Wymtext was mentioned for a few years at the end of the 1980s and then seems to have disappeared. We'd be keen to hear your recollections. Screenshots would be nice too!
The Official Description
The following article was printed in the 1988 College Magazine.
WYMTEXT - YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED
The Wymondham College Electronic Notice Board Service - Wymtext for short - has now been in operation for a full academic year. Over this year, many questions have risen about all aspects of the service, and this report is mainly concerned with answering them all.
On this large site, the passing on of information is a great problem, and in the past the College has frequently suffered from messages going astray. Methods of reducing the problem are constantly under review, and it was this problem which first drew attention to the concept of an electronic notice board. Such systems are becoming increasingly common in medium and large commercial enterprises, the Armed Services, and larger schools, following on the increase in consumer movement to Teletext-compatible television receivers in the home.
Another problem faced by the College is the need to combine Information Technology applications, together with the need to involve pupils as far as possible in the creation and execution of the maximum number of different applications. Handling systems like this requires many skills within the larger definition of Information Technology.
After considering the concept closely, suppliers were asked for proposals. Eventually, an economic solution was selected which offered the use of domestic television receivers as monitors, and existing school computer hardware as a system generator. This solution permitted the installation at minimum cost, whilst ensuring that all components were capable of other uses should technology move away from the chosen system, thus enabling a system to be provided from within finance earmarked for Information Technology Applications.
As installed, the system was operated from the College Reception Office, but this rapidly led to bottlenecks and restrictions, so a different location was found and the system generator, a BBC Master Microcomputer, moved into the new office in Block 34. The system generator feeds amplifiers in Block 32, from where the signals are fed to monitors in each Boarding House, the Library and the Refectory. The system allows for extra monitors to be supplied, and some are usually in operation around the site. The information that you see on the screens around the site is handed in at Reception, and then collected and programmed into the system, using special software, by the student operators. (Volunteers who wish to be included in the team are always welcome!) Great efforts are made to ensure that information on display is always up-to-date and relevant - the system operators dedicate a lot of their own time both in the evenings and at weekends. Over the year, the system has been programmed by 10 students under the guidance of Dr. Hill, and particular mention must go to Fred, Vish and Tris who have certainly contributed a great deal of their own time, effort and imagination!
A typical sequence of screens displayed might consist of a Title screen, two or three Menu screens, several Special Announcements (Trips, Clubs, etc), Results screens for College sporting teams, and a number of interest screens featuring films, records, facts and competitions. Suggestions are constantly solicited for inclusion, and work is underway to extend the system coverage of College activities.
As the system enters its second year, the novelty has worn off but the value remains, as it becomes taken more and more for granted. Like all good service enterprises, Wymtext does not generate large amounts of comment, but the reliance placed upon it is well demonstrated by the cries of anguish that arise on the few occasions when maintenance requires a short break in the service.
"The piece I ‘wrote’ in the magazine about it was dictated to me by the Bursar of the day, Jim Welsh. Polly Kane was spot-on about how the thing died a death once I left – I got conned into running it and no-one took it on after I left so all the tellys were duly tuned into terrestrial channels for the daily lunchtime phenomenon known as ‘Neighbours’ a year later. Before I leave the subject, I will divulge that all the TVs onsite were apparently screwed up by Wymtext originally being set to broadcast on the same channel as the video recorders (36) and the live-in staff had to endure channel bleed and the endless banal carousel of menus and info over anything they tried to watch for a bit; unfortunately the range of the transmitter also reached Morley and we had several complaints from the public which forced us to drop the power a bit! (And the fact that we would sometimes rig up a VCR of our own and broadcast pirated films across the site for a laugh which didn’t go down too well with the more politically correct – I also had access to a very clunky Video Camera and some very, very strange footage was put out on one occasion, consisting of a woodland rampage, a walk down a covered way, a few ‘frank’ shots and some bloke on a Sinclair C5! Very surreal and extremely perverse."
From the 1989 Magazine:
ODE TO WYMTEXT
Whatever has happened to Wymtext?
What's become of the little black box?
It seems to have stumbled and halted,
With the sadly grieved loss of Steve Fox.
For months we have queued and considered
What earthly good use they could be,
They don't even speak in Australian,
So we know that they can't be TV's.
They just sit and sulk in the corners,
Looking sad as black plastic can get,
And, apart from in Lincoln, for "Neighbours",
Not a word, not a peep, from the sets.
But at last we've discovered the secret,
And this poem we send out to warn —
The staff are all K.G.B. members
And they're putting a set in each dorm!!!
The Modern (2006) Version
It seems that history is repeating itself - the College now runs a similar system called the TV Messaging System. It's not interactive, like Wymtext seemed to be, and doesn't really attract as much attention from students. It's a web based thing (coded in ASP, running off a Microsoft Access database, all completely hosted on the College Intranet - I've been speaking to the Head of IT), and messages are displayed on the College Intranet Start Page, as well as on screens in the houses, the staff room and the refectory. Various (but not all) members of staff can add messages via a web-based interface on the intranet.
On the TV, the systems cycles through the college messages one by one, before going through the house messages, and then back to the first college message, etc. There's a PC in each House office and each runs the system for that House. Here are some screen shots (click to enlarge):
Josh Smith (Kett Yr 10 - 2006)
Wymondham College Remembered