Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

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Commie_User
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Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Mar 17, 2017 9:20 pm

I downloaded this before but it's always nice to hear it in the wild.

computers.jpg


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06bq6j ... des/player


The BBC Micro itself is being chatted about as I type, with nice clips from The Computer Programme. I can't believe that and the Spectrum is all dusty history stuff already, rather than just old fun. But then, with me, my own Commodore and NES were never packed away for long. The games side of this show are a nice touch to remind us.

Though listening, I am dismayed a talking head bemoans the coming of Microsoft and the kind of dynamite productivity packages they brought. Well, using computers are just that much better. And what ordinary person actually chose to use rudimentary software, or type in pages of buggy BASIC, when they could grab glitzy multimedia there and then?

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dgrubb
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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby dgrubb » Thu Mar 23, 2017 7:20 pm

Commie_User wrote:Though listening, I am dismayed a talking head bemoans the coming of Microsoft and the kind of dynamite productivity packages they brought.


Er, what?

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Thu Mar 23, 2017 10:52 pm

There was a complaint that kids in school were being moved away from things like BASIC and onto making spreadsheets, photo graphics and various DTP for projects.

BASIC is nice but it had its day when computers let kids do the kind of things most employers would find useful. And things most kids would want to stick with. When our school had 286 and 386s by the early 90s, I was a curiosity for the others in still playing with BASIC.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby paulb » Fri Mar 24, 2017 12:06 am

Commie_User wrote:There was a complaint that kids in school were being moved away from things like BASIC and onto making spreadsheets, photo graphics and various DTP for projects.


At the time, the complaint was often heard that children weren't learning "workplace skills". That led to Computer Studies being phased out and Information Technology being phased in.

Commie_User wrote:BASIC is nice but it had its day when computers let kids do the kind of things most employers would find useful. And things most kids would want to stick with. When our school had 286 and 386s by the early 90s, I was a curiosity for the others in still playing with BASIC.


We've come full circle now, though. Trying to train children for specific products was a bad idea, particularly in the 1980s when things became superseded very quickly, and it turns out that a lot of people got their workplace skills at work, anyway. Meanwhile, even elementary programming skills weren't being taught, leading us to the situation today where it is claimed that not enough people can program.

University-level educators may, to an extent, prefer people not to have learned bad programming habits, and many of them won't be fans of BASIC, but since the audience for university-level computing is pretty narrow, it would seem counterproductive to prevent people from learning about programming and other computing concepts on the off-chance that they might study it later.

Society would probably be better if more people were at least exposed to programming, algorithms, logic, problem-solving, and so on, as opposed to steering people in the direction of merely consuming content and at most using pre-made tools to create content.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby jonb » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:25 am

Hear, hear!

The moment you lose the ability to make tools is the moment you stop growing (as a society).

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 11:43 am

paulb wrote:University-level educators may, to an extent, prefer people not to have learned bad programming habits, and many of them won't be fans of BASIC, but since the audience for university-level computing is pretty narrow, it would seem counterproductive to prevent people from learning about programming and other computing concepts on the off-chance that they might study it later.


I'm not averse to kids being given a grounding, hence the Microbit being a nice idea. Kids could choose if they wanted to do programming or pottery or music or something. Kids have the aptitude - they make porn on their smartphones like production runs, if you believe the news. So skills can be martialled. But it does seem very Luddite to turn your back on what changed and why. Especially when BBC software itself pointed the way with productivity tools and learning to type.

It's just when the culture changed, it stayed changed. In the golden age of the 8-bit, logic and arrays and things were pretty much all there was academically. Then came ubiquity in computers, where whole IT departments were required to maintain PCs, where employers saw a greater service in kids being a grounding in productivity packages. You can't go back to roomfuls of kids picking apart type-in listings any more because nobody does that any more. Just some kids, if they want to.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby dgrubb » Fri Mar 24, 2017 2:09 pm

Commie_User wrote:There was a complaint that kids in school were being moved away from things like BASIC and onto making spreadsheets, photo graphics and various DTP for projects.


You are giving Microsoft far too much credit for this.

Commie_User wrote:Then came ubiquity in computers, where whole IT departments were required to maintain PCs, where employers saw a greater service in kids being a grounding in productivity packages.


I haven't seen the show, so I can't be sure, but I feel like you're likely misrepresenting the complaint. I doubt it was bemoaning that BASIC, in and of itself, wasn't being taught, but that computing fundamentals were omitted. The dichotomy isn't "BASIC vs. Everything-That-Computers-Could-Now-Do-In-The-90s" but "real computing knowledge vs. ability to navigate common IT packages."

