William Howard School, Cumbria Visit – 13 June 2019

On Thursday, 13 June, we arrived at William Howard School, Cumbria with an array of historical hardware from the 1970s, through to present day, by giving students hands on access to these machines, we were able to offer them a working timeline of the evolution of technology over the last 5 decades and tell the story of how the UK adopted this new technology.

Students getting to grips with Locomotive BASIC coding on the Amstrad CPC 464 from 1984
An array of working historical hardware spanning 5 decades of tech history

Some of the students that had took part in the Oxford Coding Challenge earlier in the year, were keen to spend the morning getting to grips with 1980s coding on 8-bit technology from the era, tackling problem solving challenges.

Sir Clive Sinclair’s C5 electric vehicle from 1985

And our Head of Design Technology nearly exploded when she saw the C5. So next year we’re kidnapping the whole Show for two days . .

Students were able to try out Amiga 1200, ZX Spectrum and Atari ST, as well as a vintage mobile phone from the early 1980s
Aimed at the home user, the Acorn Electron was a budget version of the BBC Micro that was used in schools from 1981
Commodore BASIC (1982) on the C64, allowed many children of the era to get an early introduction to programming. The C64 was the first home computer to be sold in regular retail stores as opposed to specialist hobbyist stores, which was part of the reason for it’s success

I contacted Gary via Twitter with the full expectation that he would not be interested in travelling so far north to us. The usual response to our request for visits is that we are so close to the Scots border that the journey is not cost-effective. Often people send us posters and their best wishes . .

The Spectrum +2 range was first introduced in 1986, shortly after Amstrad purchased the Sinclair brand, +2A model shown which was a variation of the +3, but with a tape drive instead of the floppy drive

The students were surprised that we had thought these machines were ‘state of the art’ but took to the challenge of working out what to do – and came up with some truly amazing comments. We discussed the quality of graphics in a game – versus the game play itself. We talked about the importance of the interface . .

The Amstrad CPC range of home computers we produced between 1989 and 1990, to compete directly with Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, which dominated the market

If we look back at the computing curriculum of the 1980s when the BBC Micro was in use, the the core foundation of the subject was computational thinking and since the introduction of the new computing curriculum from 2014, then we now see things getting back to this ethos.

Students get hands-on experience of C64, BBC Micro, Amiga and Amstrad CPC

On the day the range of kit for the students to see was amazing and led to a range of teachers’ personal reminiscences and tales of derring-do from years past.

S. Angland (M.Ed, Head of IT), William Howard School, Brampton, Cumbria

The BBC Micro was produced in such a way that it aided the learning process of computing for the children that used them back in the 1980s

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