tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor?

i was feeling nostalgic when I stumbled across an article on the BBC News website yesterday.

the article discussed JIIGCAL, a computer-based system for choosing career paths that was introduced into British schools in the 80s.

i remember filling my sheet out – a questionnaire with a series of multiple choice questions – which were then sent off to be calculated by a computer up in Edinburgh. the result? a dot-matrix print with your top ten careers as chosen by the super computer of the future.

i don’t have my print out anymore (though some people still have theirs) but I distinctly recall my top 3 career paths, as chosen by this computer:

  1. Fashion Designer
  2. Archaeologist
  1. Medical Illustrator

being both squeemish and scruffy, neither option 1 or 3 appealed to me so – having not really considered the possibility before – I decided that i was going to become an archaeologist. after school i went on to do a degree and then masters and then doctorate in the subject.

always having been interested in archaeology i never realised that it was something that could be done as a career. remember, this was long before the days of time team and Lara Croft, so perceptions of archaeology were restricted to Indiana Jones and….well, that’s about it. Come on now, which young boy wouldn’t want to be Indiana Jones?

Ironically given my current career, there was nothing on the list to do with computers. Saying that, back in the day i was never particularly good with computers – i only got a D in my Computing GCSE though that was largely due to the joys of programming on a BBC Micro.

i’m not doing archaeology now (although am working for a government heritage organisation) but bizarrely Jiig-Caal definitely shaped what I wanted to do after school and what i went on to do for the next 10 years of my life. it determined the path that ultimately led to me meeting my lovely wife (on an archaeology dig in the outer hebrides), and also to me moving to Scotland, which I now call home. I still love archaeology and perhaps, some day, I might return to it but in the meantime cheers Jiig-Caal. You may have been making decisions that would irrevocably change impressionable young people’s lives forever on a machine that had less computing power than my mobile phone, but in my case you got things pretty spot on!

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