How Doom Got Me Suspended

Doom was, of course, originally released in 1993. It wasn’t until 1995 that it saw me get in trouble at school. We had fewer games then, and especially fewer games that could run on the crappy 486s that lined the edges of my sixth form (year 12, younglings) form room.

In the mid-90s, schools decided they needed computers. No one was quite sure what for, but they were needed. The Conservative government of the time encouraged it, and local councils would provide special funding for schools to invest in hundreds of beige boxes, so that there could be computers in every classroom. For which there was absolutely no purpose. The entire curriculum was written around text books and library resources, and the only software that was of any limited use was Encarta 95. Meanwhile, a History & Politics A Level class of twelve students was sharing textbooks one between three, because the school had no budget to buy more. Computers were being used as doorstops. It was very silly.

Our form room, the geography room of our form tutor was replete with PCs. The lined an entire wall, all presumably without any useful function. And they were especially useless to students, for whom absolutely anything interesting was locked off. We could access our personal storage space, in which we needed to store nothing, and that was it. The internet at the time was a terrifying wasteland, and while I don’t entirely remember, I assume access to it was equally closed off.

We had this game we’d play. We’d try to “hack” our way past the restrictions, to gain access to Minesweeper or Solitaire, both of which were behind the same barriers. When we succeeded, we’d tell our ally in the staff, a lovely guy called Tim. He was one of two people employed by the school responsible for all this new-fangled technology. We’d report the security hole to him, and he’d close it off. Then we’d look for another. (Or run that Macro in Word Perfect that made the dragon fight happen.)

(A favourite example of a hole we found was a mysterious computer in a textiles room (because God knows textiles needed computers), that when you pressed F7 brought up server controls that no one but the IT department should have been able to access. This was so ludicrously simple, and actually allowed us to access the private files of any student in the school – we test this by filling our friend Anna’s hard drive space with pictures of horses.)

However, Tim’s boss – let’s call him Mr Ford (which isn’t his name, but I’m about to call him an idiot) – was an idiot. He was in charge, and as such seemed not to have the faintest clue about any of it. He didn’t like us at all. He especially didn’t like us when we figured out that the reason the school’s entire network was running so slowly was because he’d somehow installed Windows on it 17 times. I forget the details – it was nearly twenty years ago – but it was a colossal mistake. Silly man.

So we’ve our goodies and our baddies established. It’s also worth noting that my mum worked at the school too. She was a biology teacher there. She was renowned, it’s fair to say, for not taking any crap from her bosses. They were a bit scared of her.

Which brings us back to Doom. I think it’s fair to say that most people who played Doom in those years either only played the first shareware third of it, or had the rest copied on a floppy from a friend. My dad, somehow (I think from a catalogue) had a complete, boxed version of it. (Gosh, I hope he still has that box somewhere.) So it was that I could bring in the full version of Doom to install across all the computers in our form room. Which of course required getting past the limitations put on student logins. We had various methods, and we achieved it, coming into school half an hour early to play a sneaky game of multiplayer Doom across the classroom before our form tutor showed up.

One Thursday morning I was in at about 8.30 (I lived a two minute walk from the school, so this required a lot less keenness that it might suggest), investigating a new method of getting far more access than we’d had before. I’d heard a rumour that if you logged in as a teacher who’d left the school, you could bypass the passwords. Incredibly, this was true. In fact, all you needed were the initials of a former member of staff, and it would ask you for a password.

I deliberately picked a teacher I knew well, who’d left the school, but was good friends with my mum. I put in her initials, DH, and it asked me to set a password. She’d been a chemistry teacher at the school, so with a deliberate effort to not look like I was trying to be too deceptive, I put her password as “chemistry”. And I was in, full log-in, access to everything I shouldn’t oughtta. While fiddling around, seeing the extent of the issue to report to Tim, and of course pondering what gaming opportunities this might afford us during pre-form period, the classroom door burst open (it really was flung open) and in walked a furious-faced Mr Ford.

“WHO IS LOGGED IN AS A TEACHER?!” he bellowed. I said, chipper, “It’s me, Mr Ford!” And his face turned dark. There was the unmistakeable look of, “I’ve finally got you, you little shit.” Ignoring my cheery attempts to explain, he roared that I was to go straight to the headmaster’s office.

I had often been in some sort of minor trouble at school, but mostly because of not doing work, or mucking around, rather than anything malicious or malevolent. The head teacher was rarely involved in anything student-facing, a dithery and dreary paper-shuffling man who would only ever appear to pupils during OFSTED weeks, where he’d pretend to be a recognisable part of the school, attempting to kick footballs across the playground, people stared at him in confusion wondering who he was. Being sent to him was a big deal, no matter how much of an old fool he might have been. I had no idea which way this was going to go.

