IT Came From Outer Space
IT Came From Outer Space
English language teachers, who began an overseas odyssey in the early 1990s, were already perhaps familiar with the boon and blessing of the magic of what then passed for modern technology in the age of the computer. However, the advent of the PCT, that is, personal computer terminal, suggested that IT represented an artificial intelligence (AI) with interests other than the health of the human. IT is Information Technology, and the PC humanity's heart monitor. Where PC is interpretable as ‘policeman’, PC is cancer, and our terminal relationship with IT tells us how much time we have left.
In mythic terms, the development of what came to be called Bluetooth, since the initiation of research into ‘short link’ radio technology by Nils Rydbeck, chief technology officer (CTO) in 1987 of ‘phone company Mobile Ericsson, Lund, Sweden, was IT with the teeth of a vampire. If IT sank its teeth into you, you might live. Bluetooth was actually named for Harald Bluetooth, king of Denmark and Norway (c. 958 - c. 986), who united disparate Scandinavian tribes, so it’s symbolic of unified communications protocols, that is, ostensibly incompatible connections made compatible through wireless; represented by an ancient Nordic rune combination of Harald Bluetooth's initials (see Figure 1).
Vikings invaded England in 1066 by sea, but that king, Harald Hardrada of Norway, that is, Harald III, was defeated at the battle of Stamford Bridge, East Yorkshire, on September 25th. However, England's victorious king, Harold I, was defeated a short while later by another invading French army, led by William of Normandy, which landed at Pevensey on the South coast on September 28th. After a forced march by Harold I's army to Hastings, East Sussex, the English were defeated on October 14th, and William of Normandy, known as 'the conqueror', became William I of England.
While the Vikings, who continued to raid England from the sea, became a byword for rapine, looting, war and death, the new aristocracy from France began enriching the English language with its words, for example, blonde (blond) reason (raison) and favourite (favorite) derive from French.* Consequently, although celebrated in the two part book, The Long Ships (1941-5), by Sweden’s Frans G. Bengtsson, and made into a 1964 movie, starring American actor, Richard Widmark, Harald Bluetooth's 10th century Viking symbolism is a two-edged sword. Those with the technology have the tools to continue, whereas those who don’t fall by the wayside.
Who amongst us hasn’t been asked, ‘Do you have a laptop?’ Completing my PhD in 1992, ‘Jungian Archetypes in the work of Robert A. Heinlein’, required me to have a PC/word processor, and so an Amstrad PCW 9512 was duly purchased, with LocoScript word processing software and a printer, so that the 100, 000 word, 612 page thesis, could be taken, as required, to be bound in Bradford, before being deemed an acceptable pass and consigned to gather dust on a shelf at Brynmor Jones Library, Hull University. Familiar with url hypertext protocols and the internet information superhighway that is the world wide web (WWW), when trained as an ELT professional at a government sponsored course run by private company provider, European Training and Communications, Etc., Etc., and supervised by the TESOL Certificate awarders, Trinity College London, it wasn’t that long before a laptop was deemed an essential adjunct, subsequent to a spell of chalk and blackboard teaching as a lecturer in literature in English at Debrecen University, and its Center for English Teacher Training (CETT), Hungary, where the Soviet Russian pull out in 1989, following Russia's refusal to withdraw from Eastern Europe's formerly independent nations, consequent to the defeat of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany in World War II (1939-45), had left a distrust of foreigners, so virulent amongst the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics' (CCCP) satellite slave states, including East Germany, that advanced technology was a board pin to us.
English language teachers, bored and smart, went in droves to Eastern Europe, looking for some smart bored to educate, and with former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s words ringing in their rears, ‘On yer bike!’ In Hungary, the average monthly wage in 1995 was equivalent to what could be had on the dole then in the UK. Later, however, the choice for new teachers became 3,000 US $ in the Middle East per month, and accept the equivalent of castration teaching an all-male audience, or 1,000 US $ in Eastern Europe, as the former Soviet bloc's economies were held to keep pace by the Western Europeans, led by France and reunified Germany since 1990, where 1,000 Euros a month was normative in terms of ELT salary expectations.
As England’s teaching exports - and others - learnt the requirements of IT’s system, the telecommunications companies’ developing of the smartphone and tablet - and a Lenovo Yoga 3.8 Marshmallow Lollipop stays by my side constantly - helped bridge the gulf between overhead projector (OHP), smartboard, and bored, as the dongle affording male-female HDMI, DVI, and VGA penetration, through USB port connectors, promoted the transference of visuals from tablet to smart board screen, so facilitating the teacher-student interface.
When the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) virus 2 variant finally became virulent enough to kill millions across the globe, after its discovery in December 2019 at a Wuhan city hospital, Hubei Province, China, teachers yet unfamiliar were introduced to Blackboard, and similar software, to facilitate distance learning, with students sitting at home in front of their computer screens, as the ELT pros sat in front of theirs, instructing on how to learn during the pandemic. Caught in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, it was a UK government arranged rescue flight to London that permitted of my escaping IT’s engineers.
That overcrowded schools, and other learning environments, contributed to the coughin' is indubitably true, but IT's inability to improve on blackboard and chalk for the assassinated teacher overseas contributed to perceptions of unfairness, as lesson observations were made that resulted in criticism that teachers were unfit, and/or didn't fit. There were obvious parallels between IT's viruses and that of the coughin' fit, because disabled learning is equivalent to wasted years, that is, murder by degrees, if there’s no smart pen, so the screen has to be used with a wipeable marker board pen. IT, like a debilitating virus, could delay the progress of the smart bored, and/or PD (professional development) of a teacher, for years; until the coffin fit. Simply by IT indicating to local adminstrators that a VGA dongle was at present unattainable, it likely would remain out of reach of the educational establishment for the foreseeable future of the worn out foreigner.
