Burford Comprehensive School, West Oxfordshire (1981-86)

I went to Burford Comprehensive School in West Oxfordshire and hated every minute of it. There were a few other kids we had been to Prep. School and they all hated it to, wallowing in their own ignorance and getting at each other in every conceivable way. The children were drawn mainly from farming families and the RAF at Brize Norton where my Father served with it's 1/4 mile hanger and Hercules transport Aircraft. They went beating, getting the pheasant to fly and were paid about 5 and a can of beer for one day's work. I got bullied being somewhat withdrawn, not very strong and had a speech impediment. I also suffer from mild dyslexia which means I have to read things over twice to get rid of a lot of stupid mistakes. Partly because my mind races ahead of my typing.

My main friend was Chris Green, Creby to his friends. His father owned a Turkey Farm in his back Garden and went I visited them all I saw was the birds pecking at each other endlessly, probably due to lack of space. This is how I regard Comprehensive Pupils. We had a kid who had trouble with controlling his bowl and he was ostracized and ridiculed, I tried to be friendly to him. We had a kid with a similar problem at Prior's Court and he was treated just like everyone else, his name was even fowler. It's a difference in character, compassion v. survival in the jungle.

Creby lived in another village, and liked to hire videos out every Saturday, riding his BMX Bike with his Friends, hacking and playing games on his BBC Micro, and his Mother used to buy food from the cash and carry so he always had a massive box full of chocolate. He had a Club House is his Father's back garden. He and his friends once rung up the operator and sang her a Happy Christmas. He had one child and works as an computer network supervisor. He also had jobs as a programmer. He looks a bit like the guy on the "War Games" Film.

We both enjoyed programming computers and he later became a professional computer programmer after attending Witney Technical College. I learnt to type fast. Even though the current computer keyboard is designed for a type writer where the keys were arranged to slow the typing so the keys didn't jam. Better Keyboards have been designed but haven't taken off, they also reduce repetitive stress injury. It is a wonder to me why so many computer keyboards are thrown away went they still work and could be used on a new computer. And Andrew Clemence also used to hang around with us, he was the muscle, and Creby got by joking. Clemence worked part time as a farm labourer and beater (to scare the birds out for the shooter) for 5 and Beer. He bought a smaller Betamax Video, which was actually the better standard but got crushed by VHS video because it had a bigger picture on the cover. The new DVD player has no fast forward or rewind because it is not serial, instead random access. Clemance still works as a farm labourer with cottage that goes with the jobs providing you are married with children.

I enjoyed electronics (the teachers tried to get some Girls to do it but none wanted to, and same for boys doing needle work: surprise, surprise!) and biology even though I was in the second grade, we had a entertaining teacher. The school had a farm but I wimped out of doing Agriculture because I was afraid I couldn't lift the bails of hay. I did environmental studies instead and came first in my class but think ag would have been more fun. The farm had pigs, cows, geese etc... I learned a bit about biology there, have you any idea how big a bulls reproductive organs are? I used to go down to the farm before registration. I understand the farm is now closed, which is a shame. Some kids use to nick stuff out of the electronics store that they never used. One even banged IC's into his hand to show how hard he was. I never really had any friends in Bampton the town I lived in and bussed to just one Brother who attended the sixth form and played cards all day and my Parents and dog which I liked to take on walks. This was because I hadn't attended Primary school and was there somewhat withdrawn.

One term we were asked to collect money for charity by doing a sponsored run. Everyone else collected about 2 and I collected 25 by going round a few streets in my home village. I rather badly kept 50p for my trouble, a Princely sum in those days. My Brother Mark had a job cutting some Woman's Grass with a useless lawn mower. Eventually he gave it up, and I was taken on at 1 less. She would have been a lot better off buying a new Lawnmower than paying someone else to try and get the stupid old one to work. I also had a job insulating a pipe in some old person's house, as I was the smallest and could get in the space. I was given a funny man in a glass bottle, that floated when the heat of your fingers heated the liquid in the bottle.