Ford marched me to the office, and I’m sure I made things worse by being the cocky-mouthed little prick I too often was (am). He launched into a nonsensical rant about how I’d been hacking the system, or whatever, and the headmaster listened. It seemed my mistake was to have used initials that while were certainly those of the chemistry teacher who had left, were also those of a history teacher who was on temporary maternity leave.

I patiently explained the reality of the situation, how we were helping Tim with security, and that I’d been exploring a flaw so I could help it get fixed. It was mostly true. I missed out the stuff about Doom. Tim was called in, and without prompting explained that yes, my friends and I were a huge boon to the IT department. And by the end of that, there really wasn’t anything left for Ford to argue. But it got better.

Following Tim, a senior teacher dropped in and explained – entirely unbeknownst to me – that he’d asked my parents at some recent function if I could check out this flaw. Weird coincidence. And then, best of all, my mum showed up. I imagine word gets around staff pretty quickly when one of their kids is about to get suspended, which was the promised punishment.

By this point the headmaster had had any power taken away from him. I’d not only established an ongoing relationship to be fiddling with computer security issues, but I’d been asked by a teacher more senior than Ford to look into it. My mum’s opinions of the headmaster weren’t exactly secret, and I think he feared her presence more than anything else. So, it was explained to me, that while there were mitigating circumstances, I couldn’t go unpunished as it would set a bad example to the rest of the school. Uh. So it was to be that I was to be suspended for “the rest of the week” (ie. Friday), but it would not be marked down on any official records.

My mum looked at him, her mouth curled into a snarl, and uttered the immortal words I’ll never forget.

“So you’re giving him the day off?”

The headmaster spluttered indignantly, and off I was sent, to a day of infamy amongst even the cool kids.

Which is how Doom got me suspended. Or at least, how Doom got me a day off school.

This article was originally published as part of, and thanks to, the RPS Supporter program.

92 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    distantlurker says:

    Seem to recall getting a prize at school for a history paper on the Major exports of 10 ancient Egyptian cities, that I’d written in a frantic 45 minutes before class started rather than the 2 weeks we’d been given to do the write up.

    I only knew the names of 10 cities because I’d spent the last 2 weeks playing Civ. Being Civ I, all commodities were completely made up.

    Guessing the teacher maybe checked 1 or 2 and it turned out Heliopolis really did export large quantities of salt.

    Thanks Sid!

    • cpt_freakout says:

      Hilarious. Back when I was 13 I would always impress my history teacher by namedropping Xerxes and the Punic Wars and whatever I had learned from watching my brother and my dad play Civ, Centurion, and other old strategy games I no longer remember. A year later or so I did the same with another history teacher when I somehow knew what the Blitzkrieg was, if only thanks to Panzer General. Come to think of it, I’ve learned quite a lot of random stuff from videogames. More recently, a geographer friend mentioned something about biomes and I was the only one on the table to know what that was… so thanks, Minecraft, Terraria, et al!

      • Zanchito says:

        I taugh myself english by playing videogames since the early 80’s. And a ton of other random stuff, some of it useful, some of it just interesting. The teaching power of videogames cannot be overstated, you learn even from games that are not suppousedly didactic.

      • Lanfranc says:

        In primary school, we had the same teacher in Danish and History, so most of our History classes were quietly co-opted for Danish instead. Almost everything I learned about history (and a good deal of my English for that matter) as a child was due to Civilization and AD&D. Today I’m a history graduate who works as a translator.

    • reallyjoel says:

      I impressed my teacher and the class when I knew what an Ankh was in third grade because I’d been playing Ultima =)

      And I generally learned all my English through gaming, rather than from School. In fact, School came third, after TV.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        I learnt what an Ankh is from Populus (or possibly Populus 2).

        • MacTheGeek says:

          I learned it from the Atari 2600 version of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    • Premium User Badge

      Neurotic says:

      Brilliant! :D

    • Manfred says:

      Yeah I learned english as a second language from games, particularly Day of the tentacle. The SCUMM engine’s use of phrases for interaction, was like an english teaching tool in itself.

    • Renegade says:

      I remember doing some Year 8 Geography homework on types of electricity generation by copying the Civopedia entries from Civ3.

    • Antistar says:

      In primary school (and the first year of high school, I think), we weren’t allowed to use calculators for our maths work. So I used to cheat on my maths homework via having taught myself to ‘program’ our commodore 64 to calculate things for me (in BASIC or whatever it used).

      Not that that was very difficult: you basically typed in “PRINT”, followed by the expression.

      I’ve always loathed maths and loved computers though, so it’s unsurprising that I would get up to stuff like that at an early age and not feel too guilty about it. (It’s possibly also unsurprising that in high school I’d go on to be pretty average at maths, but top the school in computing studies.)

  2. MrTijger says:

    I swear we had the same Dell machines in our school, one of my jobs as a budding IT dogsbody in school was adding RAM to those boxes.

