Small Scale Experimental Machine

Almost three years to the day I took up a short-term contract with the Beyond Distance Research Alliance at the University of Leicester. I left a full-time, well paid job, moved my family from Sheffield to Leicester to take up the challenge of implementing what was then just the concept of the Media Zoo. What sold this position to me was not only the opportunity of working in a high class research-led institution; but more importantly for me was the idea of exploring the Exotics House and the future adoption of educational technologies for teaching and learning.

In my tenure as the Keeper of the Media Zoo I have been fortunate to be part of the explosion of podcasts in education, the use of hand-held mobile devices and more recently the immersion opportunities provided by Second Life. I have worked with some amazing people and organisations during this time which would take me too long to mention! I said recently at a conference in Poland that in the last three years I have learnt more than at any other point of my life – and I meant it! But where did this idea of technology futurism begin – well that is a debate for another day but maybe it started with the Baby?

60 years to the day the Small Scale Experimental Machine, or “Baby”, was the first computer to contain memory which could store a program. The room-sized computer’s ability to carry out different tasks, without having to be rebuilt, has led some to describe it as the “first modern PC”. Using just 128 bytes of memory, it successfully ran its first set of instructions to determine the highest factor of a number on 21 June 1948.

“We were extremely excited,” Geoff Tootill, one of the builders of Baby told BBC News. “We congratulated each other and then went and had lunch in the canteen.” I like their style!

It may be time for me to move onto pastures new, but I’m certain the Beyond Distance Research Alliance, the Media Zoo and the University of Leicester will continue to undertake cutting-edge, innovate research for the good of education. I’m just pleased to have played a small part in the process of innovating education through research.

Thank you to everyone I have had the pleasure of working with and I look forward to seeing you all on the circuit soon when I start my new job with Pebble Learning.


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