Theatre: Tomorrow's World Today

Some mornings, pushing a soft, plastic button and smiting an ergonomically- designed computer keyboard in order to log on (clocking in, so to speak) is as much 'work' as a person can bring themselves to do until they've had a stiff cup of tea and read the job ads. This five-second process is as unremarkable a daily routine as smiling at the receptionist or hanging up your coat. Had you been one of the first schoolchildren to learn how to use a computer, however, you may appreciate the effort that has gone into making it such a simple process.

In 1969, Tomorrow's World showed a film about four boys exploring new territory at school. They are with a teacher and, at first sight, appear to be tinkering with the generator in the school boiler room. What's going on? Who gave them permission to operate heavy industrial machinery? Surely if the school caretaker caught them (no doubt conforming to the janitorial stereotype of humourless despot), he'd have them all carpeted before the Headmaster.

But no, there is nothing untoward in this scenario. Quite the opposite. These eager chaps are among the first British schoolchildren to be taught on computers, and what looks like a reconstruction of the Titanic's engine- room is in fact the assembled components of Nellie, their school computer. While the teacher - tweed of jacket and wild of hair, let's assume he's the science master - crouches bug-eyed in front of a control deck as vast as that of the Starship Enterprise, his scholars busy themselves with the then highly complex process of logging on:

"The keys are in, Sir!"

"Keys in. Can you check the oil level please, Harry?"

"Oil OK, sir."

"Right, check disc temperature please, Malcolm."

Malcolm jams his head inside a cupboard to squint at a temperature gauge. "All fine, Sir!" A third boy speaks into an intercom: "Alternator house here - everything OK?"

The teacher bellows back "Prepare for standby!" and a fourth boy flicks some switches on the control panel. Levers are pulled, a noise like that of an industrial vacuum cleaner fills the room and the hard disk drones to life. This being the dawn of the computer age, Nellie's range of functions is somewhat limited, but the boys seem very impressed by her aptitude for Noughts & Crosses.

One imagines these technological pioneers - who grew up with diodes and transistors - thirty years on, wistfully watching their own offspring learning by computer. "Huh! Computers weren't so easy to use in my day. Why, it often took Simpkins Minor an hour just to grease the cranking handle..."

But while the budding progeny of Bill Gates undoubtedly benefit from being able to produce graphically perfect maps and charts for their GCSE Geography homework in this manner, console yourself with another thought - attempting to illustrate the functioning of the Norwegian leather industry is just as boring with an Apple Powerbook as it was with a packet of felt- tip pens.

'Tomorrow's World', tonight at 7.30 on BBC1. Catch 'Tomorrow's World Plus' on the UK Horizons channel.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?