    Also, as the IT assistant (school obviously couldnt afford a real IT person, a teacher with a mental breakdown was the actual IT person in charge) I did have full access for DOOM and other games which I, obviously, shared with my mates :D

    • jonfitt says:

      I was an IT assistant at school too!
      We got paid for it and had access to all of the computers. We’d play Doom, Duke3D, Warcraft 2, and later on Quake.

  3. amateurviking says:

    Ski Free was our illicit RM activity. Loved that game.

  4. Premium User Badge

    neffo says:

    Charming story, John.

    I think I was a John Walker-type in highschool also. I was banned for life from the school computers for something roughly equivalent. (That was about 3 weeks given it was the final term of year 12.) I never got a day off.

  5. stoopiduk says:

    I wonder if I’d be able to build my own PC and play tech support for my extended family if it weren’t for those dull beige boxes in the corners?

    I’m certain that breaking and repairing countless PCs trying to get Sim City to run at school was the start of everything for me. I guess we’ll never know, but the cost of the knowledge of getting soundblaster cards to work came at the price of silencing many, many school PCs for extended periods of time (breaking ability always came much sooner than mending ability, of course).

    When we did get the games to work, some people built balanced, functioning cities instead of a pixelated effigy of a city fit only for destruction. The past was weird.

  6. dangermouse76 says:

    All the – Acorn Archimedes PC’s – we had in our comp lab in 1993 had a speech function. One time our French teacher popped by to flirt with Miss Stevens.

    His name was Mr Bishton. If you tell 20 odd people to type Mr Bishton into text to speech and hit return, it sounds like Stephen Hawkins saying masturbation very loud.

    I got detention for that.
    Totally worth it !

  7. RQH says:

    I guess I came into school in the era after all the kids had installed all the games on the useless computers, because playing games was one of the only (sanctioned) things we did on computers at school. Ski Free, Sim City 2000, Oregon Trail, Dino Park Tycoon. Educational, right?

    • Premium User Badge

      Arnvidr says:

      I think me too. We had Quake tournaments in most recesses, if we could secure the computers. There was some limited internet access, and being ’97 there was sometimes even stuff to find. I remember mIRC was in use a lot. I think the only “official” stuff we did was some kind of Office course.

  8. Surlywombat says:

    Some one got Sam Fox Strip poker installed on a BBC micro at ours. Now that was distracting!

    Amazing how exciting it can be when a badly pixelated image of a page 3 girl is updated to reveal that she has removed

    a hat.

    Why we didn’t just nip out and buy the Sun I have no idea.

  9. soulblur says:

    I tried to install Commander Keen on all of our computers in the PC lab (ohhh, a PC lab). I’d planned to run competitive tournaments amongst students – see how far you could get in 20 minutes or something like that. Since these were the first computers we’d ever seen, I figured it would be good for teaching us how to use them. And obviously fun. This was, apparently, going to be a teacher-sanctioned activity – I’d certainly gotten permission. After I installed the game on all 30 PC over lunch and recess and was showing one of the teachers how it would work, they suddenly realised that this was a game that I was proposing students play, and that was the end of that.

    What they had thought it was before, I was never able to figure out.

  10. caff says:

    Very amusing :-)

    I used to play various games in the “careers room”. The computers were meant for careers advice, where you would answer 20 or so questions on your attitudes, lifestyle and interests. After half an hour doing this, me thinking “It’ll suggest computer programmer or something science-y and cool” it came up with “poultry farmer”. My whole world came crashing down.

    I started a career in computer programming.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      hehehe. We had only 2 PCs at school. One was portable between teaching rooms and the other was in the library and was for “multimedia” activities. The rest of the computers were BBC micros and old Macs, and I left in 97 so we were playing Doom around the same timeframe, but only had one machine to play it on! It helped that our librarian was into games of all kinds so happily left us alone to install and play whatever we liked. We just had to keep evidence of it off of the Windows 3.1 desktop :)

      My fate as a games programmer was sealed much earlier though, circa 1984 thanks to the 48k Spectrum!

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Oh yeah, our lunchtime library games included Doom (of course) Wing Commander, Ultima VI and Simon the Sorcerer. Towards the end of my school days, One Must Fall 2097, Hexen and a Doomesque grimdark near future taxi driving game that nobody else I’ve ever met has ever admitted playing called “Quarantine”… Pinball Dreams/Fantasies too were popular too because shorter play sessions means more people could have a go before the bell went.

        The most subversive thing I think we ever did was change the marquee screensaver to say rude things about eachother… Never got caught though! Used to do the same thing in Dixons on the highstreet too.

        • caff says:

          One Must Fall! Oh my god, had I forgotten that! What a flood of memories. Alone in the Dark, Flight Unlimited, 7th Guest…. the list goes on.

          And Quarantine! The precursor to Carmageddon, Grand Theft Auto etc. It was so bleak and Bladerunner-esque.