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby paulb » Fri Mar 24, 2017 3:16 pm

Commie_User wrote:But it does seem very Luddite to turn your back on what changed and why. Especially when BBC software itself pointed the way with productivity tools and learning to type.


Sure, the BBC had a bunch of productivity tools, too. They would have been good enough for the concepts for a few years, as illustrated by my secondary school where they were using mono-output, mostly text-only PCs for word processing and spreadsheets. (Even the RM Nimbus machines that they later wasted their money on could only run something like Excel in its earliest Windows incarnation.) I don't have a problem with people broadening the use of computers - I was benefiting from that myself - but it is the neglect of the programming or problem-solving aspects that people now regard as a mistake.

There were factors that brought about such change that remain the same today, one of which being that there just aren't enough teachers who can teach programming if that is what is to be offered. That we went through a "microcomputer revolution", where those being taught at that time are now today's teachers, just goes to show what a scandal it is that there is still a shortage of qualified teachers. It also doesn't help that the teaching profession is treated with contempt by those responsible for policy and also by wider society for the most part.

So, fire up the word processing software and teach people how to write and format letters. That's a lot easier for some random teacher to offer alongside their normal subjects, and you can even categorise it as some kind of business training and thus truly worthy of the "go-getting" Thatcher era. Today, I imagine, it would be about making Web pages if it hasn't been reduced to the level of composing social network messages. No-one needs any specialised training, then, and the lack of investment gives the corresponding lack of return on that investment, also something very much of the Thatcher era.

Commie_User wrote:It's just when the culture changed, it stayed changed. In the golden age of the 8-bit, logic and arrays and things were pretty much all there was academically. Then came ubiquity in computers, where whole IT departments were required to maintain PCs, where employers saw a greater service in kids being a grounding in productivity packages. You can't go back to roomfuls of kids picking apart type-in listings any more because nobody does that any more. Just some kids, if they want to.


If schoolchildren were being made to just type in listings, then they weren't really getting proper tuition, because that sounds like a great way of filling in a lesson. Not that I would blame teachers for doing that, being generally overworked, underpaid and under-supported as they are already. And the debate about whether employers get to say what children learn was had over and over again: I think the consensus amongst educators is that schools are for education, not training. But again, if policy-makers can see a way of doing things on the cheap - in this case saving money for cheapskate employers by bundling workplace training into what they arguably already regard as a form of state-provided daycare - then I don't think we need to wonder what happens next.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:12 pm

dgrubb wrote:
Commie_User wrote:I doubt it was bemoaning that BASIC, in and of itself, wasn't being taught, but that computing fundamentals were omitted. The dichotomy isn't "BASIC vs. Everything-That-Computers-Could-Now-Do-In-The-90s" but "real computing knowledge vs. ability to navigate common IT packages."


I never said BASIC alone either but things like that which help the kids. And those things should have more of a focus in schools, I agree. There's an industry out there, it's just the focus changed as computing expanded. You can still teach both variants of computing but the programming side will never be as dominant because it's no longer alone.

Though I don't think modern schools are quite that hopeless in having few computer-savvy teachers. There weren't any at the time of the original computers, just one on a trolley and wheeled out by the guy who happened to have most confidence in booting it up. Taken from that standpoint, even those current teachers who 'only' know typing a letter are further ahead. (Though I don't give Microsoft too much credit, more that they cleverly took the market.)

OK, let me go somewhere here. It seems to be that the Micro Bit is about as much as you can do to get modern kids on board with logic and programming now. And that's rolling. I think we have a new problem - kids being so catered for by modern, free apps that, well, there's less incentive than ever to roll out your own unless you're really into it anyway. So I think we have to take it in from that angle now, as I've a feeling that programming will seem a bit superfluous to the average kiddy.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby danielj » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:24 pm

My 6 year old seems to quite enjoy it, despite minecraft and apps and whatever else. Creators will always create.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Mar 24, 2017 4:28 pm

I think that raises another point. If your kid's a creator on computers, give him a good-un. But I don't think schools should be putting too much of an emphasis on programming at a screen any more anyway.

It shouldn't be nothing, as we seem to have, but given how awash we now are with product in the domestic market, the school isn't the only place you can go for something comprehensive any more. Specialist, limited programming courses will be all that's needed. You could do it with one bloke covering a neighbourhood of schools.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby danielj » Fri Mar 24, 2017 5:54 pm

I'll defer to flaxcottage as the expert, but speaking as a very lapsed teacher, teaching programming isn't just about programming. It teaches a huge number of transferable skills and problem solving techniques that are relevant from accountancy to philosophy to physics (and no, that's not a definitive list). It's entirely correct and proper for it to be taught as part of the curriculum.

