University of Portsmouth (1991-94)

I only went to University to get off the dole, I got 2 years Grant out of 3 because the limit is 4 and I had already done 2 years at Polytechnic. My Father gave me a list of Charities to write to and I wrote to about 20 and got two £1,000 free grants. I didn't enjoy University at all unlike Technical College and Polytechnic. The work load was too great and the subject didn't interest me greatly, I was never without a tutorial for three long years! I spent three hours writing up my notes in ink a night! Which I have never looked at again, some got thrown out because they got damp. I kind of miss finding out how I found the volume of a rugby ball using Calculus which I still don't fully understand, the Calculus that is. I think it had three integrals using PI/2, it took me two days to solve. I also wrote a Pascal programme to find square roots using the Newton-Rabson successive approximation method, which is also how calculators get the result, making a guess then homing in.

Studies included:

I chose to do this course for a few reasons: (1) Get off the dole (2) Learn about electronics (which I dabbled in as a Hobbyist and enjoyed) and Robotics; and (3) Because I wanted to be like 'Scotty' out of Star Trek (a lot of Scots are Engineers, I wonder how many people he's suckered into the subject). The class was 150 strong with only 4 Women in it. I was never without a half a dozen Tutorial's in 3 years! And did them all more or less being of a perfectionist nature. Once some Chinese students were copying tutorials and offered me a copy of my own work!

The wise students (there IS a difference between wisdom and intelligence) knew the first two years studies only counted to 10% of your Qualification and that the third year was the only year you had to work. In industry you can always swat up on stuff you don't know. You just need a general knowledge of the entire subject. There was one student who worked night and day. He came first in the class for the first and second years then dropped to about 10th in the third year and towards the end of the academic year totally gave up and didn't even get his Degree. He said he had worked in a warehouse which is where agencies always send you, there's always demand for labour, very few people want to stay in them. I also think he had studied the subject at a lower level so was just repeating the same stuff.

David Ledgard, BEng (2i Hons.) that's what I got to put after my name after 3 years of hard work. At lot of good it did me. Thanks to my poor inter-personnel communications, which are much improved thanks to Seroxat.


My friends

I hung around with a lot of Muslim students (mainly from overseas) hardly had a drink in 3 years (partly out of respect to their religion, but mainly because I didn't have any drinking buddies). I found it easier to start a conversation with them as I knew quite a bit about Islam and Foreign Countries from the papers. I also had a couple of Lab. Partners, guys you did electrical experiments with once a week. The first one was Lam, a boring Hong Kong Chinese guy. He had to record lectures and replay them later as English wasn't his first language. He now works as an Engineer in Hong Kong, he was quite a swat, like most Chinese. They always raid the library first for recommended texts.

He had an English Chinese friend called John Liu (he wouldn't tell me his Chinese name, and couldn't write Chinese) who I became close friends with. He wasn't that smart and only wanted to do Electronics because he liked looking at the Electrical gadgets in Dixons. He was too tight to buy them. He had a problem spending money, it made him sick. He liked listening to Music and often ordered tapes or CD's from the library to copy, as he was too cheap to buy them. He also practiced on his Chess Computer every night, consequently he became very good at the game. I often played him but seldom won. He was even too cheap to bet 1p! on a game. This is when Chris another friend of mine gave up on him. I also played Neil, in Halls at Chess a lot and only won one game, where my 'panzers broke through his maginot line'. I generally played an eye-for-an-eye where as he formed up all his forces against my King. Chess is just really glorified naughts-and-crosses and I don't bother with it anymore, perhaps due to my new persona. Neil was studying for a Doctorate in Mathematics, a subject which I quite enjoy up to a certain level. I also played a Professor from the University of the Suez Canal. I had one of my few drinks with Neil. The only other time I got drunk was after an exam at the Student Union. Where I was so drunk I forgot what colour I was playing at pool. We then went to an Indian Restaurant where I was going to order a steak, but one of my companions objected so I ordered sometime Indian. I now like Chicken Tikka Ready Curries (very mild). We were then going to go on to a night club but I bottled out.

John and I kept in contact after the course and often meet up in London. He liked going to Chinatown, even though he never talked to anyone there. He was unemployed a lot as was I and went on a 1 Year Computer Repair Course. Finally finding a job in a factory that made electronic burglar alarms. He also worked in stores at Biggan Hill Airport, were he got to drive the paint to the planes in a van from the stores. He only managed 1 Week in a Chinese Takeaway, forgetting the orders. We occassionly went to the Cinema. The last film we saw was Star Wars Episode I. He has moved back and forward to Hong Kong with his parents, where he currently is. Not very happy I think as he in unemployed. But is married with a child. He tried getting a job teaching English like his Brother but wasn't very good at it. There is a real boom in English teaching in China. I think it pays about £7 / hour. His parents took most of the money off him that he earned as he lived rent free. They had owned and run a big supermarket in South America and made a lot of money so retired early.

All his family are Christians, with John reading the Bible every day, whether any of it penetrates his brain I don't know, he never talks about it. We went on a http://alphacourse.org/findacourse once in Milton Keynes with his Brother and his Girlfriend and I was the only White Guy there. It felt a bit strange when two White guys turned up to look after the Church after a 3-day course. They didn't like reading the Bible in Chinese as I couldn't understand it. We played one game where we all had to be a different animal and make it's noise and movement. And another one where we all had to hold hands in a circle. I was next to one Chinese Girl and she didn't like to hold my hand, probably because I was White. One of the Pastors seemed a bit off about me getting to know the Chinese Girls, the other was quite happy about it. They were probably worried about the high level of inter-racial Marriages between particularly Chinese Girls and White Men, although you do get a few the other way round too. They also ate a lot of rice which I find boring.