          Thank you for reminding me of such things :)

        • Premium User Badge

          RaveTurned says:

          I had a demo of Quarantine that I played to death. :) I’d have liked the full game, but knew the blood-stained box-art probably wouldn’t make it past parents without comment.

        • Dogsbody says:

          I rented Quarantine back in the day, from the local video rental store. Sadly all I can really remember is the box art, which was epic cool.

      • caff says:

        Long live the 48k spectrum :) That piece of plastic and silicone taught me more than any computer has since. If only kids of today could experience the simple BEEP command of those days. But doing graphics – oh my god, how simple is that nowadays?

      • thekelvingreen says:

        Quarantine was ace. You are not alone in your fondness for it!

  11. bravekarma says:

    This was a great read. My fondest memories from middle school are the sessions of multiplayer demo of Age of Empires (the first one) in the computer lab in lunch recess, in early 2000’s. Our method of bypassing the restrictions were renaming the .exe files to the names of allowed programs, like notepad.exe or winword.exe.

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      When I first went to University in 97 we had some interesting challenges. The UNIX labs were state of the art but the PC labs were still running Windows 3.1 (CS department was 100% UNIX, PCs were in the library) and operated within a pretty tight network policy. None of the machines actually had physical hard drives in them! Only floppy drives and network drives… However, they all had a pretty decent amount of RAM.

      So we devised a boot disk that would create a RAMdrive, which was just big enough to install Duke Nukem 3D or Doom onto! And the games they did commence :)

  12. Scandalon says:

    Hee hee, my story (from High School) wasn’t to play any game specifically, just get out of the slow, locked down Win 3(.1?) and play, well, anything once our “Desktop Publishing” classwork was over. I found a couple different methods (including one magical computer that mis-configured) that allowed me to re-install my own copy of windows off the network share. (Which included a whole treasure-trove of games for us to play in-between classes and on lunch: Jill of the Jungle, Corridor 9, Prince of Persia…doom had to remain off-campus for some reason…) I didn’t check the proposed changes to the startup files enough though, so the next time the computer was booted it failed on an error, and it was traced back to me.

    The next day I met my future boss. :)

  13. heretic says:

    In the 2000s playing quake 3 with the .exe zipped up on school computers worked somehow!

  14. keithzg says:

    For whatever reason, the system the local school board contracted for their systems in my later years of schooling (Novell Netware, if I remember correctly) had an interesting bug where only an administrator could set my password without breaking my login. After I changed my password (which it would eventually force me to), it would never again accept my credentials until I could convince someone with admin access to change it or the yearly reset rolled around. As far as I know this only happened to me and my sister, both of us having the same hyphenated last name, so I suspect it was some failure of the database handling.

    Anyways, in my High School years I remember the librarians (who were, much to their chagrin, put in charge of these “computer” things) refused to believe that this was an actual bug, and just insisted I had to remember what I had set my password to. So instead, since I went to a large school and few people had ever any need for computers and thus would still be using the default password (oh, the days when it was considered reasonable to give everyone the same default password!), I’d just grab a copy of the morning announcements and take them over to the bank of computers, then try to log in as each person who had a birthday that day; each one that worked I’d write down in my school agenda. By the end of each year I had a pretty big set of users I could log in as!

    The best part was, in theory we had printing quotas per month. I had originally figured out this trick in Junior High, and I was tempted to abuse it, but I didn’t want to use up some other kid’s printing quota. But I thought to myself that if the default student password is “student01”, then logically the default teacher password is . . . yup!

    The teacher manning my Junior High’s computer lab didn’t know why I would be wasting my printing quota on the Scorched Earth manual, and he became even more confused when I printed out copies for all my friends. He confronted me about somehow bypassing the printing quota, and I said all innocently “oh, there’s a quota? But then how did it let me print all these pages? That’s so strange!” As a recurring motif, in this case and in others I never did quite get in trouble because the school authority in question wasn’t smart enough to figure out what I had done, but was smart enough to know that it wouldn’t look good to complain to their bosses that they didn’t know how to keep a kid out of the systems they were in charge of . . .

  15. Gap Gen says:

    Our librarian busted us playing Dune 2 on the school computers but didn’t bat an eyelid. I guess she figured as long as we were quiet it was OK.

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      School librarians were always pretty ace. Our library had macs for some reason, we were all playing Marathon.

  16. Shiloh says:

    We had a computer room at school but to be honest, this was in the early 80s and they ran off cassette recorders or something. The only games we could ever play were Hammurabi and B1 Nuclear Bomber.

  17. Spacewalk says:

    We had Wolfenstein 3D on the computer when I was in the fifth grade. Nobody got suspended. We also had all of the Super Solvers games, McKids which was very popular and Dune which wasn’t very popular. Fuck yeah fifth grade.

    • Spacewalk says:

      Oh, and Gumboots Australia which I totally forgot about until now. Not at my school but me mum’s a teacher so on afternoons when she had to stay back and do work she’d drive over to my school, pick me up, drive back and I’d end up playing Gumboots for an hour or two until she was done.

