Technology Society and an echo across the generations

I’ve split our Technology Society into two teams, one week it’s KS3 (years 7 to 9) and the next KS4/5 (Years 10 through 13). This has enabled a better use of equipment across age groups.

With the older ones we’re looking at electronics, using real components to build a simple circuit on a breadboard to test it and then they were trained in using a soldering iron to permanently solder their components and wires together. You can see a similar circuit here.

With the younger ones I set up the lab with nine of my Commodore VIC20s (some real machines from 1982, some emulators I’ve built and some the brand new re-issues from this year). We went though some of the basics of computer operations. Have a read of my methodology here.

It was great seeing them shout for joy when they all typed RUN and pressed Return at the same time on our first simple program. Have a look at the video clips.

We ended the evening by loading a text adventure game I first played at Christmas in 1983. A text adventure is an interactive story where you read the instructions and go north, pick up objects and solve puzzles. This one is still my favourite. It’s called Magic Mirror, written by a guy called Mike Taylor. 

My original tape cassette of the game. You needed a whopping 8 kilobytes to play this.

I sent him this message:

Dear Mike,

When I was 13, at Christmas 1983, I got a 16kB cartridge for my VIC20 and the tape of Magic Mirror. It was the first text adventure I’d ever seen. I loved the atmosphere and the cleverness of it (but never quite completed it).

Years later I’m now Head of Physics at Fyling Hall School in Robin Hood’s Bay ( off the North Yorkshire Coast. I run an after school VIC20 club to teach kids computer science just for fun. I’ve refurbished my own VIC, bought others off ebay, put raspberry pis in VIC cases and have some of the new TheVIC20 and TheC64 from Retrogames.

And guess what we’re doing… I thought you’d like to see. Here’s a room of 20 kids, aged 11 to 13, in October 2021 all playing your Magic Mirror game almost 40 years after you wrote it and loving every minute. (Our plan is to make a new game based around the grounds of our school).

All the very best to you and yours, and thanks for the adventure,

This was his reply:

Well, that is one of the best things I have ever heard! It’s amazing to me that in 2021 someone would be running a VIC-20 lab, and humbling that Magic Mirror would be one of its focuses! I just love the idea of these kids trying to make their way through a world that I, at their age (age 13), created 40 years earlier! Many thanks for getting in touch. I can’t tell you how much unexpected joy it brought me to see this extraordinary echo of what I did as an early teen! – Mike Taylor 

It just goes to show that what we do today could very well resonate into the future. Let’s all do what we can do well, because who knows where it will lead….

Ayd Instone, Head of Curriculum Enrichment and Communications