Prisoners of Childhood

Tomorrow morning, probably before I'm awake, some electrical items will be thrown into skips at a recycling point.

The Cheetah MK5 Midi Keyboard, bought for me by my mother in 1983 when I was 11. Five octaves of unweighted half-size keys, a pitch-bend wheel and a single button for adjusting octaves, channels and things. Powered by a 9V adaptor, with a serial DIN midi-out socket.

This controller keyboard was marketed to owners of the ZX Spectrum who wanted to play it's beeper with a real piano keyboard. Amazingly, it still works - except for the pitch wheel sending random signals and the power socket being loose.

No fancy velocity sense or aftertouch of course, and no sliders that can be patched into softsynth parameters on your PC - unlike the shiny silver keyboard leaning against my bedroom wall.

There's no real reason to keep the MK5 - it's functional but obsolete, taking up space, and a sentimental reminder of a childhood that I hated, except when making music.

The same goes for the Tascam 244 4-track cassette portastudio. £400 second-hand in 1990, from the same man who sold me the Kawai R50 drum machine - currently used by Sion R's band when practicing without a drummer.

I'm holding on to the other 4-track. With 8 inputs it can still function as a mixing desk for piping a fully mic-ed up drumkit into a stereo track on a modern, digital 8-track recorder.

There's other items - a mono cassette player supposedly designed for loading games into computers. I really did sit for five minutes and watch flashing primary colours on a TV screen connected to a Spectrum, waiting for a game to load from cassette. I remember wondering what computers of the future would be capable of, whether it might be possible to link several computers together somehow over large distances, and play games with other users.

The television I played the games on. Bought cheap and second-hand from an electrical repair shop that did a nice sideline in items whose owners hadn't collected them after six months. The shop shared premises with a software design company where I got my first job at age 15. Writing a program in BASIC to control a robot arm on a BBC Model B.

My very first music playing system - the size of three shoeboxes end-to-end, with double cassette deck and FM radio. Inspired by the house and sample-based music breaking through in 1985-86, I recorded snippets of tracks from one deck to the other, mixing and rearranging.

Other accoutrements and symbols of the past wait to be discarded. Twenty years worth of mindmaps, lecture notes and photocopies sit in binbags. The cassette 'master tapes' of a dozen home-made albums - the surviving ones now cleaned up mixed down to CD. There's hundreds of videotapes, slowly decomposing in cardboad boxes, and never mind all the novels and textbooks dealing with programming systems not used in years. VMS, C, QL BASIC, Utah COBOL, even Ada circa 1990.

I wouldn't want those years back. Patronised for being young, bullied for being queer, hated for being smart, and not understanding why. There's only one thing I miss - the sense of being a pioneer.