Potato denies he is couch;Opinion

17th December 1999 at 00:00
FOR THE Steele household, the digital adventure has begun. Two months ago we signed a deal for a free set top box and the world of what we affectionately call Wallyvision.

I want to tell you that we got the digital terrestrial TV package because of the innovative knowledge programmes. The truth is that for every episode of Walking With Dinosaurs, I've seen three of The Professionals.

Honest, I'm not a couch potato. The Professionals spell coincided with the time Mrs Steele was in hospital getting a new hip. By the time the kids were in bed and the marking done, I needed something lightweight to relax to.

Also rather lightweight are the sets on the seventies sci-fi drama Blake's Seven. Like Doctor Who, where an alien spaceship was once recognisable to certain commentators as a Triumph Herald steering wheel, it has been left looking very dated by today's state-of-the-art shows.

This is no big deal for a science fiction story on a minority channel. I'm less happy that my own subject could be heading in the same "laugh at the technology" direction. True, a modern PC with full multimedia and internet access sits in my class, and what's more the kids actually use it. But it sits on a worn bench which itself sits on lino tiles of a certain age.

Compare this with your average carpeted computer suite full of sparkly new equipment perched on designer work tops. Makes science a bit of a Hovis ad, doesn't it?

PCs aside, physics equipment has been of varying vintage in any school I've ever taught in. One period you could be assembling electronic circuits on brand new boards, the next measuring air pressure (in pounds per square inch) with a brass pressure gauge. At least we've got rid of ticker timers. Anyone who purports to miss these noisy, point-of-the-lesson-obscuring devices has to have a greater interest in sado-masochism than physics. (And as such, will probably feature regularly on late night programmes on Sky One).

The only good thing about ticker timers is that there were usually enough to supply one to each group in the class. Our department has yet to achieve this Nirvana with the ticker timer's replacement, the microprocessor timer. I welcome the money spent on ICT, but we need investment to update the rest of the wobbly sets and props. Otherwise science will appear out-moded and irrelevant - like the fashions on The Professionals.

Gregor Steele thought the title of the Granada "Men and Motors" show "Sunny Hotspots and Girls" was pretty naff even before he realised it was an acronym.

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