I only got 4 'O' levels which was below my ability if I had been in a more conducive environment to study. I have an I.Q. of 125 a little above the average of 100. You can do an IQ test on-line just type in IQ Test in Goggle or Yahoo. I have been of the internet since 1997, and my lexican has improved considerably due to writting HTML Pages; reading stuff of the internet; and many interesting and intellectually stimulating E-mail conversations. It is now 140. Plus a vast knowledge base.

The exams were:

Computer Studies 'O' Level 'B' - I wrote a BASIC computer programme called Film86, after the TV programme I got the idea for it while watching. It converted Decimal to Roman Numerals and Roman Numerals to Decimal. For example MCMLXXXVI is 1986 in Roman Numerals. M = 1,000, D=500 C = 100, L=50, X=10, V=5, I=1. If a lower number is before a higher number you take it away, otherwise you add it. So you get 1000 + (1000 - 100) + 50 + (3 x 10) + 5 + 1. I don't know if I would able to write it again. But it worked as far as I could tell. It took about 4 pages of code for each version, I think. They never returned it so I will never know. I also remember putting a cool copywrite character in somehow. Shy people enjoy programming because they can interact with the computer, and get feedback from it to exercise their brain.


Mathematics 'O' Level 'C' - I would probably get an 'A' now. I know the Quadratic Equation and Algebra back to front, up side down and inside out. Remember with Algebra all you have to do is do exactly the same thing to both sides of the equation e.g. multiply both sides by x). I also have a sound enough knowledge of Trigonometry: SOH CAH TOA. I've even made a proof of the Quadratic Equation (at University):

   x        = -b  SQRT (b - 4ac) / 2a --> Always remember SQRT yields both + and -, e.g. 2x2=4 and -2x-2=4 as well.
 2ax        = -b  SQRT (b - 4ac)      --> Multiply both sides by 2a.
 2ax + b    =     SQRT (b - 4ac)      --> Add b to both sides.
(2ax + b)  =            b - 4ac       --> Square both sides, and Multiply out the first square:
(2ax + b).(2ax + b) = 4ax + 2axb + 2axb + b = 4ax + 4axb + b = b - 4ac  
4ax + 4axb = - 4ac   --> -b from both sides
4ax + 4axb + 4ac = 0 --> Add 4ac to both sides
ax + bx + c = 0       --> Divide through by 4a giving the final proof.
It must have taken quite a leap of intellect to think to multiply by 4a, i.e. solve it backwards, the Quadratic Equation source being unknown.


Electronics CSE '1' - I enjoyed this subject and learnt soldering. A skill that I was to use quite a lot in the future. I made an Intercom with two speaker-microphones in those plastic boxes you can get with an aluminium lid that you had to drill, it had a long grey cable connecting the two. Every one in our class kept playing with it thus annoying our teacher Mr. Bardenhorse. Who they used to say said 'Yup', 'Yup', 'Yup'... all the time, for some reason. We used the intercom in Whitby to connect the downstairs 'phone to the other 'phone in my Fathers study which was crammed with theological books and were he meet parishioners. He got a lot of 'phone calls. I started as an electronics hobbyist with a power supply (PP3 9V battery or Controller from my Hornby Train Set), a grey plugboard, and some LED's. I soon added switches to which I soldered wire legs.

I continued my hobby at a higher level with the wonderful Adventure's with microelectronics and more advanced Adventure's with Digital Electronics books by somebody Duncan. The first was published when in 1980 when I was 10, I obviously didn't read it then, probably at 13. You could build all sorts of wonderful circuits with these books like RED-ORANGE-GREEN dual traffic lights, random number dice, binary adder... There were lots more but I seem to have forgotten them it's so long ago. I also made the Knightrider display from Everyday Electronics who sold good quality tinned, drilled P.C.B.'s (Printed Circuit Boards) with silk screen layouts showing were to put the components.