      My primary school days would also find me playing Lemonade Stand on the Microbees in the classes that hadn’t got 486s yet. Some of those were still around even when I was in high school even. So much for being a nation that is addicted to technology.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    I think the extent of my computer based education years shenanigans was limited to the time I dropped shutdown Applescripts into the startup folders of all the OS7 Macs at Art College.
    I’m a little older than John, so we never had the luxury of computers at school, apart from the library Encarta machine or that time the woodworking teacher brought in his Archimedes running Zarch.

  19. witzkawumme (wkw) says:

    this suspension thing is kinda weird, I know it from TV series (mostly US I guess), I know it from Ecuador and from RPS, but I never ever heard of it happening in Austria (where I am from and spent time in school) or Germany (where I live now).

    what is the logic behind suspending a pupil that he misses classes?

    we had other forms of stupid punishment… like “copying” a page from the dictionary with every weird “-“, “,”, and other weird symbols to be exact…

  20. Shadowcat says:

    In the mid-90s, schools decided they needed computers. No one was quite sure what for, but they were needed.

    Dude, you’re out by well over a decade.

    • Volcanu says:

      No he’s not.

      Might depend on where you live(d) but it was certainly the mid 90s when all the schools in my area started getting PCs, and in similar fashion, not having a clue what to do with them. This continued for a long time. Even when I was at high school in the early 2000’s my school became a “Technology College” which meant computers in every room (and a good number of computer rooms) and interactive whiteboards all over the place. They were barely ever used as the staff had no idea how to operate them, still less how to use them in an actual sensible way to enhance learning.

      • LexW1 says:

        If he’s talking about the UK he’s both wrong and right.

        Schools in general decided they needed computers in the early-mid 1980s. At a fairly poor state school we had BBCs (w/tape drives and “turtles”) in the library in 1984, and the BBC Micro was designed specifically for schools in 1981. Every school thereafter that I went to or heard of via friends/family (state or private) had some form of computer – usually BBC or ZX Spectrums. Some went on to get Acorn Electrons and so on (which were seen as educational).

        So there was that.

        BUT many schools didn’t upgrade those machines when they became utterly obselete, or replace them when they broke, until the early/mid-90s, when there was this big move to kids learning PCs, which John mentions. So there’s also that.

        Basically it happened twice.

        • Shiloh says:

          Yeah that’s my memory – I think by about 1982/3 we had those Commodore Pets. I can’t honestly even remember what lessons they were used for, my year certainly never got taught anything on them except, obviously, the best ECM routines to run in the case of a Soviet SAM attack, the geography of Russia (sort of), or how many bushels of corn it took to feed the civilians of ancient Sumer.

          God, I’ve been PC gaming nearly as long as RPS.

          • Tuhalu says:

            That’s my memories here in Australia too. My family’s first computer was a Tandy TRS-80 that we bought around Christmas of ’83. By around ’86 or so we bought a Floppy Disk Drive for a mere $100 when one of the local schools were getting rid of theirs. My primary school was uncool though. They only had Apples. When I left highschool in ’92 (from a brand new highschool that started with my grade in ’88), they still only had a single room full of computers and I had foolishly studied things that were not computers. I guess they finally had the “age of computers in everyone’s classroom” sometime after that.

        • Sleepymatt says:

          Heh, back in the mid-80s when I was in primary 5, I was my primary school’s IT department for a few years – no-one in the school had any idea what to do with the various BBC B and Master 128’s in the classrooms, but due to my dad being an electrical engineer (our first computer was handbuilt by him using a Z80 chip), I had been used to taking our model B apart at home for years by that point to fix things and upgrade bits. I used to love getting the call to leave what I was doing and go to some other classroom – especially when the teacher there saw me pull out a screwdriver to fiddle around inside, or perform the “drop from one inch off table” trick to reseat the chips. It still amazes me how often the latter use to work!

      • thekelvingreen says:

        Yes, every school in the 80’s seemed to have a BBC Model B on which people played Banjax or weird text adventures about maths but the “loads of computers gathering dust in every classroom” era seemed to be the mid-90’s.

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          This must have been an English thing. In Scotland we still had BBCs lining the walls in the computing classroom, and still had programming in BASIC in the curriculum right up until 97 (at least) PCs were not seen as necessary and used more for multimedia presentations. All the GUI based stuff was still done on really old Apple Macs. Oh and there were a few Acorns in the electronics department. I think the music department also had an Atari ST.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            And my home computers were a Sinclair Speccy (48k), Amstrad Speccy 2+ (128k), Atari ST(FM) and an Amiga 600 (too impatient to save up for the 1200) – I think it was 94 or 95 when we got our first PC at home (486 DX2, 66Mhz). Or maybe earlier? I do seem to remember it being a very long time before windows 95 came out.

