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Computing to Art and then ICT

by Keith Sibley published Sep 14, 2010 04:26 AM, last modified Apr 05, 2011 11:05 PM
A professional life story, starting with computing in a commercial context and them moving into education through Art teaching to ICT

My first experience of computing was being sent, by my A level Maths teacher, on a weekly day release course at the local Tech (Smethwick Tech College) in 1966/7. The computer was an ICT 1202 and the language if you could call it that was TOTIAC (a binary based system), the machine was valve based and had a huge tube with a fan in it which led out through a window in an attempt to keep it cool. This fairly often resulted in the whole thig shutting down through overheating. The few of us who were sent actually found it interesting if a bit bizzare. This led us to another course using an Analogue machine who's details have long disappeared into the mists of time. Why our head of Maths thought it a good idea we were never told... but.. it did lead me into the Early Commercial computer world when I left school.

I got a job working in a company who had a large mainframe (ICT1301), starting as an operator then training to be a programmer using MPLII and then up to an ICL 1901 using COBOL, Fortran and B3500 assembly code. We were writing all of the first bespoke packages for the industry which was fun and very creative but set us apart a bit from my ex classmates who began to look upon me as a bit of a mad scientist or early long haired hippy geeks. We were the original Y2K bug programmers.

I left the commercial world after 6 good years of program creation to train as an Art Teacher (I know,poles apart, but by then we had written most of the good stuff and were reduced to program maintenance, a boring occupation and painting was my other passion). After teaching Computing as a second subject on a TP I began to revive an interest. In my first real teaching job as an Art teacher in 1978/9 the government saw fit to giving an RM380Z to every school that could provide a member of staff to look after it, as it were. The canny Headmaster of the school I was at remembered my CV and proceeded to bribe me out of the Art room with a scale post if I created an IT course and learned how to program and teach with the 380Z (a really good little system).

Gradually Computing took over completely, and I've been Head of Computing, Head of IT, Head of ICT, ICT Coordinator, ICT Consultant from large Secondary/comprehensive/Grammar/Private schools in the UK and abroad and I have been setting up educational networks, teaching Computing, Computer Science, IT, ICT, ICDL at all levels in England and, for the last 20 years, here in the Middle East. In a way computers have chased me wherever I have been, I am still planning on going back to my Art but that will be another day. So from the vague idea, that a computer course would benefit us poor A Level maths students, of a Head of Maths in the late 60's came a career both in industry and education that has lasted over 40 years and still going.

As teachers we can make a difference to our students, one of my ex pupils sent me an e-mail a few years back that told of his new job and his first appraisal. He was asked who has had the most influence upon him regarding this job, and he told me he had to say my name, his job? Working for Microsoft in Silicon Valley, U.S. not sure that it was exactly a complement though.. working for Microsoft..hmmmm- smile.