I took AEB O level Computer Studies in 1985. For those of you under 50 who don't remember life before GCSEs, GCSE O ("Ordinary") Levels were level 2 qualifications, roughly equivalent to a higher-tier GCSE. They were graded A-E, which C or above being considered a pass. There were also CSEs, which were similar to foundation-tier GCSEs, and they had numbered grades (although 1 was the highest). A grade 1 at CSE was considered to be equivalent to a grade C at O level. Exam boards had different names in those days, with AEB and JMB being amongst the most common.
Unfortunately I haven't been able to find a complete AEB O level paper from this period, but I have found a CSE Computer Studies paper from 1984. What you will find below are links to scans of my Computer Studies folder from when I was following the AEB O level course. I was at a state comprehensive school in Staffordshire, and there was no National Curriculum in those days, so we had no prior experience of computer or programming. In fact, when I started the course, there were only three computers in the whole school.
I scanned the notes by feeding them through the photocopier a section at a time, so apologies for any blank sheets or things that are in the wrong order. As a current teacher, the thing that immediately strikes me is that the notes are almost-entirely handwritten - it looks like even the practice exam questions were copied down from the blackboard. The few handouts we had were mostly produced using a spirit duplicator (hence the purple writing).
- Section 1 - background and development of information processing
- Section 2 - automatic information processing
- Section 3 - the structure and organisation of digital computer software and hardware
- Section 4 - the theory and techniques of programming
- Section 5 - applications of computers and their importance in society
- Section 6 - related topics (binary, Boolean logic, etc.)
- Section 7 - coursework (this was sent away, so only a code fragment survives)
The above notes were in a ring binder. There was an additional folder containing the following:
- case studies (presumably these were to go in section 5?)
- programming tasks (practice for section 4?)
Revision and Exams
- Revision questions - duplicated handouts from the teacher
- Self-Test Units - these look like they're photocopied from a book
- 4th Year Exam - Paper 1 - the exam paper that I took in 1984 (when I was in what would now be year 10)
- 4th Year Exam - Paper 2 - unfortunately I only have the answers, but you can see the sort of topics covered
- CSE Paper - the 1984 WMEG CSE Computer Studies paper
Unfortunately I don't have the coursework because it was sent off and never seen again. I have a print-out of some of the code for one of the projects, but this is on tractor-feed continuous stationery so isn't easy to scan. Note the beautifully commented and indented code - I don't think that maintainability was in the specification in those days.
I seem to recall that we had to write three programs. I created:
- a Geography quiz that asked muliple choice questions on a variety of topics - I remember tracing maps on graph paper so that they could be drawn, and getting a friend to write out the notes for some national anthems so that I could program them.
- a Defender-style arcade game called Offender, for which I designed my own characters.
- a training course for the WordStar word-processor
These were programmed at home in BBC BASIC on an Acorn Electron and, because it didn't have a "print screen" facility, I wrote a fourth program that printed out what was on the screen using my Epson MX-80 dot-matrix printer.