          • thekelvingreen says:

            Could be. I spent some of my youth in Wales and I don’t recall seeing a single school computer until I returned to England.

          • Volcanu says:

            Oh the humble Acorn! I remember IT lessons consisting of nothing but Win Logo, or whatever it was called. The thing with a turtle.

            Our IT teacher at middle school (it’s a Worcestershire thing) was a massive Acorn fan, in fact he used to rubbish PC’s saying that Acorn’s were much better. Even going so far as to declare “Acorns are leading the way in technology into the new millennium”. How we howled with laughter.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            Volcanu – I had a friend at uni who was adamant about the same thing… Of course the thing about acorn was the RISC processor…. Or the Acorn RISC machine…. Or the ARM…..

            Hang on

            ARM is the processor that’s in almost all mobile phones and tablets.

            In a way, your teacher was right :)

  21. LexW1 says:

    My copy of Flight Simulator 3.0 got my maths teacher into serious trouble.

    I was about 11-12. We had a computer lab, which the maths teacher (a great guy) oversaw. I knew he loved flight sims, so I’d brought in Flight Sim 3.0 from home, and over the course of some weeks I managed to talk him into installing it one of the brand new PCs, purely for educational purposes of course, you see!

    All was fun and games for a few weeks, until the actual computer science teacher discovered it, at which point all hell broke loose. Large-eyed expressions of innocence and the fact that I was authorized to install it saved me, but I know my teacher got quite a talking to. He went on to be the most senior math teacher there, though!

  22. Thankmar says:

    I regret the vast amounts of time I wasted during schoolyears kissing up to the cool kids by trying to like *their* music (instead of just going on liking my, obviously, uncool music) and stuff instead of learning something useful to do with PCs. Sooo much.

  23. thekelvingreen says:

    Oh, Encarta. I’d forgotten about that. How far we have come.

    At first we only had Gorillas and Prince of Persia on our school computers, hidden away in a directory that only those “in the know” — everyone, probably — knew about.

    Later some bright spark put Duke Nukem 3D and Quake on the computers in… the textiles room. I remember that — before I left in 1997 — someone had recreated the school in Quake, probably as part of a “project”.

  24. Philopoemen says:

    We had Apple Mac Colour Classics and Zork!

    Encarta 95 brings back memories though :)

  25. Drake Sigar says:

    Ha I remember the whole rooms of useless computers. I usually broke up the monotony by tearing up the mousemats and flicking them at my friend.

    Encarta was pretty great, being the only game I wouldn’t get thrown off for.

  26. klops says:

    “In the mid-90s, schools decided they needed computers…”

    Sounds familiar! In the mid-10s, schools also decided they needed computers. Or actually the Ministry of Education did. Now in our country everything teaching related is going to be computer assisted. Which is good in a way but unfortunately this part of the article sounds familiar as well:

    “History & Politics A Level class of twelve students was sharing textbooks one between three, because the school had no budget to buy more. Computers were being used as doorstops.”

    So we’re in a situation where most of the teachers use computers installed in every class as a powerpoint projectors because we need to computerize the curriculum. This computerisation is ok, even great, if you have a plan and go with it, but no one seems to know what to do. I’ve taught in schools where every student got an own iPad and every class was equipped with stuff like video cameras (non-security cams, cams for teaching purposes) no one used and smartboards (an electronic blackboard with a price around 2000 €uros) which were used as blackboards. This was a government school as we have almost none private schools.

  27. drewski says:

    Was Quake 2 on our school computers, which was fun. As long as we didn’t play during class, the IT staff didn’t mind us using them at lunch. Guess they figured it kept us out of other trouble.

    Of course, we may not have strictly obeyed the “not in class” condition…ahem.

  28. Maxheadroom says:

    I usually like this site because in contrast to all the console kiddie sites (IGN, Gametrailers et al) i dont feel like im too old to be playing these daft ‘video games’ (I’m 40 btw)

    Then there are articles like this with their “I got into trouble in school for playing X game” or “I didnt understand Y game when it first came out but i used to watch my brother play it” and I feel like an old codger again :/

  29. P.Funk says:

    Maybe my school was weird but in the 90s at elementary we had a computer lab class where they taught us how to make rudimentary computer games out of some sandbox game making program.

    At lunch and recess we’d play one of dozens of games that were there.

  30. Perkelnik says:

    First MP experience for me was Quake in the high school. Back then, I still used cursor keys for movement so I was just a free frag for those who used the keyboard + mouse combo :)

    • Reapy says:

      Yes! I thought I was awesome at doom because I used to ‘circle strafe’, the technique of advanced players only! I used page up and page down in quake to look up and down… it did not… go well at all. Eventually I borrowed daggerfall experience and slowly, slowly learned asdw and the mouse. It was painful. And in daggerfall it was just switching modes to look around, and the closest thing to compare with was flight sims.

      It might be the reason all us old foggies need invert while the younger play regular style!