I bought all my components from Maplin Electronics a relatively new component catalogue. P&P only cost 50p, nothing on orders above 5. I've still got their invoices detailing everything I bought. There was no local electronic's shop. They had a smashing catalogue with a story about a future Maplin trading between the Stars using Star Freighters, with the motto 'Maplin: The Way of the Future'. It had a great picture of a Modern London with Star Freighters lifting off. I was very much in SciFi at the time.


Physics CSE '1'. I never really understood the distance, speed and velocity thing equivalent to metres, metres / second and metres / second / second. We had on nice teacher but unfortunately he did not have the right kind of character to control the class being to nice (weak?). Kurtis and Bagly, made his life hell and stopped anyone learning anything some of the other kids joined in with them. Every class has a Kurtis and Bagly, a Fat Thick one (the Muscle) and a weedy small one (who comes up with all the insults and rude behaviour). They played an unspeakably disgusting 'prank' (although that's hardly covers it) on my 'friend' (we never really got on just hung out together) Clemence that I won't go into. We were in Computer class and he was scared of them so wanted me to sit next to them, but I didn't thing that very fortuitous so made him sit next to them, that's when they got him. He never forgave me for this his ultimate humiliation. After that he became a lot tougher and wouldn't take any 'disrespect' from anyone, probably though growing; doing Karate, or something like that (ice, knee... are 1 or 2 in Chinese or Japanese, that's all I can remember saying about that; and working as a farm labourer. There was one teacher who was as hard as nails who got Bagly to go up to the front of Class and show us his biceps. I've never seen him so embarrassed, every one drew great amusement from this. I understand they now work in the post office sorting letters, still together.


Technical Drawing CSE 2 - I used to enjoy this subject and drew perfect drawings with all the details and documentation in the corner. We used board with black set squares and pencil. Needless to say we were all guys. Creby got a CSE '1'. I seem to remember the successful guy out of 'the Likely Labs' was a draftsman. If you want to see some of my work check out the followings:

I could have got a CSE '1' easily if I had been bothered to revise but I DIDN'T! One exam I did for the final year of my degree an didn't revise preferring to play Minesweeper, the only game the faculties supercomputers had. It came in at 10% lower than all the other exams. REVISION MATTERS!, especially on the day, write up a crib sheet you can look at just before going into the exam.

Doubtless I would have made a useless draftsman anyway not being able to work at speed, and making looks of stupid mistakes because I was under pressure and a little but dyslectic. It's all done with computer now anyway, and linked to component lists etc... I tried working as a PCB designer for a while put was useless at it, I got it 90% but that's not good enough. It's has to be 100%. I had to measure a soldered PCB with a Micrometer and transfer the results on to EasyPC a PCB design programme.

The other Engineer was doing some Chemical process using LabView a computer programme designed for just such a task, using graphically units instead of code. He was an OK guy, a whonatic (as he called himself - a Doctor Who Fan, my favourite one is 'Genesis of the Daleks' with Tom Baker and his scarf - kitted by a fan not actually planned, which rather seems to be based on the NAZIS and their scientific elite, a tale between the eternal fight between good and evil), he liked his Pub's and got banned for drunk driving for a year, previous to this he had given me lifts to work.

Doctor Who and 'Genesis of the Daleks' quotes.


Biology CSE '2' - an remember the digestive track, the teacher dissecting at Rat covered in yellow fluid, and the very embarrassing reproductive lectures which all the girls seem to take great delight in. One of our teachers was called Mrs. Walton, her two sons were at the School. We made pancakes on pancake day in one of her lessons. And on another day made bread from scratch e.g. using yeast, lard and flour. One girl must have left an 'I love you' note in my Biology book, because it slipped out when my Mother was looking at my books rather embarrassingly. When I left school I burnt most of my school text book's on a bonfire for some reason.

