John Baymore at River Bend Pottery

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Potters and computers

So you can't afford a computer and don't know how to program anyway.  Surprise! You don't need to know how to program, and for only around $100 you can enter the 21st century - high technology has dropped into the budget range of the craftsperson while we weren't looking.  Best of all, you don't have to be a "whiz kid" to use it.

Many potters cannot identify with the "image" of computers, and feel that somehow such a device is antiethical to the very meaning of their work.  This is understandable, since craftspeople haven't had computers around much.  But a computer is just a tool - no more, no less.


One of the lower priced machines capable of doing myriad tasks in the studio is the Timex-Sinclair 1000 (also marketed as the Sinclair ZX-81); the basic computer with a memory expansion unit can be found on sale for $80 or less.  It's tiny and plastic, but it's no toy.  It can be a powerful tool for all of the record keeping information storage, analysis and technical calculations which plague any craftsman. While it has certain shortcomings when compared to the capabilities of more sophisticated computers, the TS1000 costs only as much as a few kiln shelves, not the whole kiln.  Besides, there are many in use in both this country and England; a whole industry is developing to support them with add-ons, programs, books, and magazines.  Yet most accessories are relatively inexpensive; programs cost no more than $15 on the average.  Also, because so many people have used them to get a start in computing, there are large numbers turning up as used equipment at very good prices.



Shop Talk


Computer jargon sounds as undecipherable to us as potters' shop talk sounds to our non-potting friends.  But once you become familiar with the terminology, "bytes" makes as much sense as "cones".  Let's look at some common terms:


Hardware:  The circuitry and mechanical devices which make up the computer system.


Software:  The coded instructions which tell the computer what to do; software and program are the same.


Programming:  Writing instructions in the computer's language.  A lot of programs have been written so that they can be used without any technical computer knowledge.


Language:  The "words" the computer recognizes to perform particular functions.

By John Baymore

Originally published in Ceramics Monthly magazine, December 1983



"We could put together a worldwide ceramics information library in one computer; individuals could gain access via their personal computers and modem interfaces.  And if the system is two-way, anyone would be able to augment the information in the database."                                     

                                                                     John Baymore, 1983