      We got a computer lab in the late 90’s at school. Myself and a few friends quickly became the first ‘techies’ at the school and helped keep the network running, so I was more on the receiving end of people ‘hacking’ in and messing the pc’s up and trying to fix them.

      We had a new physics teacher coming in at the back half of the year who was a bit younger, he ran out of material to teach in labs and used to play doom2 with us. Nothing like double barrel shotgunning your teacher in the head (IN GAME! ), was the first time I really did an activity that bridge an age gap like that.

      It was also cool because i had been obsessively playing warcraft 2 online and got a few people to try playing. Was the first time I was able to kind of publicly get credit for being good at a video game, and back then it was the kind of skill gap that is hardened internet play vs people that just played family members.

      Wish those pc’s had been around in the school longer than my last year or two.

      • Perkelnik says:

        Man that s awesome! :D Yeah I remember the days where being good online was something special… Good old days :) And Warcraft 2 was the only game I had on my first PC, along with Quake 1, played it all the time with a friend, good memories :)

  31. aergistal says:

    In primary school we stumbled by accident on the porn stash of one our lady IT teachers. It was hidden in multiple subdirectories on the public drive. Pretty niche stuff too.

  32. Synesthesia says:

    I think maybe we should talk about the ethical concerns of having beautiful childhood memories paygated blah blah blah

    great piece! I had similar experiences installing shinobi and simcity.

    In all seriousness, good to see these posts leaking to the other side eventually. I’m all for it.

  33. doggly says:

    This is so reminiscent of my time at school, I was at secondary school 1995 to 2002 (inclusive of two years in sixth form) and our computer facilities grew from a room of yellowed acorns to several rooms of Dells.
    We actually found a facility though MSDOS and a class computer expert that you could send messages that appeared onscreen if you knew the computer number, this led to me being banned from ICT for a few lessons and being employed as an ‘assistant’ for the head I.T technician.

  34. LurkerLito says:

    Doom always will have a special place in my heart. It was my first time playing against other people, and we played in a college SGI IRIX computer lab late at night so no one had to pack up and setup our PCs to try out multiplayer.

  35. Kempston Wiggler says:

    Good story, John. My high school’s IT teacher was clearly learning IT as he went, and one day made the absolute clanger of filling in his userid and password on a logon screen and then leaving the room unattended. Some of my more IT savvy classmates discovered this, logged in and rapidly discovered passwords for the entire IT network, staff included, giving them full access to the entire system.

    Over the next few days they cheerfully explored all the private nooks and crannys of the system, unearthing some delights in the process; one of our physics teachers was discovered to have quite a porn habit which hilariously included a space invaders clone called, and I shit you not, “Astro Tit”, where the spaceship at the bottom of the screen was a crudely animated penis disgorging white blobs of laser fire at moving ranks of breasts shuffling left and right down the screen. (Cara: prime material for a future S.exe?)

    Sadly, the IT teacher in question got wind of these students poking around and Lo, There Came A Day of Reckoning and lots of coffee-breathed shouting. But Astro-Tit went down in legend.

    Oh, Doom? Sadly our PCs weren’t powerful enough for such complex shenanigans. 286s and 186s mostly, although the librarian coveted her shiny new Pentium machine like it was one of her own children. Our yucks were gained playing bootleg copies of worm and creating pixel art galore based on whatever copy of Your Sinclair someone had brought in. Good times :)

  36. Radiant says:

    Where did you go to school? Hogwarts???

    If you went to an inner city secondary school [like I did] you’d be dead within a week.
    Tops.

    As one of the school “nerds” I once drew a penis on a scanned in picture of one of the schools top boys [on a bbc!].
    He was standing behind me and chased me around the quad with an axe.

    An axe he kept in his bag so the guys in the neighbouring school couldn’t kill him on the bus he took home everyday.

    I got suspended because I ran into the music department and hit him in the belly with a £1000 KORG synthesiser.

    Oh the japes!

    • Radiant says:

      I eventually got a masters from Durham Uni.
      Obviously none of this was in my personal statement.

  37. Honigsenf says:

    we played shuffle puck cafe on mac 2 in lessons and the teacher never noticed :)

  38. Continuity says:

    This takes me back. We also had the obligatory but rarely if ever used PCs littered around classrooms. Shocking really when you look back and think of the uses those computers could have been put to. I don’t think I learned anything about computers or programming, or even using software at school, everything I know has been self taught.

  39. Renevent says:

    What were all those computers needed for you ask? To play Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego of course! Computer lab in school was my favorite time. I was one of the few kids in my class that had a computer at home so I knew how to do all sorts of neat stuff. Have a lot of great memories playing games in school like Carmen Sandiego and King’s Quest, and playing around with Logos and QBasic.

    Speaking of QBasic, anyone ever play that Gorilla game where you would chuck exploding banana’s at each other? Fun times :D

  40. zat0ichi says:

    thanks for the story.

