The smell of instant coffee, a teachers weird exotic lunch, the sticky steps leading up to the room, presumably caused by a melted Calippo ice lolly that’s leaked out of a blazer pocket, pickled onion Space Raiders whole and crumbs spread out across the brown, Kicker muddied aging carpet. A poster hangs on the wall, years old now, not even recognisable due to the gamma ray soaked led paint that’s been piled onto the walls over the years, the aging smell of hot micro processors that are being pushed to the absolute maximum, a few dot matrix printers that haven’t graced a sheet of paper since 87’ cry out for some kind of relief, kill me now they scream, why am I here?
Article by Danny Major - aka https://twitter.com/GuyFawkesRetro
Then, of course, at last, that brown and yellow machine that’s clearly the teachers microwave but actually looks like a large, thermonuclear ex-soviet radar machine that, when approached, felt threatened and let out a large noise to warn the teacher that somebody was heating up a lump of potassium stolen from the Science store cupboard for no apparent reason.
Faded Garbage Pail Kid stickers, big ones, pink ones, mainly Adam Bomb or Holly Wood, sometimes Bony Tony, stuck to all of the desk sides, back of chairs.
Every now and again Peter Beardsley would smile at you from the window, with custom drawn eyes and a new haircut, glaring right into your soul – A monument to past students and boys who’d all been up in the annex, it was no ordinary annex however. It was Computer Club.
Ex grammar, stuck with it’s pompous ways and the same teachers since 1917.
The computer club wasn’t as old as the schools traditions however, it was a new edition. As new as something ‘new’ can be unfortunately , since it was introduced in the mid to late 80’s and it’s now 1994, the computers in Computer Club are a bit ‘dated’. Although starting at the school in 1994, the BBC Micro (Model B’s probably) was still going strong within the confines of the dusty, coffee stained room.
The game of choice? Football Manager. The Kevin Toms micro management sports simulator was still going strong.
Every boy was playing it. Nerd, grunger, posh speaking lad with the home PC that nobody is allowed to come round and see, the kid with the Sony Plasystation directly imported from Japan. It didn’t mater. What mattered was that you got a space, you left the class first and skipped lunch, made it up the stairs and planted your arse on the chair before any other kid could get there. Once you you were sat down, settled in and intoxicated by the arm glow of the CUB monitor and the noise of the twin disk drive, no other kid could bully you out of that seat. It was out of respect. You made it to the seat. The journey to the seat was hard, tiresome and painful. The stitching on the fart flaps on your blazer had been ripped by other boys tugging at you as made you way through the school corridors. Casualties were all but common here. Boys would be on the ground. Others would be stuck on the floor as the highly polished parquet flooring took in another defenceless victim who’s kicker boots had no grip to save them. Other boys, scream for help as they stand motionless as their school tie struggles to unravel itself from a boiling hot radiator.
It was hell, but if you got a seat, you were respected, admired for your speed and courage to deter any threat of biblical style onslaught from older boys who had the knowledge and wisdom of making this journey throughout the years. You were safe to take Port Vale to FA Cup glory within one hour. Each boy had to pick a bad, terrible club. Probably Port Vale, Stockdale or you know, whatever. Who ever got the furthest with that one hour slot was considered the champion. Especially on a Friday, as lunch was longer than just one hour so the heat was on.
As the years went by, Computer Club remained in its location but the hardware that formed the basis of the club was changing. Mr Brown, the head of the club and a maths teacher still kept his desk. Upon his throne of instant coffee and strange flavoured soups from Marks & Spencer’s, the Amiga 500 Plus still sat. Nobody was allowed on this. Even the fresh shipment Acorn Archimedes couldn’t tempt him to part. This doesn’t mean he didn’t know what he was doing.
The game that was in fashion was now Zarch. Also Lander. I won’t go into it but as you know, Zarch was a ground breaking 3D polygon aerial spaceship dog flight simulator that allowed the player to go anywhere and shoot everything. The era of the football management had gone. No longer was you actively trying to be ‘the man’ by trumping your way up the leagues, you were now attempting how smooth you could fly a 3D triangular spaceship thingy through some trees. Showing off. Smoothly directing your craft whilst using the mouse that had three buttons, two of them completely useless.
The attitudes towards what went down in Computer Club had changed too. Boy’s were talking about games rather than playing them. A table had formed in the centre of the room as to provoke a discussion panel. Import games were the talk. JRPG’s dominated the room as the oxygen levels depleted rapidly as the congregation of now tech savy, grey importers spke about what they were playing and what to expect form the CD based generation that we all wanted, but couldn’t get our parents to depart money for. The discussions has moved away from the whole ‘Sega isn’t as good as Nintendo’ narrative. It was all about what was next. What’s around the corner.
The room never changed. The same old stickers still littered the desks and the carvings etched into the desks that proclaimed that ‘A. SMITH LIKES GRANNIES’ still gave you the impression that the place bore the brunt of some ferocious arguments and tales, legends throughout the years. Unfortunately, nobody was using the computers. The new fandango RM Nimbus machines were dull, uninspiring and had no games. Nobody cared about the world wide web in 97. The days of programming had well passes into memories. One simple reason.
Whilst most boys had the Nintendo 64 or a Playstation at home, Mr Bown had succumbed to the idea that nobody cared about the computers up here anymore. Sure, some lads still used them. There was something about using a word processor for absolutely nothing more than making fictional stories about another boys Mother. A firm favourite was to make a pie chart, complete with 3D variations on a huge scale to evaluate who’s Mum was better and then print the charts off, head swiftly down the corridor and pin it to a notice board for pupil reference.
Mr Brown pulled a master stroke to keep the club open. You see, as far as the school heads and governors were concerned, ninety percent of the school were crammed around eight computers in a annex, learning to code and browse the web to study for exams, etc - etc. The other teachers didn’t bother coming up to the club. Why would they? Mr Brown, for al of his coffee driven wisdom knew this was the case. As long as the kids were elsewhere at lunch, the teachers had a non-action filed lunch hour with a peaceful meal and coffee. If the boys were upstairs at Computer Club, they were alone – so, Computer Club had to stay open, never to face the axe. Mr Brown knew this. So he did the unthinkable.
He purchased a Nintendo 64, four controllers and a god forsaken copy of Goldeneye.
The thought of a fourteen year old taking a new Nintendo 64 into school is nonsensical. Mr Brown clearly knew this. So, Computer Club was forever changed. Boys still had Wham Bars, Frosties and Tizer, but didn’t really have any need to use an actual computer.
Plans were drawn up. A titme tale of who was playing who. A random chart was developed as to allow the fairness in weapon selection and area selection. You couldn’t just role up and proclaim that that wish to play another boy with Power Weapons in the Facility, no, it had to be verified officially. There was a waiting list for individuals, teams and competitions. All this was happening under the rest of the school staff’s nose and not one of them ever clocked on. Pupils didn’t say a word. It was glorious.
Still, spectating was a fun as playing. But if you were too short and couldn’t see what was going on, there was one dusty old BBC Micro siting all on it’s own with a CUB monitor and a dot matrix printer. All ready, all switched on and sitting next to the Micro was a copy of Kevin Toms Football Manager.
That was Computer Club.
Article by Danny Major - aka https://twitter.com/GuyFawkesRetro