We then moved up to the senior teachers who did not like me, knowing I was smart but inarticulate i.e. a waste of time teaching as I would never use any of the knowledge in the future. They and the physics teachers are what I have come to called 'spanner haters', a quasi-insult referring to lack of compassion. One of the teachers wrote a programme to show how the human eye works. And interfaced ZX81's to drive motors, or count in binary using LED's.

They also came out with this story about a pupil who had gone on the Atlas course, in Greek legend he had carried the Earth on his shoulders, but what he stood on is unclear ;-) . Unfortunately he didn't eat meat so no matter how much he exercised his Muscles wouldn't grow. So they said he continued to get beaten up, which they seemed to find amusing. The Atlas programme was actually developed by an weak Italian immigrant to New York who got beaten up and robbed when he arrived and vowed he would never let this happen again. So he went to the Zoo and studied the movements of Lions and other animals in their cages and worked out an exercise plan.

Any way luckily I got put down to the second class. Whether it was through bad work, or because they diddled the figures to get rid of me I don't know. I do remember hating writing up experiments. I good at using the results of experiments and theories and seeing how they might be applied in the real world. I enjoyed this class it was all girls (not that I had an interest in girls at that time) and us four boys who stuck together:


I also had a friend called Charles Honour Wilson who I treated most dishonourably. His Father owned a very large farm come estate. He like all Prepies detested Comprehensive School and generally hung around on his own. Sometimes he would hang with our triumpurlate. Anyway we went on a School Trip to Bath to see the Roman Baths there. We stayed in a Youth Hostile with a Video Game, garbage now, but at the time mildly interesting. Wedden and his mate came along and he squirted me with ketchup which at the time annoyed me somewhat. We were doing stuff all day, swimming, quizs about the town, getting slush puppies which I hadn't tried before, exercises... I complained we were doing to much and one of the teachers trod on my foot and rebuked me in a friendly fashion. We spent about an hour shopping around town for a can of fizzy for me. As I was very tight then for some reason. We found one for 13p! I didnt like it. What are they now 40p? I did a few mean things to Charles which I regret now.

Earlier he had invited me to his estate, so I got to go in his bus which I liked. While there we played Star Trek on his Dragon Computer, again interesting at the time. It's on the IF-archive in Z-code (a multi-platform language that predates HTML), EMail me if you want a copy. Fire Photon Torpedoes, Raise shields, go to another Sector... Anyway next he showed me his den and than took me on a boat to an island in a small lake on his property. Then to him played what seemed a mild joke and left me there. I not could swim! We had a nice enough teacher Mr. Odedra but (a) it was too cold to swim as we had an out door pool and (b) I was to afraid to try. He came back soon enough but I was deeply offended for some reason and soon fell out with him for good.

I only learned to swim in Florida the Summer after I left School where I saw the Space Centre, Disney Land, Seaworld and the scientific future predicting EPCOT centre. I did the computer test for whether I would make a good programmer and IT FAILED ME! Probably correctly, to a degree. It also had a funny talking parrot / robot arm real life sketch thing. And the carrousel which had four room that rotated round showing how the future would be. We still don't control lights and curtains using our computer, or indeed dictate to our computers!

One time Charles drink flask got broken by bullies and his Father came round my house asking if I would be nice to him.
I had two other friends in the after school Electronics Club. I remember breaking one's pencil in a joke, asking the other if batteries and dynamos were the only source of electricity (there is photo-voltaic arrays as well), and having a stupid discussion about what might be under a filed in ditch in the road.


English CSE '4'! You might find this rather odd since a maintain a popular web site of which about 95% is words! I think it was Speaking to the Teacher Exam that did it. You had to talk about a subject of your choice. I brought along a load of pages cut out from my Commodore computer magazine about how computer's had progressed from using Valves, to Transistors, to Microchips... and a few real components to demonstrate with. I didn't do very well as I was nervous. Then She asked me about the bus. And I detested the bus and ever one on it, so didn't have much to say on the subject.