(and I can't believe I actually took the bait on this one)

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Richard Russell » Sat Mar 25, 2017 10:39 am

Commie_User wrote:Though I don't think modern schools are quite that hopeless in having few computer-savvy teachers.

Perhaps not, but my experience is that the popularity of BBC BASIC in schools (currently, as well as in the past) is highly correlated with how comfortable the teacher is with that particular language compared with others. A notable example is a leading UK private school (I won't name it) which until quite recently used BBC BASIC to teach programming to their younger students because the teacher was very enthusiastic about it; but since his retirement I don't think they teach BASIC at all (preferring Python, probably).

I strongly suspect we will see a decline in the popularity of BASIC in schools as the older generation of teachers, who were exposed to it in the 1980s and 1990s (not least through the BBC's Computer Literacy Project and the BBC Micro of course) are replaced by a younger cohort who are happier with what they perceive as more 'modern' languages. At least (in the UK anyway) we have a curriculum which allows individual schools to choose the programming language(s) they teach.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby 1024MAK » Sun Mar 26, 2017 3:15 pm

Okay, so, playing devil's advocate...

<rant>

No one needs to be educated in physics - the human race already knows everything it needs for day to day living...
No one in the U.K. needs to be educated in electronics - it all comes from overseas now, so what's the point...
No one will soon need to be educated in motor engineering- this is now a specialist area...

You could take if further, why teach maths when you have smartphones with calculators and Google?

The answer to all these, as well as to the question of understanding the basics of how computers work is the same. You have to teach the principles, but include practical real world stuff to make it interesting.

And actually, as long as the programming language is suitable for the task, it does not really matter which one is used.

BASIC was designed to be easy to learn, so as not to make the wall too high for people new to programming to climb.

When I was at school in the early 1980's, we were taught BASIC. Before that a "pseudo" code. And after the basics of BASIC, we were introduced to some other programming languages. At technical college after school, I learnt 6502 machine code.

But I never became a professional programmer. Instead I ended up in a job that had very few computers. Of course, that did not last long...

Did my education help me? Of course. Because now, although I still don't write code at work, it is very useful to understand how they work when trying to diagnose failed systems.

If you never introduce children to the inner workings, and just let them play with "finished" products, where are the next generation of programmers and engineers going to come from?

And remember, young children are much better at picking up information and concepts than ANY adult. So it's better to give them the information and experiences when they are young.

</rant>

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby 1024MAK » Sun Mar 26, 2017 3:21 pm

Oh, and about schools.

In the engineering industry where I work, it is rare to have more than 12 adults in a classroom, or learning about new systems or equipment.

Compare that to the class sizes in schools... Most teachers have no respect for politicians for many good reasons...

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Wed Mar 29, 2017 2:48 pm

Oh, I don't know. They had whacking great class sizes in the '50s, with the older generation adamant that they turned out OK.

Mind, with all the extra focus on individual learning needs discovered since then, maybe there wouldn't be time for computer surgical procedure in any event.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Coeus » Thu Apr 06, 2017 8:32 pm

1024MAK wrote:Okay, so, playing devil's advocate...

<rant>

No one needs to be educated in physics - the human race already knows everything it needs for day to day living...


Physics was one of my favourite subjects at school but I enjoyed the sciences generally. For me, it all links back to the "how?" and "why?" questions we ask as young children and how I liked to take the covers off things and see how they worked.

1024MAK wrote:No one in the U.K. needs to be educated in electronics - it all comes from overseas now, so what's the point...


And now everything is just a product for us to consume, a black box whose workings are a mystery. I wonder, do we intend to be a service economy for ever? Will it always be more profitable than industry? If we have no-one left wondering how stuff works, how to alter it it and eventually how to design new things will we suffer?

I don't know the answer to that but I also have to accept that I am biased because I have always had that curiosity and I suspect many of the people here fall into the same boat.

