Review: Outriders BBC Radio 5 Live

Outriders BBC Radio 5 LiveOutriders is BBC Radio 5 live’s programme dedicated to exploring the frontiers of the web. It is broadcast on Tuesdays at 03.00 as a segment of the Up All Night show.

Hidden away in the 5 Live schedule, 3am Tuesdays, this tidy, well-judged technology show deserves a better profile for it’s diverse coverage and entertainment value.

Fortunately, you can trawl the Outriders podcast archive, which is stored indefinitely.

Outriders occasionally produces a gem. The 19 November episode, LEO – Making History, recounted the beginnings of British commercial computing and systems engineering with the LEO machines (Lyons Electronic Office) for the massive Lyons Teashop chain (now defunct). The programming team, all bright young things back in the 1950’s, Earnest Kaye, Mary Coombs (nee Blood), Ralph and Frank Land and John Aeberhard reminisced in characteristically British fashion about their early days in computing from Lyons to Ford and beyond, selling computing into Europe.

Interestingly an early IT logistics problem threatened to derail Lyons tight order-processing; the tea shop managers having to go to a public call box to phone in the amendments to their standard daily order!

The 6 December show demonstrated the show’s regular range, with a mixed bag of stories:

  • Mathematical art. Henry Segerman is a mathematical artist, we talked about the surprising world of 3D mathematical shapes and their possibilities when transferred from the virtual to the real world.
  • Michael Christen is a freelance consultant who currently works for the German Digital Lab and he has created Yacy the nascent peer-to-peer search engine.
  • Chris Vallance visited Robotville at the Science Museum, with two sci-fi authors with science backgrounds, Alastair Reynolds and Daniel H Wilson about the interplay between robot fact and robot fiction. 

The Outriders official page and blog is at AJS

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