer: there is an element of romance and fantasy to public service broadcasting which is absolutely essential to the endeavour.
Friday brought a double dose. After the recording, I and producer Monise Durrani (who's fresh from producing a series on Islam and Science, involving a trip to Pakistan which probably generated enough risk assessment forms to rebuild the Library of Alexandria) took the train to the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park – known as BP to all involved. Technological romance enough? So much so. But wait, there's more!
We were there to record an interview with Matthew Applegate and Lin Jones. Lin is one of the museum volunteers, a enthusiastic veteran of the British technology scene from the days when the mythical giant Algol ruled the land. Spending the afternoon just talking to her would have been treat enough, but the focus of our trip was more on Matthew – or Pixelh8, as he is also known. On the 20th and 21st of March, he's performing "Obsolete?", a multimedia composition based on the sights and sounds of the Bletchley collection.
Monise and I knew we were in for a different sort of afternoon from the moment we got off the train. "Follow the signs to Bletchley Park", commanded a stern notice in the train station – but outside, there were no signs. "Is this our first test?" she asked, as we made an exploratory foray across the car park towards some promising trees by a chain-linked fence. Eventually, we found further clues and trudged along a daunting road towards what looked like an abandoned industrial estate. As we we walked past boarded-up bunkers and squat concrete cabins, wondering whether we were on some post-apocalyptic film set – although you get that on Threadneedle Street these days – a voice from nowhere called out to us.
"Are you from the BBC?"
We were expected...
Continued in part 2