My grim and distant techie past: the uni years, part 1

It’s amazing how technology has changed over the years. I was thinking about this recently, in relation to my mother. She lived for 91 years, and during that time she witnessed cars becoming ubiquitous, the invention and expansion of television, the development of video and home video recording, cheap flights, fast trains… The list goes on and on.

I am not old enough to experienced quite as many dramatic changes as that, but as far as the world of education is concerned, there have been quite a few. I thought it might be interesting to try and document them from a personal point of view. Do feel free to join in by leaving a comment, or posting a response on your own blog.

Oh, and just for the record, I am not writing these “technobiographical” articles in a spirit of nostalgia. As I have said before, as far as I’m concerned, the best thing about the past is that it’s the past. The technology we have today is wonderful; who would want to return to an earlier era?

No, I am NOT old enought to remember this! Picture by James Vaughn have documented my pre-video days in I was a teenage geek, so you may wish to read that first.

My university years are in three parts:

  • my first degree
  • my post-graduate certificate of teaching, and
  • my Masters degree

My first degree

Not much technology to speak of here, I’m afraid. The nearest I came to anything electronic were a photocopier and a calculator that my girlfriend had.

The photocopier produced very shiny, grubby-looking copies, laboriously slowly – around 30 or 40 seconds per page. It also cost 10 pence a sheet which would be roughly £1 today. (Such calculations are fraught with difficulties: they take into account inflation, but not purchasing power. Nevertheless, using a couple of websites, and, I was furnished with very similar results.)

That meant you would only photocopy something if it was not only crucial but far too difficult or time-consuming to reproduce by hand, eg a complicated graph or table. We students had to be very good at summarising textbook chapters and journal articles!

As for that calculator, my girlfriend’s father had made it himself from an electronics kit costing £5. That works out to £55.94 in 2013 prices.

We students had to be very good at mental arithmetic too!

I do vaguely recall that some tutors used overhead projectors, but mainly it was lecturing or, if one of them was really cutting edge, “chalk-n-talk”.

It was all pretty grim, but of course, at the time we didn’t think it was grim: it was just normal.

But my post-graduate certificate of teaching (PGCE) year was much better….

Paperless office?

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