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During the early 1940´s children did not begin school until they were 5 years old. Perhaps that was because mothers were at home looking after their families. At that time during WW2 my father was stationed as a pharmacist at a military hospital on the Shetland Islands. My mother, my sister and I travelled by boat to live there until the end of the war. We stayed longer because my brother was born in June 1945. Shetlanders did not begin school until they were six years old. I was nearly 6 when I started school and at my first Lunch/Dinner break I thought it was the end of the day so set off home! I was promptly returned to school to be caned. That will remind you to not do that again, they said! In Shetland, Jill and I played outside much of the time and because there was no electricity we went to bed quite early: we had very little schooling. In 1947 my younger brother was born so I went to live with my grandparents and changed schools too. At about that time I was very ill and part of the recovery was spent at an Open Air School after which I returned to my original school. I was surprised to find some children were familiar but many not. At nine we moved to from Nelson to Barrowford and went to another school. I settled there quickly: the times tables were repeated in unison daily - I liked that. After only a few days the class was asked an arithmetic question. There were quite a few incorrect suggestions. I whispered what I thought was the correct answer. The teacher gave the answer and the boy next to me told the teacher I knew it. It was then I realised I had an aptitude for sums. 18 months or so later I passed the 11 plus examination to go to the local Grammar School. (By tha age of 11 I had 7 different educational experiences, from none to Grammar school). I was exceedingly poor at most subjects but exceedinly good at two; in fact the top of the year in chemistry and nearly so in mathematics. I did not like it there, so for GCE advanced levels in chemistry, physics and maths I went to Burnley College. I really enjoyed it there: the freedom, the self reliance. At that time Universities required a foreign language pass at GCE Ordinary Level. I was offered a place to read chemistry at Manchester University subject to a French pass. I had studied maths and theoretical mechanics as 2 subjects but the lecturer said I would easily have a good enough grade in single maths to read chemistry. I did not enter the second mathematics exam. In those exams I gained an ´A´ in maths, a ´B´ and a ´C´ in physics plus a fail in French again. Hull University accepted me on the grades for the following year so I worked at the College as a Laboratory Assistant to Miles Ainsworth. We worked in the Science and (coal) Mining Departments. One day, by chance as I was walking past a group of students I could see a girl was struggling with a chemical equation: I helped, and that was the start of a 60 plus year relationship. After both of our educations were completed we married in 1965. What if I had passed French? What if I had gained A´s in double maths? - later. Miles was an electronics entheusiast. He encouraged me to build a pentode valve amplifier. I did. It worked wonderfully with our homerecord player. I was hooked: and that has lasted a lifetime. The careers adviser at University suggested that I should follow a career in computer programming but I thought that meant moving to America. I was a little taken aback at that suggestion having a chemistry degree. I declined, because Sylvia and I had already agreed we would become teachers. A PGCE requirement to join the course was to teach and observe classes in a local Primary school. I spent a very enjoyable 2 weeks at my school in Barrowford. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I changed courses from Secondary to Primary teaching. As soon as I was appointed to Worsthorne Primary School I approached a local College of Further Education and said I would like to teach chemistry at GCE O Level. I was appointed and taught evening classes for many years - even A level Electronics. After a year I taught chemistry in a secondary school. Fortune again, in 1968 schools were reorganised from Secondary Modern, Technical and Grammar to Comprehensive. From that I was appointed Head of the Science Department of a much enlarged school that brought with it increased salary. I was told I was the youngest Head of Science in Lancashire. I could continue my enthusiasm for electronics - I built a ruby laser machine from a kit and used it in physics lessons and this caught the imagination of the press in 1971! Within a short time I joined the North West Curriculum Development team. It was there I met Peter. He was a physicist who had an interest in Electronics. Together with Cliff, in 1978 we wrote an Electronics text and experiment book for schools, published by Edward Arnold. This was the time when germanium transistors were displacing thermionic valves for the general public. At that time there were rapid developments in electronics. Very quickly silcon transistors followed then integrated circuits, (several to many