My English has improved by using words in assignments etc... the good old spell-checker which was developed in the mid 1980's; writing Interactive Fiction Games (were you're NEED to know the difference between a VERB and a NOUN which I still don't! as they call up a routine to perform an action e.g. GO NORTH, UNLOCK DOOR, or look up a name to see if it an object in the game - many words may refer to one object also several objects may share names e.g. Red Robot, Green Robot); and of course Email (where I take great pride in writing in British English not American English which basically mean writing Programme instead of Program, and Centre instead of Center - I have also picked up a few words of German and Spanish, I've not meet many French people on the internet, presumably because they're still upset about losing the linga franka). In one book I was studying some girl had written a very rude passage, I didn't know what it meant at the time, or whether it was written by anyone I knew. I tipexed it all out. Not that I using tipex, generally I re-write a whole page.

IF game at http://members.tripod.com/~infoscripts/planetfa.htm if you're interested. Perhaps technology has just out-evolved Text Adventures.

I did have a fellow old Prepey friend who sat with me for the first 4 years. We shared an interest in computers, had general debates. Creby called him 'hearn the hunter' (as his surname was Hearn), for the Robin Hood 'Hooded Man' TV programme. Which had Ray Winston in it from 'Scum' - set in a borstal 'Who's the Daddy?' was his most famous line. Any way Hearn took great offence to this and it affected our relationship.

I visited his Father's farm a few times. I went on his motorbike, saw his cat's new kittens, moved a few bales for which I was given 1, played and programmed on his superior Commodore 64 Computer with Upgrade Cartridge for Graphics (circles and lines) and the IF-THEN-and-new-fangled-ELSE statements. He and his younger brother were playing Ghost Busters on the 64 when I asked them questions, which put them off, and they lost. They weren't very happy about that, but his Mother said he should be polite to visitors. He also played artery, compulsory in the late dark ages on Sunday afternoons, to train long bow men. No knight could stand against the power of the English long bow. The battle of Agincourt, 1415 was where 6,000 English Soldiers beat 25,000 French due to the long bow. They also were never short of milk as their cows always produced over the quota meaning additional milk they had left over either had to be used, given away, or put down the drain.

His Brother tried to sell me his Hornby Railway Master controller, but I wasn't, interested. It's the kind of thing that look good in the catalogue but you never use when you get it home, and it costs a fortune. My Brother Jonathan, famous for his fades saw an advert for a Simple Simon (a device with 4 coloured illuminated push buttons) that light up in a random order, the machine starts by going through a sequence and then you try to repeat it, it getting ever more complicated.
He decided not to sit with me in the 5th year as I had become a Sloucher and Swear Box, picking it up from all the kids who never stopped swearing. The only swear word I knew of Prep. School was Dam, and believe me it's the worst one of the lot. Our Headmaster had no idea how much swearing went on, and even gave us a lecture once because someone had used the word 'fag' when referring to a chocolate cigarette. Things became a lot easier for me when I went into higher education when all the grunts had been weeded out. I couldn't wait to leave school.


The Science teachers who didn't like me as detailed above got very upset with me on several occasions:

It may sound trivial now but it affected me more at the time.


GCSE's as they now are only good for one thing: getting into 'A' levels or Technical College. 95% of job Candidates are NEVER asked for copied of their 'O' certificates (I was the last year to do them - it's GCSEs now). Schools will know them and 6th Form and Technical College will require them. The only job interview that had ever asked for my qualification was when I applied to be a technician on the Southern Oxfordshire Particle Collider. You can make up any marks you want. But it's probably best to up them one grade as they may test your knowledge at the interview. I myself am not comfortable with lying but sometimes it is unavoidable, in the real world. Even Simon-Peter 'the Rock' denied he was Christ's disciple three times. 'the Rock' refers to his trip from the Mediterranean Port of Caesarea in the Holy Land to Rome where he spread the word. He is regarded at the First Pope and the passing on of hands links him to the current Pope through nearly 2,000 years of the Papacy.

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