One of the Pastors had converted because of the horrors of the Cultural Revolution in Communist China. Where grain was exported even though people were starving, and cooking pots were melted to meet the five year plans steel output quota. Many 'good' Communist's were denounced and sent for 're-education'. Alpha courses teach you a bit about the Bible and let you meet new people you can discuss theology with. It taught me a lot I didn't know and my Father is a Vicar! I would recommend Genesis and Exodus there are a lot of interesting and well known Bible stories in these books, even if you not religious. I generally kept to my arch-Scientist non-Believer mind set. John did have a Girlfriend but I think she was only with him to live in the country. She tried to set me up with one of her friends in China, but I find Chinese girls to thin for my liking.

My Good Friend, Mohammed Ali (really his name, quite common among Arabs) didn't like drinking with Neil. He was very Confident and Charismatic. He probably liked me because I had gone to a good English School with lots and Foreigners, where as he had gone to a good English Run school with some English people in Mombassa. He ate halal meat, now commonly available in most British cities, and went to Mosque once a week, Portsmouth actually has a main Mosque and a small one for Gulf Fighter Pilots. He and his friends said you have to go to Mosque 3 weeks out of every 4 or you are no longer a Muslim. I don't know if countries like Turkey and Kazakstan conform to this believe. He came from Mombassa, Kenya - founded by Arab Slavers but now populated mostly by Indians. His Father owned a Maize Milling Factory for which he was being trained up to work in. His Father came from Yemon (a very poor country) and had 10 children by one Wife, and 4 by another - Father Abraham - 'and I will make your dependents more than the stars in Heaven'. Mohammed was deeply religious in a faith rather than fanatical way. As were his friends from Zanzibar (another port founded by Arab Slavers) and moderate and modern Malaysia. My tuition helped them pass their courses. The guy from Zanzibar said he would get aid £5 a week, and the Malaysian has an Oil Job waiting for him providing he got a certain grade, which he did. Mohammed regarded smoking as OK. I regard it as worse than drinking my self. Knowing a number of chain smokers who waste ALL their money on Cigarettes.

Chris, John, Lam, Hamid and me hung out in the first couple of years. We went to a cafe at the top of the library and burger king. And went round each others houses. Hamid objected to use ordering Pork dishes from the Chinese Takeaway. And we watched Star Trek videos and had a game of Risk where Hamid choose Green, the colour of Islam. Hamid worked in a Bengali Restaurant and went out with a White Girl. There are quite a few Bengali's in Portsmouth, probably escaping Tower Hamlets. John and I went to Tower Hamlet's once to look Hamid up just after that White kid got knifed to death because he was too fat to run away fast enough. John was going on about it and the only people we could see were Bengali's and then one Black guy came along which rather relived me at the time. We also studied and did assignments together, generally with me doing most of the work. We also knew a super swat called Akash who I went to the Cinema once with, John changing his mind on seeing the price. Last I heard he was working as an Engineer in Germany. Chris and Lam also got jobs as Engineers.

Then Chris moved to a new house where he found more hip friends who taught the drums and went to the pub. Hamid gave up on his course. So John and I started hanging round with the Muslim guys. I also had two Lab. Partner friends: Ping (a Hong Kong Chinese with Character) who eventually gave up on me, thinking me a bit of a sad sack, and William (a French Guy from Lyons who's Father worked in the vast French Nuclear Industry, nearly all their electricity comes from Nuclear Power, and they even export some to England). We all studied together in the final year. During our final year project we went to the Union Canteen and got meals for £1, which pleased John, but I found the food most disagreeable, only going to be with my friends and have a debate. They liked buying Rio Riva Tropical Cans. Previously I had gone to the Anglesea Building Canteen on my own, much better food, but no company.


Computer Games I played on my Commodore Amiga in my spare time

Microprose's Railroad Tycoon Game

I took time off for computer games: Railroad Tycoon and Civilization I (required a lot a disk swapping when negotiating, so I got two additional external drives), both by Microprose - naturally, Centurion: Defender of Rome by Electronic Arts, Sim City by Maxis, and several Graphical Text Adventures by Magnetic Scrolls, a British Company. All on the good old Commodore Amiga with State of the Art Graphics for the time. Railroad Tycoon's got a very interesting Manual: England got it's first line in 1830 and the US in 1832: the legendry Baltimore & Ohio (which you could never ever mange to get to reach Ohio in the game) set-up to prevent the Port of Baltimore being put out of business by the newly opened Hudson-Erie canal linking New York to the Great Lakes, 1825. This paid for itself and over, transporting Settlers and Manufactured Goods West and Raw Materials and Commodities East. Vastly enriching the State of New York which had paid for it, and growing the cities of New York and Buffalo, plus many in between. Microprose was based in Maryland whose Capital is Baltimore, founded by Catholics fleeing religious persecution in England.

Anyway the Railroad Tycoon Manual includes (you can pick up a copy from eBay if you're interested):

The only problems are the model is too simple:

Two new versions of the game have come out but I never got on with them. Perhaps I have out grown computer games. The game was originally designed as a glorified train set hence the signal towers which I doubt any player actually used. Try http://www.mobygames.com/ and Amiga Games Database for details about old games, it's very extensive and I have written bits for it.

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