INMC 80 News


September 1980 – January 1981, Issue 2

Page 24 of 59

Back to Basics

The other evening an envelope containing an article (and a Naspen tape of it) was shoved through my letter box. The article was yet another review, but this time on a most unlikely subject. A computing holiday !!! So if you have already recovered from this years holiday, and are thinking about next years, this might be worth consideration.

On Holiday in Basic

by R. White

As a computer addict of some eighteen months standing, the thought of spending a week away from the keyboard for a mere family holiday was indeed hard to bear. When a fellow addict produced a brochure of ‘Marlborough College Summer School 1980’ all our holiday decisions were made in one fell swoop. The Summer School was offering a range of courses to suit all possible interests: Yoga, Bridge, Swimming, Painting, Walking, Languages, Philosophy, History and many others … including Computer Programming. The children were soon convinced the ‘Children’s Activities’ were what they always wanted, while my wife realised at once that the ‘Pre-history of Wiltshire’ had an irresistible fascination for her inquiring mind. So we went.

We arrived on a Sunday evening and installed ourselves in our twin-bedded room, the children being nearby in dormitories. The accomodation was adequate if a little spartan compared with a modern hotel. The food however was excellent. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all served in the main college dining-hall on a self-serve basis, with an excellent menu at each meal. There were several bars including one within the dining-hall itself which was about the only extra expense we had during the whole week – absolutely everything else being provided, including the never-to-be-forgotten doughnuts served with morning coffee each day.

On the first morning the whole of the Summer School, about five hundred people, assembled for a few minutes talk introducing the various Tutors, many of whom were staff at Marlborough College itself. The computer programming course was to be in the hands of the College computer System Manager, J. Marcus Gray, and the language was to be Basic !

After introductions all round it became apparent that all sixteen members of the course were from widely differing age groups and interests. At least four were still in full-time study where they had picked up an interest in computing at school or college and now wanted to learn more. There were two medical men, both G.P.s, who were interested and even concerned as to how computers may invade their sphere. They had no computing experience whatsoever and had perhaps only read one of the books on Basic that had been mentioned in the ‘suggesed reading’ list before the course. There were two or three hobbyists like my fellow Nascomite and myself, plus one or two who ran small businesses enquiring into the possibilities of the machine for them. Altogther we were a very mixed bunch.

In the lecture room itself there was no sign of any computer – just desks and a blackboard. There was one rather nasty moment when our tutor began to talk about the college computer itself and produced from his briefcase – horror of horrors – a ZX80 ! The thought of a week with a ZX80 between sixteen people ........ But this was only to make the point to the inexperienced of us how small(!) the home computer has already become.

The general pattern of the course was an occasional lecture with blackboard and notes etc., and then adjournment to the college’s eight-terminal computer for practice on one’s own with suggested experiments. There was always help available both from our tutor himself and from his assistant, a very enthusiastic and helpful sixth-former at the college. Thus there were two students per terminal and two sources of help when in trouble – a very satisfactory arrangement.

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