While I’ve been trying to find the PAFEC 10th anniversary photograph (no joy so far), I did come across an edition of the PAFEC Post – our customer magazine – from June 1990. I was interviewed! That’s me, having a bad hair day, second from the right, in the Stapleford offices with some of the other members of the Product Services Department.
A post I published here a little over four years ago with a couple of photographs of my office at PAFEC in 1991 has since attracted a steady stream of readers and comments. This week I’ve been sent some photographs by Derek Barley and Darren Seaton, both former employees. I’m grateful to both of them for their permission to publish them here.
Darren sent me this picture from the Strelley Hall stables of his desk that he dates to 1986 or 87. It shows a Westward graphics terminal (I’m unsure of the model, but it looks like it might be a 3219 or 3220) attached to a digitising tablet. There’s what looks like a DOGS 3.1 menu card taped to the back of the stall too.
The set of photographs Derek provided date to around 1990. These show views of the exterior of the Stapleford offices and a couple of the first floor development offices, including the DOGS Mapping office.
This picture was clearly taken after the tower (and the meeting room at the top of it) had been renovated and the years of dead pigeons that had accumulated up there had been removed. I remember it being somewhere I used to like to hold team meetings – provided that the weather wasn’t too hot or too cold. On the other side of the tower a microwave dish had line of sight to Strelley Hall, allowing the two sites to be networked with a very decent speed / bandwidth for the time.
It’s clear from this photograph that the company had already switched over to Apollo Workstations (probably DN3000s) from terminals linked to Prime minicomputers for software development purposes at the time this was taken. That’s a HP A0 pen plotter in the background I think.
In the left foreground of this image is the back of a Datapath X5A terminal – one of the least expensive colour graphics terminals on the market in the mid 80s. There were quite a lot of these spread throughout PAFEC’s offices and they were excellent VTxxx emulators too. I remember writing a lot of code using one of these as my display screen.
Derek has also sent me some photographs of the exterior of Strelley Hall from the same period. However, I’m going to hold these over for another post because I have a picture of everyone on the lawn of the hall in 1986 celebrating the company’s tenth anniversary that I’d like to put with them, but that will require me to take a trip into the attic!
Just under a week ago Martin Bean, the current OU vice-chancellor, announced that he was going to step down from his £407,000 post at the end of this year to return to Australia.
Today David Willetts, the universities minister, has decided to step down from the cabinet with immediate effect and will leave the commons at the next election.
Perhaps the vice-chancellorship of the OU would be a good retirement job for him? It would certainly offer him a significant pay-rise. But if it were to happen, I do wonder how it might be perceived by staff, alumni and students. After all, despite being in favour of restoring Labour’s savage cuts to ELQ funding while in opposition, he failed to do very much about it when in a position of power until it became obvious that part-time, mature students were no longer investing in updating their skills. It’s also arguable that the OU, which used to rely to a large extent on ELQ students and teaching for its income rather than loan-attracting first-timers and research, has suffered more than most under the changes that he has presided over.
Anyway, I suspect that this is most likely a QTWTAIN. But, if in a few months time, David Willetts is appointed as the next OU VC, remember where you read the speculation first!
Update (16/07/2014) – As Mr Willetts is the current MP for Havant, perhaps the vacancy that’s just arisen at Southampton University may be more appealing?
Martin Bean, Vice-Chancellor of the Open University, has announced that he will be leaving at the end of the year to take up a post at RMIT, Australia’s largest tertiary educator. He’s been at the helm during what has probably been the most tumultuous period since the OU was founded in 1969. Making sure that the OU survived in any recognisable form at all after the ill-thought out changes to HE funding introduced by the coalition has been no mean feat. I certainly wish him well for the future.
In his email today addressed to OU alumni he writes:
After five wonderful years at The Open University, I am stepping down at the end of this year as Vice-Chancellor of the OU. I am going back to my home town of Melbourne, Australia, where I will be taking up the role of Vice-Chancellor and President at RMIT University – an institution with values and a spirit similar to our own.
Throughout my time here, I have been clear that students lie at the heart of everything the OU does. Without a doubt, the highlight of this job is presiding at our degree ceremonies – standing on the stage, shaking a procession of sweaty palms and celebrating your success.