In Kyrgyzstan (see Figure 2), for example, at a Kadamjay city school, Batken region, founded in 1993 and named ‘Semetey’ after the son of the legendary hero, Manas (see Figure 3), in the poet Sayakbair Karalayev’s Epic of Manas, though equipped with a Lenovo laptop, the smartboard required an HDMI portal. The problem was resolved by the lyceum's IT expert obtaining a USB dongle with a feminine HDMI connection that could be plugged into the laptop to accept the male HDMI smartboard plug in, so facilitating the showing of Solutions Upper Intermediate - with audio - to the audience sitting expectorantly at their desks.
However, aged 60, and pretty well near totally assassinated by IT years before, my gratitude in September 2021 was indeed wry, as the opening lines of the epic, originally part of an oral tradition, written down in the 18th century, and detailing Manas' birth, came unbidden to my brain, troubled yet again by an all boys' school, this time in Asia:
‘A sound of screaming rang out, and everyone rushed
Was it a boy or girl?
When his mother saw Manas’ penis, she so glad
Arriving at the capital city Bishkek's airport, named for Manas, the humble traveler isn't normally aware that ‘Manas’, translated literally, is ‘God' to the Kyrgyz. Taking a further plane to Osh city, lasting above an hour, after an eight hour flight from Ferenc Liszt airport, Ferihegy, Budapest, Hungary, there was a further two hour journey through the mountains by car, before those peaked fastnesses that would hem me in all around, and throughout the winter, became visible.
If the SARS 2 coronavirus, emerging at the local hospital, not far from architects', Sasaki Associates, Inc., projected 15.3 billion RMB Lenovo Intelligent Valley R & D lakefront Campus (see Figure 4), Wuhan city, Hubei Province, China, didn't get me, IT would. Taking my modem to Budapest airport, with the sim that the bank would send a verification code to, if an attempt by me to pay a bill was queried by IT, check-in dented my progress by arguing that the Covid-19 Euro-passport, recording the second vaccination at Budapest's Szent Imre Egyetemi Oktatókórház (see Figure 5), that is (for native English speaking readers only), the Saint Imre University Research Hospital, was insufficient without evidence of a first vaccination, which meant my having to show evidence of it from a drop-in center in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland, and resulted in the loss/theft of the modem with the sim.
IT had traveled at my side in a small bag containing my Lenovo tablet, which I continued to take in the hope of defeating the virus threat. However, as frantic fruitless efforts had been made to locate the official copy of the Scottish negative Covid-19 result, a large part of IT disappeared, along with half the written life of the journalist; encrypted onto a 64 GB Ultra Dual m3.0 flash drive with both micro-USB and 3.0 USB connectors, as well as bank card reader, which allowed the transfer of digitized cash to my bank account by inserting another's debit card.
The journey to Kadamjay imperiled, nevertheless the requisite document was attained. However, with the airfare unrefundable to the donor, only a £50 DNA test sampling by PCR (polymerase chain reaction) was now deemed sufficient to pay the ferryman and get me across the Styx to escape from Hades:
‘I would rather follow the plow as thrall to another
Man, one with no land allotted to him and not much to live on,
Than be a king over all the perished dead.’2
Unfortunately, without the sim in the modem for my bank to send a verification code to, if the electricity bill was to be paid, the company would cut me off, like Greek Achilles' soul protestingly to compatriot Odysseus, after his death in the war against Troy in Asia Minor to restore Helen, abducted by the Trojan Prince Paris, to her husband Menelaus, brother of king Agamemnon of Sparta. In the gloomy despair of lightless Hades, actually pronounced ‘AIDS’, and indeed written so by the Greeks, Áïdēs, the job of killing me would now be divided equally between IT, and the more officially recognizable variant of its plague virus.
Jesus said, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.’ (Mk: 6. 4) Persuading boys to put their hands over their mouths to prevent the coughin' virus from spreading is similarly remindful, 'How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child.’3 The student, his back turned, can't see the teeth of the virus emerging from the coffin. It's part of the responsibility of the teacher to make their charges more aware; despite the corers of the apples of their parents’ eyes desire to hack. IT's more helpful than it used to be, but the damage to health and longevity is already done, as England’s foremost dramatist William Shakespeare’s mad king, Lear, evinces in the 1606 play, and so the verdict from the head is, 'Could have done better.’ With modern and up to the minute facilities, lives could be enriched and extended, or even saved perhaps, in the classroom; as elsewhere.
* Acceptance by the English of rich linguistic influxes from other sources is the reason why American English, which didn't begin even to be written until after Shakespeare, and didn't actually represent the language of a nation until the 19th century, after the American War of Independence (1775-1783) from George III's British Empire, and finally won in 1815, as agreed at the signing of the Treaty of Ghent, Belgium, ratified on February 17th in Washington D.C., after the Second American War of Independence (1812-), can never supplant England's English. As the history of French Canada illustrates, the English language isn't America's, but rather France's, which doesn't accept linguistic contamination from others. While Americans can't rid themselves of their French, England's acceptance of it is what makes English theirs.
1 Manas (transl. Walter May), Rarity, Bishkek, 2004.
2 Homer Odyssey, c. 8th century, Bk 11, l. 488-91.
3 Shakespeare, William King Lear, 1608, Act I, Scene iv.