First Class Work

As previously noted, my curricular time with Bob Bates came to an end in 1983, when he taught the half-term Technology syllabus to all six Yr 10 classes in turn. Our class, 10/1 Science, had Technology first, which I was certainly happy for (I continued to do elective computer classes throughout the year outside of normal timetable classes).

The culmination of the course-work was an assignment due in late March (the Australian school year starts in late January and finishes in December) reviewing a personal computer of our choice. By now, the Apple //e had been released, but I’m sure you won’t find it too hard to guess which computer I chose to review – the Apple ][europlus, of course.

I threw my heart and soul into that assignment like I had never done before (nor since). I used pictures from the October 1982 National Geographic, which had articles on computer technology and Silicon Valley.

I also used photos and information from the Fall 81/Winter 82 Apple In Depth publication (N.B. I appreciate that’s not the greatest scan of the cover, but I don’t currently have a flatbed scanner – watch this space) as well as product brochures and magazine ads.

One thing we’d been lacking on the europlus, though, was a word processor. If I was going to do an assignment on the Apple ][, I wanted to do it on the Apple ][. So I ducked out to Computer Lighthouse to select a word processor – I ended up with v1.1 of Apple Writer, which worked around the europlus’ lack of lower case letters by inverting letters that were to be printed in capitals, while non-inverted letters would print lower case. Coupled with the fact the Silentype didn’t descend its descenders, it all felt like a kludge, but it worked.

I roped in my sister, who’d done a secretarial college course, and my Dad, who was the source of my pedantry, to proof-read as I revised and printed drafts. Although I had the bulk of the material on hand early, I distinctly remember a mad rush on the weekend before the assignment was due, handing pages to my sister and Dad as they were printed for the next round of proofing. I duly handed in the assignment on time and awaited Bob Bates’ verdict along with the rest of the class.

As was my wont, I was sitting at the back of the class when the assignments were handed back – they were handed to the person at the front of each row to be passed back till they arrived at the person who’d written them. I seem to recall an odd smile on Bob Bates’ face as he handed mine to the guy at the front of my row (I could still recognise my handiwork from the back of the room), and, in typical teenage boy fashion, each boy on its way to its rightful owner would flip to the last page to check out the mark – as that happened for the five or six boys in front of me, they’d give me an odd look as they passed it to the next boy in the path to me.

When I got my hands on it and checked the last page, I discovered why I was getting all these odd looks. Written in red ink in large numbers and circled was my mark – 100%! And Bob had added a comment – “First class work! Congratulations.” To say this was one of the highlights of my time at school would be an understatement. I’d never felt such a sense of accomplishment. I’d gotten 100% for other things before and have since, but no “top mark” ever felt as “top” as that.

It had such an effect on me, I still have the assignment along with the course notes from that last half-term taught to me by Bob Bates. Wanting to recreate the assignment using modern computers was the reason I created my Silentype font all those years ago (watch this space on that front, too!). It probably also helped cement the old europlus in my heart, too – a review of that machine done on that machine that got me 100% from my favourite teacher – who wouldn’t love a machine like that?!

Did you have a stand-out school experience of the Apple ][? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.