Nostalgia and Skills Gaps

At yesterdays Linux User Group (Blackpool), Mike and I discussed a number of topics which all stemmed from our common entry point into the IT scene back in the 1980’s. We were both brought up on an 8-bit microcomputer made by Acorn called the Atom. It was a precursor to the ubiquitous BBC Micro and shared many of the same features. We built the machine from a kit of parts and a circuit diagram supplied by Acorn and then programmed it in 6502 assembler utilising the operating system calls detailed in the user guide in order to communicate with the screen and keyboard etc.

Due primarily to the simplistic nature of the Atom we understood how the CPU, RAM, ROM and driver circuits all worked; and the peripheral add-ons for printer drivers and expansion buses!

I went on to study Computing Technology at college and then Computer Engineering at University, before spending a little time with IBM, writing BIOS code for the old PS/2 machines.

We noted the current lack of equivalent IT skills in the 1990’s and 2000’s generation of school kids and the knock on effect this has had on College intake for IT technicians, University intake for Computer Scientists and indeed IT Teachers.

We both concluded that there is now a huge skills gap looming in our economy and wondered if the current generation of Raspberry Pi hackers will be enough to keep the country competitive, or if Mike and I will be brought back out of retirement in 2030?


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