Know your School - Barker's First Computer
Thursday, 24 July 2015
This week we go back to a time when Barker got its very first computer. Given the modern world, it is perhaps inconceivable to think that just over 36 years ago, the School did not have a computer and the ability to pull out a mobile device was something only heard of in science fiction.

In late 1978, the School Council, along with Price Waterhouse Associates, undertook an audit and review of Barker’s accounting procedures. In order to modernise procedures, the review recommended the acquisition of an IBM 5110 computer. It was however in August 1979, after a thorough investigation of the alternatives, that the School Council endorsed the purchase of this computer. At the time, Barker was seen to be leading the way, as very few Sydney schools had acquired computers for administrative purposes.

On 17 December 1979, Barker’s first computer was delivered and installed in the Bursar’s office. The IBM 5110 cost the School a staggering $33,000. It had the capacity to service the needs of the accounts, payroll, enrolment and OBA offices. In March 1980, the Bursar, George Oakes, reported to the School Council that the delivery, installation and transfer of data to the computer had been a success. He explained that during January, the 1390 fee statements took nearly 18 hours to print, a task that was once done manually over several weeks.

The new computer was also able to replace the addressograph which was used to prepare address labels for correspondence being posted to members of the Barker community. The addressograph used individual metal plates that were stored in trays and then loaded into the machine. When the handle was lifted, a new address plate would slide into place and was pressed onto carbon tape, which transferred the address onto the envelope. This meant that it took several weeks to prepare address labels. It was proudly reported to the School Council that the same process using the new computer took just over an hour.

It was not until 1984, with the opening of the Computer Laboratory, that computers were available at Barker for teaching and learning purposes. The fully integrated computer classroom was equipped with 17 BBC microcomputers, 17 high resolution colour monitors, three single disc drives, a printer accessible to all the computers and a large colour monitor for demonstration purposes. The network was operated by a file server consisting of a BBC microcomputer, a 6502 second processor and a dual disc drive. The College Barker (1984, p. 37) reported: “The first year of computers at Barker has indeed been hectic. Students, staff and parents are all enthusiastic about this new addition to the School and those who have been actively involved with the computers all seem to be eager to learn more. Barker College offers a chance to all who are part of its community to learn more about the computer – a mere tool which can be used to make our life easier and is already rapidly changing our world.”

Computers and mobile technologies are now ubiquitous across the School campus. They are used by staff and students alike for teaching and learning and are integral to the way we communicate and conduct business. It is hard to imagine life at Barker College without them.

Caption: Students enjoying the use of the School's first Computer Laboratory, 1984.