Saturday, April 21, 2012

An old case of computer identity theft

Acker Bilk
Mr. Acker Bilk is a jazz clarinetist who plays in the English style called traditional or “trad”. He is performing still – see his website – but his “hay day” was in the 1950s and 60s. His biggest hit and signature tune was “Stranger on the Shore,” which topped the charts in 1962.
    Mr Bilk developed his own distinctive image of: goatee beard, bowler hat and striped waistcoat. Being that he was so successful, I have always wondered why Mr Bilk found it necessary to advertise computers, for I distinctly remember him in an advertisement for an Elliot 503 computer – the brand that was Victoria University of Wellington’s first machine. I recently sent a note to Mr Bilk asking about the advertisement, but he denied having ever advertised computers - indeed he claims to detest them.
    A puzzle! Nothing on the Internet – too long ago. But looking through bound editions of old magazines in the Engineering library I eventually found the advertisement run in 1962 at the height of Acker Bilk’s success. Zooming in on the player you can also see that it isn’t Acker Bilk at all, just somebody dressed in his image. They wouldn’t get away with it nowadays!
    You can see the full advertisement in the Computer Science Department's on-line history pages.

- Bob Doran

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