On This Day In 1999

Looking Back

On this day in 1999 I sent out the twelfth of my Cool Thing Of The Day To Do In Aberystwyth e-mails. I wasn’t blogging at the time, although I did have a blog previously, but I felt that it would be nice to do something to help keep in touch with my friends and family “back home”, so I came up with Cool Thing Of The Day To Do In Aberystwyth. I’ve written about it a little in a previous On This Day post.

On this particular day, I’d just finished downloading a copy of The Matrix, that fantastic cyber/action movie that spawned a huge string of memes and won the love and praise of geeks and action-flick junkies everywhere. The movie remains a pinnacle of great filmmaking, with its’ adventurous direction (remember when bullet time was still new and exciting?), funky soundtrack, and cleverer-than-average twists… for a film full of guns.

I’d not been at the University long, and I was making the most of the huge amount of bandwidth that seemed to be available: for the first time ever, I was able to download music (of a appreciable bitrate) faster than I could listen to it (the boundary at which “streaming” becomes feasible). Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet splashed out on new hardware, so downloading a 1.4GB film quickly became a drain on my hard drive, which will have probably been in the region of about 20GB total. But it didn’t matter, because it was cool. “Look at me, I’m a l33t haxxor like Neo!” I never actually uttered those words, but I might as well have.

I soon went and bought a copy of The Matrix – one of the first DVDs I owned – if only to save on hard drive space. I also burned my second ever student loan cheque on a beefy new computer of a specification so high that nobody I knew had even seen such a thing before: including a massive 500MHz processor (or as we’d call it nowadays, a “half-gigahertz”).

Later, friends and coursemates Rory, Huw, John, Dom would join me in producing a 15-minute spoof of The Matrix as part of our entry for the University of Wales, Aberystwyth’s Student Skills Competition. We won best presentation. This in gave me the opportunity to help out with the Student Skills Competition and networked me to the person who eventually introduced me to the guy who would eventually become my boss at SmartData. It’s amazing how these little things link together, isn’t it?

Looking Forward

Later still, no sequels were made to The Matrix, thankfully. You heard me: no sequels were made. Especially not Reloaded. Okay, okay: they made The Animatrix. But they certainly didn’t make any video games.

Nowadays, I keep a little over 2TB of storage space in my primary computer, but I still manage to fill it somehow – one of my drives ended up with only 5GB of free space just the other month, and needed a big tidy-up. Or, as they’ll call it in another twelve years: 0.00005PB.

This blog post is part of the On This Day series, in which Dan periodically looks back on years gone by.


Now that Paul and I have finished our work with the Student Skills Competition, I’ve recovered (mostly) from my cold, and the conversation I’d been apprehensive about this morning is over with, a lot of the stress I was experiencing earlier in the week

has become managable again. There’s still plenty on, but it’s all looking a bit more pleasant from here on.

I just wanted to say a big thank you to everybody who put up with me while I was being unpleasant, and a particular thank you to Ele, who picked exactly the right moment to give me a hug and a Kinder Surprise Egg, the toy from which I’ve just now got around to building (busy? me? never…)

In order that I don’t just fill Abnib with cliché crap about the various ups and downs of my life, here’s a fun link: Warbears is a wonderful Flash puzzle/memory game that distracted me for a long time while I worked out how to finish even the first mission. Have a play.

Wanted: Wingman

Wanted: Tech Support Wingman For Student Skills Competition

Owing to a change in career plans by the previous position holder, a vacancy has opened for a Tech Support Wingmanf for the 2007 Student Skills Competition. The successful applicant will ideally be a confident computer user and a good communicator, and be comfortable with working in a backstage environment. First-hand experience of the Student Skills Competition would be an advantage.

Your role will be in assisting Dan Q with the running of the technical elements of the Student Skills Competition, including: shouting at students who run through the “forbidden zone” between the projector and the back of the screen, shouting at students who try to make ammendments to their presentations 5 minutes before they’re performing, shouting at students who give us useless cue points, shouting at students who write their entire presentation in Powerpoint using Comic Sans MS and with stupid fucking pointless sound effects and animations. Oh, and also helping to run the thing. It’s fun, honest.

The contract is for a fixed-term position covering exactly two days: Monday 19th and Wednesday 21st. There is a token payment available, but you’ll be working mostly for love and maybe a book token, not money (although winning teams may offer to buy you a beer for your help, too).

Apply or ask questions by blog comments or by e-mail. The closing date for applications is midday on Friday 16th March.

Student Skills Competition – Dress Rehersals

Fun in the sun. Today I get to sit at the back of the Aberystwyth Arts Centre Theatre and shout “Speak Up!” at random second year students from 13 different departments, interspersed with periods of tech-talk about what can and can’t be done with a data projector, laptop, VHS cassette player, a pre-set configuration of stage lights, and a sound deck.

The actual Student Skills Competition is on Wednesday. Why not check when your department is being represented and come along to support your team? It’s always a giggle.

The Computer Science team last year sucked. The year before they sucked even worse. The year before that was my year, and we rocked – and won £500 for Best Presentation. I know a little about the Computer Science team this year [photo], but will they suck or rock?

Taking all bets.

Team CompSci’s “The Matrix” (Aberystwyth University Student Skills Competition 2001)

Until 2006, Aberystwyth University (then The University of Wales, Aberystwyth) ran an interdisciplinary competition for 2nd year undergraduate students to showcase the skills offered by their degree, by producing an educational stand and a presentation. Employers from various industries were invited as judges, and prizes were offered for the best stand, best presentation, and best overall.

Prior to 2001, the presentation aspect had typically consisted of, at best, a handful of PowerPoint slides and students taking turns to list off some of the reasons that their department was best at producing versatile, highly-employable graduates. But in 2001’s competition, Team CompSci (from the Computer Science department) changed all that, by producing a mixed audiovisual and stage performance presentation, inspired by 1999’s hit movie The Matrix.

A film shows a young Neo, unskilled and unemployed, as he’s picked up by the crew of the Aberchadnezzar and “trained” (using a brain-jack interface) with the skills of an Aberystwyth CompSci graduate. The audience then saw a clip of Neo ascending the stairs to the theatre, before he would appear on stage and undergo a job interview with an “agent”. In this version, the interview segment was (hasily) re-filmed and inserted directly into the clip.

Also available on YouTube and on QTube.