Old School. Literally.

The following post is about hardware and software I remember (sort of) using throughout my school life, it doesn’t include systems used outside of school, even though they were way more fun. So I thought I’d start 2015 off with some personal history (yay?).

This was an idea I had last year but has taken me ages to get around to writing it, I wasn’t sure if it would be that interesting, and after more thought I realised I couldn’t remember that much about the systems we used to use at school. However, I’ve had a couple of helpers on this one to jog my memory, so here are the combined results! What computers did you use at school? What software and games did you play? Let me know in the comments below!

Special thanks to Simon and Nigel for their help and input in this post.

Old School. Literally.
Old School. Literally.

First School (or infant school)

RealityGlitch: My earliest memories of using any sort of computer hardware in school was a piece of hardware that sat all by itself in the corner of the classroom. The software on it we used was for drawing and painting. What seemed unique about this memory is that I remember painting (white screen, simple shapes and colours) by using a stylus (connected with a black curly lead to the hardware). Felt like magic at the time, now it seems more like a touch screen painting program, however, given this was the mid 80s that still seems pretty special. As I don’t remember the name of it, or much more than the above, I’ve not been able to find a picture or anymore information on it.

Middle School (or junior school)

Simon: We had acorn 3000’s, computers with the orange function keys. One of the programs we used to use was Impression Junior, we used to use it to draw I think, there might have also been another  drawing and painting program. A game we used to play (at break times naturally… Ed) was Moonquake. Just loved that game and used to play it all the time during break time, we were in year 7 at the time so this is just before moving up to secondary school.

Blowing things up, Moon style...
Blowing things up, Moon style…

RealityGlith: I also remember having a BBC Micro available to use in Middle School. I remember there being a single computer in our classroom, it sat on the side and we were occasionally allowed to use it. Oddly enough I don’t remember using this computer for anything in lessons. I had contacted one of my old teachers but I didn’t get a response. One of these games we played on the Acorn 3000 was indeed called Moonquake, it was a Bomberman clone, you played on the keyboard and the game play was the familiar top down grid, you blasted your way through blocks to reach the enemies.

Secondary School

RealityGlitch: Hmm, I think I should have paid more attention in school… I remember using the Acorn Archimedes, with 2Mb of RAM, which were eventually upgraded to 4Mb. Some of the software was Visual  Basic/Stylus,  the former of which we used to program and move little Lego models.

The 3 games we had was Pac-Mania, Cannon Fodder and Lemmings, I remember playing Pac-Mania quite a bit, so much so I ended up getting it for my Amiga 500 so I could play it at home as well. Good times.

One of my favourite Pac-Man games
One of my favourite Pac-Man games

Nigel: From memory, the software was the generic spreadsheet, word processing and database packages that came with system, the free program that came with the Archimedes was called DRAW.

Simon: Secondary School we had acorn 4000’s, which were like a small white desktop box with separate keyboards and mice. We used to run Impression Style which was the more grown up version of Impression Junior. We also used Eureka, a spreadsheet and database program. However because the machines only had 2mb of RAM we could only run one or the other, never at the same time. Eventually we did upgrade from 2mb to 4mb, I remember helping our teacher to upgrade them at break and lunch times.

I vaguely remember there being a manual parallel port switch to an Epson lx100 dot matrix printer, and we had to switch it over when you wanted to print from your computer.

The library had a mixture of Acorn 3000 and 4000’s, but they also had two Acorn 5000’s. These were good because they had both an Acorn and a PC in them. You used to flick the front plastic bracket over and it would change from an Acorn to a PC running Windows 95 (I think – or maybe windows 3.1).
Acorn 5000, shiny
Just to re-iterate, this was more of a personal trip down memory lane, memories can be blurry, I’ve done a little research but as with most personal pieces the more I look into the history and information the more blurred the lines become between memory and current knowledge, it’s not supposed to be a comprehensive history of school computers.
Thought I just needed to mention this as before it’s been pointed out I don’t research enough on these things. Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts below.
Please follow the link here to read a quick review of Moonquake for the Acorn.
All the best!

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