This paper explores the legacy of the Computer Literacy Project, and recommends ways of engaging people in the creative uses of computing.
- The computer literacy project (CLP), run in the 1980s with support from the BBC and government, made computing accessible and had positive repercussions for the UK high-tech sector.
- Today however, there are concerns about the absence of creative computing in classrooms. No initiative has the scale, ambition or comprehensive approach of the CLP.
- Ways of engaging people in creative computing include creating a systemic approach to computer literacy and leadership, and ensuring any project reaches homes as well as schools.
The Computer Literacy Project (CLP) had the grand ambition to change the culture of computing in Britain’s homes. The innovative backing by a broadcaster – the BBC – working with an entrepreneurial company – Acorn – led to the creation of an open technology, supported by a range of materials (programmes, courses, publications and software) delivered across a multitude of channels. The BBC Micro was complemented by activities that increased demand for computing generally, by promoting cultural shifts in attitudes towards computing and delivering learning into homes and schools.
This report explores whether the CLP had any lasting legacy on the culture of computing in Britain. Did more people take up programming and become more confident around computers as a result of the project? Or would this have happened anyway, given the abundance of cheap home machines and an excitement in the perceived future of computing over the 1980s? Can we see any economic impact from the project, in the shape of new leading companies in digital sectors such as software, hardware or video games?
The paper also draws on the lessons learnt from the CLP to recommend ways of enthusing a new generation in the creative uses of computing.