One of the unenviable side-effects of teaching a new subject is that you have to venture into new lecture theatres. On the day of my first lecture, I made the amusing discovery that the 'Old Pathology' theatre was not located in the medical building, a fact that induced a frantic heart-pumping run across the campus to the right place. I soon spotted the theatre -- it was the one supported by scaffolding, with a team of painters, carpenters and electricians having a tea-break outside. By now I was cursing my blas attitude of the day before, when I had assured myself that my keen lecturing skills meant a reconnoitre of 'Old Path' was unnecessary.
Inside, I was somewhat disappointed not to find a dissection table covered with suspicious stains and crisscrossed with deep cuts and grooves. But, to my real dismay, there was a 21st Century control console in a corner -- these have been sprouting up around the university in the last few years, probably teleported here by malign extraterrestrials. By means of pressing a control screen, you can switch on a microphone, roll down projection screens, boot a variety of personal computers, and dim assorted lights to an assortment of intensities. The user-interface is so simple that invariably I accomplish all of these tasks simultaneously. In a recent encounter, I was almost knocked unconscious as a projection screen descended guillotine-like behind me.
It is important with 200+ students watching you not to display a moments hesitation (let alone fear) when you approach these Star-Trek-influenced consoles. If the kids smell blood, youve had it. However, as I successfully tuned into a cable station on the video projector, and a Police emergency band boomed through the quadraphonic speakers, I suspected that one or two of the less somnolent class members realised I was rather new to the technology. Eventually, I solved my problems by wheeling the overhead projector over to a power point outside of the consoless control. Then, I masterfully plugged the projector in, and switched it on. Meanwhile, the console automatically cycled through the local TV channels, and FTPed some software from the States. I told it to be quiet, and left it to its own devices.