Archive for December, 2009|Monthly archive page

Baby it’s cold outside

But good chance for some photos of the local canal.


It’s Christmas!

So all the preparations are done, most of the presents are wrapped.
For many years I looked after payroll and HR systems, meaning Christmas became a stress festival, frequently working up to Christmas Eve. The millennium was the final straw, at 8:00 am on 01/01/00 I was running test payrolls to check that we could pay a workforce of 12,000 employees.

Being an academic provides the opportunity to have a slightly longer break from work, and I’m not in university until the 11th January. It’s all a little chaotic then, but at least I will be rested.

What does 2010 hold for me? Course director of a new MSc programme, tutoring a new course with the open university, and embarking on a new PhD should keep me out of trouble. I’m also mentoring a new tutor within the OU, and also involved in outreach activities at both of the establishments I’m connected to.

I may post over the break, but if I don’t may I wish all of my readers a great Christmas, and a successful 2010, whatever you want to do.

Computing Then, Now and in the Future – 1987

As my christmas present to the world, I present an essay written by my seventeen-year old self way back in 1987 as part of my A-level General Studies.  I found this during my recent house move.

I have to admit I didn’t do the typing, my mother worked through her lunch hours for what she now says was weeks, but was probably in fact only a couple of weeks.  I also suspect that against the rules, she also tidied up some of the grammar.

Computing Then, Now and in the Future

Twenty-two years on, I don’t think it holds up too badly.  Of course I didn’t predict the Internet (though it would have been around in 1987, it was only for universities and the www wasn’t even a glimmer in Tim Berner’s-Lee’s eyes.

Of course, one thing completely missing from this is any form of referencing. My bad!

Read, enjoy, and if you use any of this in your research, please ensure that you reference it!

End of Teletext on commercial television

It’s been a sad couple of days, as the commercial Teletext services on ITV and Channel 4 have come to a close.  To be honest, I never really used the fancy pants new ‘digital’ text services, but for many years, before the advent of Compuserve, AOL and even the Internet, Oracle and Teletext were the only providers of text on demand for most households, including myself.


I remember watching the ‘death’ of the Oracle service approaching midnight on new years eve 1992, they did some clever sort of ‘folding’ thing with the limited graphics so that it appeared to be vanishing into a black hole.  It was also sad for me as Oracle had published my first letter in an electronic form – I had written a sterling defence of Bonnie Langford as the Doctor’s companion when I was seventeen, and this had been published as a page on the “TV Voice” section of Oracle.

I fully realise that technology moves on, very few people must have used this service regularly, though at the weekend I did read figures (admittedly by Teletext ltd. themselves) that they had millions of weekly ‘hits’ (I guess this is difficult to tell with analogue Teletext, but easier with the digital service).

Of course, BBC’s Ceefax service, the Blue Peter to ITV’s Magpie service continues, and now that I have a conventional aerial for the first time in ten years I sometimes go back to the old analogue service… and think how slow and clunky it is.  But for a big part of my formative life this was ‘real’ computing to me.

My final bit of nostalgia?  I remember going round my great-aunts before Christmas, and she had the first Teletext TV – this must have been around 1980.  They had an Advent calendar page, where you pressed the ‘reveal’ button to show what was behind the ‘window’.  You can imagine with the blocky graphics half the fun was identifying exactly what was behind the window, but it fascinated me nonetheless.

Ah, nostalgia, it’s not what it used to be!

I know many (ok some) of you are waiting for my iPhone review and impressions.  Patience, I’ll soon be charting my first experiences, and some top tips for the three other people in the world who want an iPhone, but haven’t bought one yet.

When did this new standard come in then?

For various reasons which I’ll post later, I’m currently using my MacBook via a GPRS connection through my mobile. That’s right, GPRS, which is slower than a snail.
However, I remembered that there was a mobile form of google, called (sorry, can’t make that a hyperlink). Connected to this no problems, and that got me thinking, hmmm.
It seems that many sites have mobile equivalents simply accessed by the prefix ‘m.’, so I’ve cheecked Facebook (, logged onto emails (, and am blogging this with the WordPress mobile site (you guessed it,
So if your iPhone or other smartphone is out of range of a 3G or wi-fi signal, all is not lost, as I’m proving here.
As to why I’m connected to my MacBook through a GPRS signal… I think that’s what they call a cliffhanger!

And four years later….

Nearly ten months ago I applied to start a PhD in e-Research and Technology Enhanced Learning at Lancaster University.  It’s been a long journey, but yesterday I sent off my acceptance form and from Feb 2010 until sometime in 2014, I’ll be a student working on my ‘taught’ PhD.

What does this mean?  Well, for the first two years I follow a taught programme of study, with five modules, details of which are here.  During this time I develop my thesis proposal, and the final two years are spent researching and writing up.

I’m really pleased that I’ve made the commitment, and decided to go for this, the temptation to defer for another year was great, but I’m also just a little bit scared.  I’ve completed extended periods of study before (my first degree took 7 years, and my BA in ‘fun’ has taken eight years to complete), but clearly I’ve not studied at this level before – my Masters experience wasn’t an altogether positive one for me.

I’m doing some prep work already, I bought a couple of books over the summer which may be useful and I’m now reading, and I also know I need to get grips with the statistical package SPSS, I had a great manual on the package as a birthday present.

I’m also getting to grips with Zotero, as a way of storing and referencing my research.

Exciting times ahead.