We used the following Computers:
COBOL a '60's Commercial Orientated Language developed by a Women. Still in use by many banks and businesses. I knew a Women in Wantage who ran a drop in centre who used to programme COBOL. She was offered a great deal of money to fix the millennium bug on old COBOL programmes but declined. Her husband was also a Programmer, she said he spent most of his evening reading manuals. My 2nd year project to write a COBOL programme a system for Scarborough Social Services Disabled Department, which I included a 4 figure year date on. I actually rather stupidly destroyed this programme because I was afraid I would continue spending lots of time working on it being of a perfectionist nature.
Pascal - basically a teaching language. I had only known BASIC so it was quite a change from line numbers, GOSUB's, and GOTO's to procedures (with input, output, and local variables), constants, groups (sets), repeat-until, while-do and loops. I wrote one assignment where you had to work out the leap year. Apparently every 100th year isn't a leap year unless it's 2000, 2400, 2800...
History of the Computer Assignment. Our lecturer gave use a long talk on the History of Computers and then expected us to write an assignment about. Naturally we used most of his material, and he only gave me 40% because he said I had repeated what he said. i.e. Jacquard's Punched Cards, Babbage's Arithmetic Engine, ENIAC, Valves, Transistors, Silicon Chips... I had stayed at my Grandparents during this assignment as I had missed the bus home and asked them to check my spelling, they didn't find any errors, even though the lecturer did. My spelling has since improved thanks to spellcheckers and Email.
Hospital Computer System - me and another student, Nicholas Davis - a bit of a SWAT, friendly with the computer technician - visited the near by hospital to see their computer system for booking people in for appointments on computer and printing it out. I had to deliver a speech about this and was rather scared to do it. I remember getting a laugh though, when I said they have to wait 6 months or until they were dead. In poor taste really.
We had another group visit to Plaxton's Bus Company. Two of my fellow mature students had worked there before going on the course, presumably getting bored of it and wanting a change. One, Mark May, gave me lifts in his Mini. They both went back there after the course, and the other, Stephen Edmons just had to wire up the ventilation system. He often took time off to read the paper in the toilets when he was meant to be working. I known people to do this in another company to.
Mathematics - I was OK at this subject but Mark May beat me. I was used to coming first. Our teacher Mr. Wilson was seconded from the Electrical Engineering Department. One lesson I was the only one who turned up and he taught me a bit about Electrical Engineering. If I had been wise I would have left it at that and not done a Degree in it. I found an interesting book about the history of Mathematics in the Mathematics room. One lesson Mr. Wilson wrote a very long number on the blackboard and said you wouldn't mind the last few digits as your salary. We studied Calculus but I didn't get it then.
Communications - the teacher for this got bullied and refused to teach our other class. We had to do things like hold a conversation on a telephone. I still don't like telephones much except when speaking to someone I know.
Work Placement at Scarbourgh Social Services Disabled Department. I worked on and upgraded programmes on the BBC Micro Computer, mostly games for disabled people. The BBC Micro had 64K of Memory, quite a lot for the time and a very good interface system that they used to connect to 4 big switches mounted on a wooden board allowing disabled people to use computers. I made a new one for them plus a buzzer. I also fixed a automatic page turner for disabled people that the Head of Scarborough Technical College Electronic Department couldn't which used a joystick control. I even had my own office. While I was there every one in my class went to a Computer Fair at Birmingham NEC. I didn't go because I was afraid I looked too young and they would let me in. I also working in a store they had for equipment for the disabled, and helped stock take and wrote a sort programme to do sometime, I forget what, but it worked. I enjoyed Work Experience.
Microprocessor Based Studies using the BBC Micro Computer. There was even a TV Programme called Micro Live that told you how to use the BBC Micro. I programmed in assembler simple things like adding numbers in Binary over 2 Bytes, learned about the Fetch-Execute cycle which is still the core of how a computer works. The speed of a Computer is related to how many instructions it can process driven by the system clock. PIC (Parallel Interface Controller) Microchips still use op-codes, which are just binary commands, each number relating to a different Command. Assembler is just the Binary code written as three letters e.g. ADD known as an op-code. Higher level languages translate their more English like Commands into a number of op-codes using an Assembler which reports errors in the code that would crash the programme.
Three core registers are almost always used:
There are three parts to the Microprocessor:
One time the College had a break in and half the computers got stolen. After that they fitted special locks to the doors, and it never happened again. Another time I thought I would be clever and type a lecture in on my computer while it was being delivered. The lecturer didn't think much of this idea and made me stop as the typing noise was putting him off.
When in Yorkshire I had walked 30 miles in a day on the odd occasion from Pickering where we had a second house the first belonging to the Church: a Manse to Whitby by the Steam Railway used in the TV programme Heartbeat and alone the moors, by the golf balls: an R.A.F. nuclear early warning system. We got 4 minutes warning in Britain and the Yanks got half a hour. Threads is a good programme about life in Britain after a nuclear attack, When the Wind Blows is also good, a cartoon about a average Joe and his wife tried to follow government warning about fallout, basically storing all the water you can and making a fallout shelter out of your door. Not much use! They have sold off all the Government fall-out shelters where the establishment were going whole-up, dug underground and the entrance disguised as a cottage. My father had his own fall-out suit in his office, I don't know if that was only for officers or whether the squadies got them to. I also walked for Redcar neat Middlesbourgh to Whitby, another 30 Miles; and Scarbourgh to Whitby (through Robin Hood's Bay), 20 Miles. I drank out of a stream and got stomach ache. The families never got them. The Roman Legions used to be able to march 50 Miles in a day, thanks in part to their roads and build a temporary fort or fight a battle at the end of it.
I often went down the sea front while at Tech., particularly Gilly's famous Arcade where I played, among other games (I also ate my sandwiches down there):