  41. Zafman says:

    Sounds very familiar. Our IT teachers consisted of maths and physics teachers reassigned to teach us kids all about “computers”. We had a room filled with Apple IIe boxes, monochrome monitors, got told not to touch the magnetic part of a 5.25″ floppie, which contained Logo, the language we’d be bored shitless wi…I mean working with for the foreseeable future. The trouble was, it was 1992!!! Quite a few of us had Amigas and Atari STs at home, and obviously we were bored beyond belief in class.

    They later upgraded those things to Macs, yup, still monochrome, still useless, but much more fun since you could squeeze two 3.5″ disks into the drive and render the thing inoperative. We constantly managed to crack the teachers password, so we could play “Bolo” in multiplayer. Hey, we even had Tetris.

    We got PCs after that. One of my geography teachers asked me to install Sim City 2000 on one (purely for educational purposes, blahblah…), but of course these things couldn’t cope with SVGA graphics, because in 1995, the era of the Pentium, my school managed to buy “brandnew” 386’s.

  42. gadalia says:

    (I’m currently in High School)
    When my schools network was broken for a week or two we barely did any work because almost every teacher relied on it so much, funny how things change.
    Another time the power went out (for a prolonged period of time), we all got sent home.

  43. lorddon says:

    Oh the stern talking to I got from a typing teacher by escaping from the menu and mucking about on the machine’s hard drive. Never did find anything cool, either. Had another teacher that would let us load up Arkanoid and play after we’d finished our Algebra though.

  44. dethtoll says:

    I once was banned from using the school computers for a year and accused of “hacking” because I happened to be nearby someone’s computer (but not actually using it) and several hours later a bug with the email program that sometimes hid peoples’ contacts struck that computer.

    I was blamed for a lot at school for stuff I had nothing to do with. This was the school where if a bully pushed me down, he went to class with no repercussions and I got to sit in the disciplinarian’s office for the rest of the day. At least it got me out of the math class I was struggling with. But school sucks and I hate it and everyone there was awful and I’m so glad to be 31 and still bitter.

  45. tormos says:

    I’m of another generation than John entirely, but was well known among my High School’s programming and video game nerds for being one of the primary movers behind getting Halo CE and Brood War available on every PC in the school (This was 2007-2011 but we needed multiplayer games that worked over LAN, would run on the school computers, and fit within a fairly small space requirement). I remember well the day that it all came crashing down, mostly because it involved a half hour lecture by me to the assistant principal (and a command repeat performance to the young fellow running IT) about what exactly I had done as a way to beg off from the higher charge of stealing teacher passwords to the lower one of mucking about maliciously. (we had in fact stolen teacher passwords but mostly used them to bypass the internet firewall). When all was said and done the sole real result of the matter was that I got a couple of detentions, was kicked out of my Computer Science class for the semester, and we went back to using flash drives to disseminate games like the good old days

    • tormos says:

      It’s really interesting to see how much John’s and my experiences seem to be similar despite happening in different countries over a decade apart, down to the adversarial yet mutually appreciative relationships with the IT workers and the abundance of virtually unused computers.

  46. gi_ty says:

    Ah memories of the early computer age. When I entered high school in 2000 I discovered a net meeting install whilst searching for something fun/useful to burn time during our ridiculously slow and tedious office learning classes. As we were all assigned a specific computer for the hour and there were more PCs than students in that class I set up one of the empty ones to allow remote desktop control. I then used the speech software remotely to declare “I WILL EAT YOUR SOUL” during a pause in the instruction. The stunned silence followed by my loud guffaw that couldn’t be suppressed still makes me smile to this day.

  47. epeternally says:

    In addition to frequently fixing teachers’ computers because I knew how to better than the IT department did, at one point I stuck Grand Theft Auto: Vice City on a network drive and gave a ton of people instructions for how to copy it off. My AP physics class ended up spending almost a quarter of their time playing Vice City. Never got in trouble for it, though they did eventually cut off access to that drive (which we weren’t supposed to be able to get at to begin with). They had just built a new school to replace the crumbling, mold infested one and so we actually had decent-for-the-time computers as well as Smartboard. No idea why we actually needed a smartboard in every classroom, but we had them.

  48. ansionnach says:

    I used to play Doom on a 386SX-20MHz. Thought it was quite playable on low detail and a few notches below full screen.

    PCs in my school were BBC Micros which were used to teach a bit of BASIC programming. They were eventually replaced with Macs because one of the teachers liked them but all they were used for then was messing about with Grolier’s Encyclopedia and pretending the upgrade was a good move!

  49. Oakreef says:

    Is it weird that this is one of the posts that makes me glad I gave this site my money?

  50. gadalia says:

    I have a feeling I’m responsible for getting a few websites banned off our school network.
    I downloaded a game off Humble Bundle around 2-3GB and the next day it was blocked, now I can’t view the deals from school.