May 12 - 16, 1975
When I began my senior high school years, I elected to do the advanced maths course; what was then called "Level 1 maths", but these days is probably "3 Unit", or for people in the US, it is the equivalent of "AP Math" (Advanced Placement – a precursor of university / college level). About twelve of us opted for that class, which was taken by Mr King – our normal maths teacher, and one of the top teachers at the school.
Back with I was in 5th form (or Year 11 as they call it these days), the school acquired a 'computer' – in reality, a fancy programmable desktop calculator. Since Mr King was doing his Master's degree, which involved computer programming, he was given responsibility for the computer. One day after class, he asked if I would be interested in learning how to program it; he gave me the manuals, and I spend most lunchtimes of the next few weeks learning how to use it. I wrote several programs, most related to classes I was doing; one calculated the energy levels involved when electrons would migrate from one orbit to another (Physics), but one was a simple noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) game.
With the May school holidays approaching, we were given information about a number of vacation schools that the various universities around Sydney were running; all designed to give potential students an insight in to particular courses and careers that they might be interested in pursuing. I had already decided that I wanted a career in computer programming; and when I saw that the University of New South Wales – my preferred choice – was putting on a one week introduction to computer science course, I desperately wanted to attend.
When the acceptance letter arrived, I was over the moon. Finally, a chance to work on a proper computer, and to learn real programming, and to find out more about what I would be doing over the next few years at University.
Starting the Course – Day One
"G'day Hannah, jump in," I said to her as I pulled up at the bus stop.
"Thank you again, Will, for driving me with you," she replied as she settled into the passenger seat. "I'll give you money for the petrol, too."
We had to be at the University by 8:30 for the first day of the vacation computer programming school. I had been looking forward to this ever since Mr King had told me that I have been selected for the five day course. I was surprised about Hannah; I hadn't known she was interested in computers as well. She told me that her father worked with computers, he worked for IBM as one of their country experts on databases or something like that, and she was thinking about taking a similar career.
As we chatted about what we hoped we would get out of the week, I kept glancing over at her. She was pretty cute, I thought, and I loved hearing her German accent. Not that I seriously considered anything happening with her; although I did start to wonder just what her breasts would look like if she was topless, and if her pubic hair was as blonde as the hair on her head. But I had to concentrate on the traffic, so I put that out of my mind.
I had never had all that much to do with Hannah – not that I didn't like her, it's just that she was in a different circle of friends to me. I knew she was originally from Germany, lived around Bayview somewhere, and she was pretty good at tennis and sailing, but that was about the extent of my knowledge of her.
"So, do you think you will study computers at this university next year, Will?" she asked. "You don't want to take your music career to a professional level?"
"I'm planning on studying there, yes, if I do well enough to get in," I replied. "But the music; I'm not really good enough to make a living from that, not really, anyway. Besides, for me, it's just the enjoyment from performing, and entertaining people, and if it became a full time job, it might lose the enjoyment."
"No, you are really good," she said. "You and Megan, at the concert the other night, that was so beautiful. My parents were there, and they said how great you are at the Mirage; they were there last month for their wedding anniversary, and they want to go again to hear you."
"You should go one night, yourself," I said. "You would enjoy it, I'm sure."
"Och, who would take me?" she replied. "That's a place for lovers to go, for a romantic night, where a man can get his woman in the mood. You know, and afterwards they go somewhere for the loving. At least that's what my mother said." She laughed, and rolled her eyes.
"I'm sure lots of guys would be willing to take you," I said.
"I don't think that's true," she said. "Besides, I wouldn't want them to take me for that reason, well, no guy that I know. But I will suggest to my parents that we go there for my birthday next month. Still, you should keep with your music and singing, Will."
"I hope to for a few years, that way I can pay my way through uni," I replied. "Now, can you get that pass out of the folder they sent us, I think this is where we go in to park?"
Hannah found the parking permit, and I asked the security person at the gate where we were meant to park. He pointed out the road to take, and where the Electrical Engineering building was located. After I thanked him, he reminded me to make sure the parking permit was visible on the dashboard so I wouldn't get a ticket.
Once we had parked, it was only a short walk to the building where the course was. We checked the map we had been given, and went in where we thought was the right place. No one was there yet, but there was a table with a bunch of brochures and booklets, so we browsed through those while we waited. After a few minutes, a man wearing a tie and jacket arrived, and introduced himself to us.
"You two are here for the computer programming course?" He asked, offering me his hand. "I'm Murray Allen, head of the Computer Science department here, part of the School of Electrical Engineering; welcome to the University and to the vacation course. Are you planning on applying to study here next year?"
We introduced ourselves, and he gave us a brief outline of what the department did. Soon, other people started arriving, and he excused himself to meet them. By this time, one of the staff members had set up a table with name badges on them, and laid out tea and coffee. We found our name tags (fortunately mine had 'Will' and not 'William' on it), and got some coffee.
We then joined some of the others – there were five others in a group talking; three guys and two girls. David and Claire – who seemed to be together – were from Chester Hill, in the western suburbs, Barry was from Sylvania Waters, Cliff from Miranda, and Linda was from Roseville. Before we could talk much more, we were called into the lecture room.
As we sat down, Hannah pulled me close to her.
"That Claire, with the face like a ferret, she's so possessive of her boyfriend," she whispered. "Did you see, as soon as we stood near them, she moved to stand between David and me?"
"I didn't even notice, but now you say it, she does look like a ferret," I whispered back.
We couldn't say much more, as Murray Allen stood in front of the room, and welcomed us to the school. He talked about what we would be doing during the week, the aim of the course, and how he hoped we would find it interesting, and instructive, and consider enrolling in a computer science degree at the University.
He talked about what is involved in the course – actually, the two options, one doing an electrical engineering degree, the other a science degree. Most of what he said covered the engineering side, but he mentioned the option I had been considering – combining an engineering degree with a science degree. Some of that I had already found out about, but it was good to have the complete details laid out. Murray handed out copies of the current engineering faculty handbook, with details of courses, subjects and staff.
Hannah gave me a discrete nudge, and pointed to her notepad, where she had written "watch Claire and David". They were two rows in front of us, near the centre of the room, and she was organising his notes and handouts, and she would point at something on one of the pages, and whisper something to him.
"Probably making sure he doesn't get interested in subjects that she won't be taking," she whispered to me. "He's already under her thumb."
"Like Peter and Maria, at school," I whispered back. "I'll have to tell you the term I heard him described as."
"I think I know," Hannah replied, smiling.
We turned our attention back to Murray, who was now talking about some of the research projects on the school. I continued to make a few notes until we broke for morning tea, and a well needed pee.
During the break, I spoke with some of the other people there; there were probably forty of us in the class. One thing that surprised me was the relatively high number of people with an Asian background; at least a third of the people – including Barry, Cliff and Linda who I had met earlier – looked like that came from that ancestry. I guess Mona Vale wasn't one of the centres of Asian population in Sydney.
As we were heading in after the break, Hannah pulled on my sleeve.
"What was that term for Peter?" she asked.
"Pussy whipped," I whispered in her ear.
She blushed, and then laughed.
"And that David is totally, um, pussy whipped too," she whispered back. "I'll tell you more at lunchtime, it will make you laugh."
.... There is more of this story ...