Recently at work I was asked by one of our apprentices, who was doing some
research for an article, for my first experiences of using computers. This
got me researching into my first involvement in computing. I would hope
that someone somewhere might find this of interest. I am over 50 now, so I
grew up as a teenager in the late 1970s, and computers were still very rare.
When I first started studying at High School there were no computers in
schools. My first involvement in any programming language was CESIL. This
was a simple computer programming language developed in the UK and taught
in British schools as part of the old O-Level Computer Science syllabus,
until around the mid-1980s.
CESIL stood for 'Computer Education in Schools Instructional Language'. It
was a simplified assembler language where we, as students, had to write out
special coding sheets which were sent off to a local educational computing
centre once a week. In our case this was to the Suffolk College building
in Ipswich. About a week later we would get back the results.
Sometimes it would be several weeks before our program would be complete;
at other times, if you were very precise and careful, it might work at
the first attempt.
The first computer I used directly at school was a Commodore Pet and
although we continued to use CESIL for our course work at High School;
we were then able to gradually learn *BASIC on the Commodore Pet. Our
school received two Commodore Pet computers, no one knew much about
them or how to use and program them. As a result our tutor, like us,
was learning how to use them for the first time.
I expanded my own knowledge when I was about 15 when I purchased a second
hand Sharp MZ-80K with money I had earned from my part-time jobs. This
allowed me to teach myself assembler language, as well as improving my
knowledge of the BASIC language, which came with the computer.
From those early days, whilst I was still at school and then when I was
at college, this led to my writing a number of programs, mostly games. I
had several computer programs published by a Computer magazine at the
time. These games were making the best use of the features of the computers
at that time but, looking back now, were far away from the games of today!
In around 1980 or 1981 the, I believe, first Computer user group in
Ipswich was started by a number of enthusiasts. This was called the
Suffolk Micro-Computer User Group (or SMUG for short). For three years
I was secretary and I have recently found some old newsletters, minutes
and membership details from that time.
I hope that this is of interest, and am happy to share further details as
well as more information with regards the CESIL programming language. I
would also be interested to hear from anyone who may have an interest in
[*An acronym for Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code.]