I also wonder what the record of education is in this area? I know that for me, the idea of getting a microcomputer at home was put in my head by a maths teacher at our school who had a ZX80 and then later an Atom so this would probably have been 1980. I suspect this was not part of the curriculum at the time and it was probably another two or three years before we got to the point where a whole class could sit in front of computers for practical sessions. I learned BASIC by typing in programs from magazine listings and then working out how they worked, modifying the to do something slightly different and then writing my own from scratch. I learned Z80 assembler because I wanted something that was faster than ZX BASIC, something that wouldn't have happened naturally on a modern PC. Learning 6502 assembler was the natural thing to do when I moved to the BBC Computer. By comparison the computer studies course at school was rather more oriented around mainframe computing. I wonder how things were different for people who went through the system a few years later.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby 1024MAK » Thu Apr 06, 2017 11:14 pm

For a "Complete BBC Games Archive" visit www.bbcmicro.co.uk NOW!
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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:36 am

Those videos seem to sum up all I mean.

I've already said a certain brainbox-level education for the cream of the kids is needed and valuable. There's always the world to compete with. But for the rest of us service drones at school, some generalised grounding in applications were all that was needed and understood. We're not all eggheads, are we.


You're all quite lucky having fora like these. There are a few questions I've either been put off asking, or I've just forgotten how to understand what I was asking! It can get very deep here. It's not normal.

That's why, even in the good old days, half of all the Spectrums needed to be returned to the factory. You just can't make all kids into Einstein and what we can do is extremely variable.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby davidb » Fri Apr 07, 2017 9:35 am

Commie_User wrote:That's why, even in the good old days, half of all the Spectrums needed to be returned to the factory. You just can't make all kids into Einstein and what we can do is extremely variable.

Surely you mean "valuable"? ;) It doesn't matter that most people won't perform in certain narrowly defined ways to a high level. What's more important is that they are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. It doesn't matter if someone is a genius if they never get the chance to realise it.

Effort is also an underestimated factor. Someone who has a reasonable level of skills in a subject can go on to have a greater impact than a genius, simply because they were motivated to put more effort into their work. The world would grind to a halt without people in "supporting" roles who know how to get things done in practice as well as in theory. This is certainly something you see in the hard sciences now: academics who only learned how to do spreadsheets and word processing are at a serious disadvantage to those who were willing to put in the effort to learn programming. It's not that they were taught programming; it's that they were aware that it existed and had the opportunity to learn (or teach themselves).

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Apr 07, 2017 11:24 am

davidb wrote:
Commie_User wrote:That's why, even in the good old days, half of all the Spectrums needed to be returned to the factory. You just can't make all kids into Einstein and what we can do is extremely variable.

Surely you mean "valuable"? ;) It doesn't matter that most people won't perform in certain narrowly defined ways to a high level. What's more important is that they are given the opportunity to fulfil their potential. It doesn't matter if someone is a genius if they never get the chance to realise it.


That's absolutely correct. And we've been luckily so deluged with products since the 1950s, we can realise and expand whatever potential we have. I couldn't have found I could make such nice music without cheap instruments and computers to unlock the doors. We can use the tools but most of us can't make the tools.

I don't mean to sound so dismissive about we drones. I myself can't do more than be a cog in some bigger wheel. I just mean that kids should have an equal opportunity to see what they are made of but I also know that deep subjects are going to be too taxing for most of us. Most of us ended up playing games but it seems that people here want all kids sitting through the symbol-festooned blackboard stuff.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby danielj » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:37 pm

You're making the mistake of judging everyone by your own yardstick and making rather inaccurate assumptions/assertions about how education works. Don't assume your experience of anything equates to anyone else's. I also suspect a degree of trolling in all of this.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby paulb » Fri Apr 07, 2017 1:03 pm

Commie_User wrote:Most of us ended up playing games but it seems that people here want all kids sitting through the symbol-festooned blackboard stuff.


People here? All I've said is that people should be exposed to algorithms and problem solving, advocacy of the latter I believe I saw only the other day on the BBC Web site, accompanied by comments from frustrated teachers who probably agreed with the idea in principle but felt let down as always by the government shaking everything up again without actually supporting the profession.

I don't think anyone is advocating "symbol-festooned blackboard stuff" which is what you get at university in courses for things like functional programming, which only the most "hardcore" computer science academics would suggest for children, some of them because they are just obsessed with a certain language and can't bear to think of people learning anything else. Just things like splitting problems up into smaller parts, planning activities, maybe not even using "computer" topics at all would be highly beneficial.