I am very proud of the steps we have taken during my time here to strengthen the relationship between the University, its students and alumni. The Open University Alumni Association does a tremendous job of representing you, and the Alumni Relations team are working tirelessly to identify and provide you with opportunities to stay in touch, continue your studies and share your inspiring stories.
The Open University transforms lives for the better – it has certainly transformed mine. As students and alumni you are what makes the OU truly remarkable and I wish you all every success for the future.
Martin G. Bean
I don’t remember my palms being all that sweaty on graduation day, but I bow to his undoubted expertise in such matters!
The use (and pretend use) of electric shocks in psychological experiments has a long and disturbing pedigree.
Perhaps the most infamous (pretend) use of electric shocks are Stanley Milgram’s experiments, which are popularly believed to demonstrate that people will obey orders no matter how inhuman they appear to be. However, closer inspection of his results suggests that the one thing he seems to have shown unequivocally is that people don’t follow requests of this nature if they are given as orders (*).
So I suppose that it is unsurprising that a number of different media outlets outside of the dusty academic journals have picked up on the recently published research by Wilson et al. which appears to suggest that people would voluntarily give themselves electric shocks rather than spend a few minutes alone with their thoughts. This seemingly irresistible combination of psychology and electricity has, of course, produced journalistic articles of varying coherence.
Possibly the most evidence-free of these was published in Forbes, whose correspondent appears to attribute the use of smartphones and tablets by “younger and younger children” as threatening the ability of “future generations” to be able to think abstract thoughts. Forbes appear to have ignored the inconvenient truth that although Wilson initially thought that “technology experience” or age might be a factor, he points out that their results doesn’t support this hypothesis.
Instead, I suspect that these findings aren’t necessarily generalisable at all. Wilson and his colleagues recruited volunteers to take part in his experiments. If you’re an ethical psychologist (rather than a data scientist at Facebook) then of course you make sure that your participants genuinely are volunteers and you seek their informed consent. One thing that appears to be consistently true of volunteers for experiments is that they are significantly higher than the general population on measures of “sensation seeking” – a quirk that was reported as far back as 1967 (+).
So if you’re predisposed to being a sensation seeker and are faced with the option of having nothing much to do for a few minutes or playing with something that you know will give you a mildly exciting shock, what would you do?
This article was originally written for the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 6th July 2014.
(*) Reicher, S. & Haslam, S.A. (2011). After shock? Towards a social identity explanation of the Milgram ‘obedience’ studies. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50, 163-169.
(+) Zuckerman, M., Schultz, D. P. & Hopkins, T. R. (1967). Sensation Seeking and Volunteering for Sensory Deprivation and Hypnosis Experiments. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 31(4), 358-363.
Dear School of Psychology,
Thank you very much for this unexpected, but very welcome present! I suppose I really do have no excuses left for not getting on with it now …
This article was originally written for the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 26th June 2014.
Farewell ergonomics, hello dissertation proposal!
At least, that’s what I started to write last Sunday evening, before realising that I also have Module 4 on The Psychology of Organising and two assignments to complete this summer as well!
But there is some good news in my, ahem, inability to organise myself properly. The first module assignment asks us to contrast the usefulness of a couple of different leadership theories and evaluate them as a way of helping a fictitious manufacturing organisation out of crisis of confidence in its management. Working my way through the module units, their associated readings and following it up with my own research into the subject is also proving to be very useful in prompting my thoughts on followership as a possible dissertation topic.
Being forced to tackle the module is certainly helping the odd research question or two to form in my mind, even if they’re not quite ready to appear on paper yet or even virtually, as tentative ideas in our dissertation discussion forums. Some of them, frankly, are just a bit *too* odd at the moment. So instead, I’ve been happily chewing the cud about all sorts of topics that aren’t really going to be the focus of my efforts. Youth employment and apprenticeships? Yes, I have an opinion about that. Open plan offices? That too. Oh well – I am supposed to be doing the course “primarily for personal development reasons” – or “fun”, as I keep reminding myself.
This article was originally written for the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 22nd June 2014.