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Introducing The Code Show

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Have you ever wondered if the UK’s unique computing history will be lost on future generations of kids? Well Gary McNab certainly did and he plans to do something about it.

The Code Show will be a travelling computing museum containing historical hardware from the home computer boom of the late 70’s early 80’s, 90’s and take to schools and colleges up and down the country. The computing curriculum is great but it does not touch on our heritage as a pioneering nation creating an industry via bedroom coders.

We spoke to Gary McNab about his plans and he said.

“Back in 2009 I was self employed as an It technician supporting primary schools with their technical support everything from plugging in speakers to managing a server environment etc. Through working in schools I got to see how the old ICT curriculum was being delivered and more importantly how each school grappled with the same curriculum.

The old ICT curriculum got a lot of bad press mainly as Industry was concerned we were becoming a nation of consumers of technology and not creators of technology. Many months passed with the national media jumping on the band wagon of school leavers leaving school and with nothing more than office based skills. The introduction of the new computing curriculum brought a sea change in attitude towards the area of coding and computer science but still embedding core skills that were part of the old ICT curriculum.

With much fanfare the computing curriculum came out in 2012 and teachers were struggling to get to grips with the new requirement of learning to code etc.. I thought this is what we were doing in computer clubs in the 1980’s!

So I went from being a schools technician to actively observing how teachers across the country grappled with what was seen as this new found skill which more accurately, was what I had been learning in computer clubs after school and at lunch time. I began to run after school clubs showing children how computers worked what they looked like inside and show children historical computers and 8 bit pixel characters with hamma beads.

In 2013 I was asked to become a subject leader for Computing in a primary school as well as my existing role. I gladly accepted the offer and started on my learning journey with the children. As I studied the computing subject requirements I noticed a lack of recognition to previous computing pioneers and to our historical role within the subject area. There were lots of start up’s at this time with everyone promising to help teachers on how to deliver the new curriculum and many have done a wonderful job in easing the anxiety that teachers have felt.

It was at that point I thought that some of the teachers delivering the subject were not even born during the birth of the home computer boom so would have no connection to our history of early computing and the trailblazing years that followed during the 1980’s and strongly believed that we were missing a vital piece of the puzzle. I began to bring into school various historical hardware for children to see. They were fascinated with the Sinclair TV for example and an early Magnovox console and had no idea what a cassette tape was! My head teacher at this point said you could take this to schools you know. At that point I had the confirmation that what I was thinking was a viable option. Luckily my headteacher was a previously an ICT subject leader!

Bedrooms To Billions was released I watched this and immediately from that moment I emailed the team at Gracious Films and told them of my idea. I started to trawl eBay buying anything and everything I could to enhance my computing subject in school always with an eye that this could be a solid idea to take to schools and colleges through the UK.

ICT

I emailed various members of the computing community within education and everyone I contacted thought it was a great idea. Over the next two years boxes arrived daily at my house containing computing hardware , games ,televisions etc everything that I could use to give schools an experience of the home computing boom. I dropped ideas, question etc on twitter and found the retro gaming community to be both helpful and supportive in what was a fledgling idea believing that whilst there was the Computing museum in Cambridge the costs to schools across the country to visit and the time restraints including travel time was not a viable option.

So The Code Show was born against this backdrop. From teaching the computing subject I could see that there needed to be an element of fun in the subject and that as national media started reporting a drop in children continuing to take the subject in secondary education we were effectively teaching the subject with a 1970’s attitude to the PlayStation generation. What we have to remember is that what we identify as technology is not technology to this generation of learners .They have always had the internet always have photographs within seconds always connected. I began including British pioneers in my teaching showing children games from the 1980’s and they couldn’t get enough of the games and hardware

So I’ve hit upon the idea of taking hardware to schools telling the story of how schools children in the 1980’s created the birth of the video game industry and by giving them hands on access to home computers , consoles we can put fun into the subject identify our success as a nation of inventors, programmers, musicians etc. No one is celebrating our history telling the story etc giving children (or teachers) hands on access to historical hardware.

My house now resembles a museum. In the past 2 years I have amassed a collection of over 200 machines from Magnovox to VR and everything in between. By tailoring each schools requirement we can give them a working historical timeline and celebrate our home computing boom.

I contacted Mark Grogan at 16bit creative early September with the vision that I had in my head and gave him a brief introduction and he has run with this flawlessly. I firmly believe the significance that I needed the assistance of someone who recognized the retro gaming and computing scene. In the past 4 weeks we have collated support across Europe and America. Schools are now emailing and enquiring how and when we can visit them .

My belief seems to be bearing fruit in that we indeed need to put some fun and celebration into our teaching and by visiting schools with our roadshow we can support schools and embrace a new generation of bedroom coders.

So it appears that Gary is off to a great start and we wish him the best of luck with The Code Show.

For further details on The Code Show, please visit:

https://www.facebook.com/TheCodeShow/
https://twitter.com/The_CodeShow

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