transistors connected in a single package). In 1976 I built a solid state oscilloscope using the first available (to me) high voltage transistors. By 1981 Clive Sinclair introduced the first £100 useable computer, the ZX80. it had 1K of memory (RAM). It ran the BASIC language but because of the low memory only simple programs could be written - no problem, we opened the white plastic case and piggybanked further memory to make a useable computer. The following year the black plastic ZX81 was bought by the school. This had more memory, had interface capabilities and a thermal printer. Mullard (the electronics company) challenged schools to produce innovative electronics solutions. We entered the competition with what we called a lung pressure meter. The user blew down a tube (replaceable plastic insert - health & hygiene) that turned a wheel that produced pulses. These pulses were counted over time and the result displayed on the screen - all good fun. Most of the development was done in out of hours - creating printed circuit boards, drilling, soldering and other skills were developed by our team. Two pupils and I were all expenses paid to stay onvernight in London and present our model for the competition. we were runners up and received a prize, a photograph with gthe Minister for Education, Mr William shelton for the press. I believe we were the only school to be be selected for a second time to the Mullard competition. We had a digital clock there. Mullard didn´t continue with the competitions. At that time teachers could write a Mode 3 syllabus with examination. I wrote a Mode 3 Digital Electronics with a strong practical component. It was a popular subject. When the NEA (Northern Examining Association) introduced an Electronis GCSE course I was asked to join the team of 3 to create the syllabus. From that I was apppointed Chief Moderator, a position I held until 2000, 5 years after retirement. In about 1986, I was a somewhat involved with assembly language programming Microtext Language from the National Physical Laboratories. I wrote a routine to justify text, wrote semi-automated teacher reports where words could be changed and text updated. It could produce very personal school Reports. I also wrote the whole of the GCSE Chemistry teaching notes (syllabus) using Microtext. It included questions. The wonder of Microtext was its flexability: for example simple question "What is the colour of copper sulphate crystals?" The answer could be marked correct for blue, blu, it iz a blew color etcetera. Unfortunately it was 8 bit and had virtually no graphics capabilities. The BBC computer was being replaced by 16 bit machines. Early 1990´s I was asked to join a team of Advisory Teachers (for science). It was our remit to go into Science departments in Lancashire schools to show teachers how computers and IT in general could enhance teaching. That was quite an exciting time; the BBC Archimedes computer was still being used in many science departments. I returned to school as Head of IT, taught Business Studies and Assistant Deputy Head, but in 1995 had a heart attack and retired on ill health grounds. Since then I have moved from practical electronics to (fairly simple) computer coding. December 1994 I became involved with Crystal Doors, a KBB manufacturing company. For various reasons it was insolvent but I knew it had potential and Richard worked there. The invoicing system and workshop workflow were antiquated - typewriter and carbon copies were order of the day. The problem: how can it be computerised? We needed to integrate: 3 thicknesses of MDF board, 16 different types of foil, 30 different types of route, 4 different edges, variable door sizes from cupboards to wardrobe doors, holes for hinges as well as customer number, address, telephone number and so on. It turned out to be much more than that. Create a databae? No! Use Microsoft Excel (in 1998) This, 1997 version, had VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) in built. I set about writing modules, learning the language on a needs must basis and had a simple working application by Spring 1996. It was inefficient. One file for one order. It needed to be one Tab (sheet) for one order. That was done. It printed: confirmation order for the customer, workshop sheet for movement around the factory, delivery note and invoice. It also calculated the weight so that the delivery an was not overloaded. My major problem at that time was the constraint of the number of columns. There were many sub-routines with a total of 1663 rows of code. The spreadsheet was on the edge of capabilities but it held out, with updates, for over 10 years.

In 2018 Chris introduced me to DNA testing via 23andMe testing company. This was the beginning of a steep learning curve because from that I learnt there are at least 3 strands for investigation - general family history, following the male line and personal health linked to DNA mutations. To a less extent examining the mitochondria for the female line. This new involvment is so time consuming it has superceded my electronics interest.

September 2021

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