Just one more thing on the JISC conference. The closing plenary session was given by Tom Loosemore, Head of Broadband & Emerging Platforms at the BBC. He opened his talk by explaining that back in the late 1980s, when he was supposed to be studying for his degree, he was actually spending most of his time exploring and experimenting with his university’s Internet connection.
I should perhaps explain that ‘back in the old days’ the only people who had access to the Internet were university staff and researchers. This was partly because the universities had had the foresight to install their own high-speed network (called JANET). Tom’s point was that this pioneering spirit had provided people like him with the opportunity to experiment with the latest thing years before it took off and became popular. He gave a big thank you to JISC for having the vision and taking the risks, and said, “this country would be in a worse place, both culturally and economically, if it wasn’t for you.”
What’s interesting about this is that people of my generation owe a huge debt of thanks to the Beeb. Not for their radio or telly broadcasting (although Blake’s Seven was rather good) but for the introduction of the BBC micro computer. I sincerely believe we wouldn’t have such a vibrant and creative software industry in the UK if it wasn’t for the generation of software programmers, e-learning and games designers raised and bottle-fed on the BBC micro in the 1980s.