GCSE Computing – surely Turing should get a mention?


On Monday evening I attended the premiere of a documentary “The Hero of Station X” about Alan_Turing. Turing was a computer science pioneer, named the Father of Computer Science by some, he made fundamental contributions to computer science, to code breaking at Bletchley Park and in several other areas including morphogenesis. Turing was gay, was convicted of “gross indecency” in 1952, and accepted chemical castration as an alternative to prison. He committed suicide at the age of 41, what a dreadful waste of a life, and of an amazing person who was so ahead of his time. A petition was set up by John Graham Cumming asking the government to apologise for Turing’s treatment at the hands of the British establishment, and in September 2009 British Prime Minister of the time Gordon Brown apologised for Turing’s treatment:

“While Mr Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him.”

The documentary will air on 21st November 2011 on Channel 4, please do watch it. There is a trailer here that gives you a taste of the full programme.

I’ve been a fervent advocate of the need for everyone to understand the importance of computer science for many years. I’ve been excited by computing since I wrote my first BASIC program in 1989

Today I have been looking at the curriculum for the ‘new’ GCSE computing. I have to say I’m a bit disappointed. It contains important stuff, but for me doesn’t cover a lot of the information that I love about computing and that gets me all excited about computing and our future. There’s no mention of the history of computing, of Alan Turing and any of the other amazing pioneering work that has led us to the devices that we have today. There’s no real mention of the web, web programming, and the revolution that social media is facilitating in the world around us. 

Thinking about this from the perspective of getting more girls interested in computing, something that I am very passionate about, this is doomed. It is a very one dimensional representation of computing, none of the human involvement, the social dimension, the amazing history, the contribution to society. 

I know that it is impossible to fit everything that everyone wants into one GCSE, but come on, couldn’t it be a bit more interesting and up to date. Technology is our future isn’t it?




  1. One could argue that the history of computing would belong as part of a history subject, for example a module of a history degree. Thus would including the history of computing as part of a GCSE subject (bearing in mind GCSE’s are compulsory) whether it would be more off-putting to learn about historical information rather than practical skills?I am playing Devil’s Advocate as I love the history of computing, but were I 14 again I’m not sure I would feel the same way. I learnt how to program first, why second…

  2. Yes, it was part of my Open University degree when doing Technology. I found it fascinating, but then I love history and understanding how we got to where we are today.

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