In fact, you could even use "business" topics instead (which would surely please our glorious leaders and the high priests of capitalism) because the only difference between doing this stuff generally and getting a computer to do it is in the rigour, and I think we could let schoolchildren off the hook for getting programs exactly right within the short periods of time they have to dedicate to this stuff. In any case, substitute numbers and symbols and you pretty much have what they need to do in mathematics, so it isn't as if they can avoid such things, anyway.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby davidb » Fri Apr 07, 2017 2:35 pm

danielj wrote:You're making the mistake of judging everyone by your own yardstick and making rather inaccurate assumptions/assertions about how education works. Don't assume your experience of anything equates to anyone else's. I also suspect a degree of trolling in all of this.

I don't think it's that. I just think Commie_User is perhaps guided a bit by the common misconception that someone has to be really good at something or it's just not for them. Perhaps that's a result of the way the education system works. I'm hoping that we have helped to make the point that everyone can learn new things and achieve something, even if they didn't think they had the ability.

Commie_User wrote:Most of us ended up playing games but it seems that people here want all kids sitting through the symbol-festooned blackboard stuff.

A lot of people started by playing games, then typing in cheats for games, then modifying games, and ended up writing their own games. It's not always a shallow learning curve but, if you have access to the technology and the tools, the only thing stopping you is the belief that you can't do it.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:08 pm

danielj wrote:You're making the mistake of judging everyone by your own yardstick and making rather inaccurate assumptions/assertions about how education works. Don't assume your experience of anything equates to anyone else's. I also suspect a degree of trolling in all of this.


And how I do I react to that, then?

Well I've seen some technical classes at school where they had the blackboards out and covered in symbols but I have must have assumed that.

I suppose we just have to agree to differ on this one. I've already explained my thoughts in concise terms. And if there's already plenty of logic, transferable skills and problem solving already in school, it probably doesn't matter so much that BASIC is no longer involved.


But whatever, I was just testing some thoughts.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby danielj » Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:54 pm

You really don't have to - it's just my reaction to the comments such as:
You're all quite lucky having fora like these. There are a few questions I've either been put off asking, or I've just forgotten how to understand what I was asking! It can get very deep here. It's not normal.

would seem to be designed to get a rise. I may be completely wrong. By all means discuss things and test ideas, but there's no need to be seemingly critical of the users of an internet forum. My apologies if that's not how it was intended to come across.

I would, however, stand by the comment that you can't measure other people by your own yardstick - and no one is in a position to judge normal (other than perhaps the scientists and pedagogists who work on such things). Politicians certainly aren't :D

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Coeus » Fri Apr 07, 2017 7:10 pm

danielj wrote:You really don't have to - it's just my reaction to the comments such as:
You're all quite lucky having fora like these. There are a few questions I've either been put off asking, or I've just forgotten how to understand what I was asking! It can get very deep here. It's not normal.

would seem to be designed to get a rise. I may be completely wrong. By all means discuss things and test ideas, but there's no need to be seemingly critical of the users of an internet forum. My apologies if that's not how it was intended to come across.


I have to say I gave the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe he would have been better to have said "the people on a forum such as this are not a representative sample of the population". Neither would the members of a classical orchestra performing on period instrument but they are not crackpots and neither are we.

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:31 pm

danielj wrote: By all means discuss things and test ideas, but there's no need to be seemingly critical of the users of an internet forum. My apologies if that's not how it was intended to come across.


And my apologies if you thought I was harassing the other members. If it comes across that way, then I'm always happy to reassure people - or try to. (I'm more used to adversarial political debate, so perhaps some of that rubs off unintentionally. I certainly don't want to sour any atmos in a place like this.)

For example, I meant 'that's not normal' to mean that something's not normal. Not that anyone's abnormal. I mean look at many 1980s dads, even when we were trying to explain a video game. Many dads at least would look a bit dumbfounded at something beyond comprehension for the time. That's what I mean by users of this forum are lucky, in that they can understand electronics and programming and code and micro-engineering.

In my eyes, it's easier for people of that background to make an argument about having a huge curriculum based on the mechanics of computers. As my parents would sometimes tell me, 'We can't do what you can do.'

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby Commie_User » Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:38 pm

Coeus wrote:I have to say I gave the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe he would have been better to have said "the people on a forum such as this are not a representative sample of the population".


Yes, that is exactly what I mean. Thank you. My turn of phrases could need oiling. Please, anybody, don't be afraid to step in with a friendly 'Oi!'

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Re: Ah, Computing Britain back on BBC Player

Postby 1024MAK » Fri Apr 07, 2017 10:04 pm

There is really is NO normal. Is there a normal height for a human? No, everyone is slightly different.
Same with any and all aspects of someone's abilities.
Same with the education that each individual received.

But people like to generalise. So often "normal' means anything that is not the opposite.

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