Finding meaning in the virtual world

“It was only a 3-4 week module, but it was a fantastic experience that had a major impact on my life,” says Chris Griffith (OM 1970). This experience generated my interest in computer science.”

Chris Griffith is an award-winning senior technology writer for The Australian newspaper, who specialises in computer and device reviews. His lifelong interest in this area began when he was a student at Melbourne Grammar School.

In Year 11, Chris took part in a computer programming unit on portapunch cards with Mr John Truran. Using paper clips, he punched lines of holes in cards to form a basic computer programme. To edit the programme, he reorganised the cards, removing or replacing the lines that had changed.

After leaving Melbourne Grammar School, Chris completed a Science degree majoring in Computer Science and Pure Mathematics, followed by a Diploma in Education, both at Monash University.  After teaching Computer Science in the TAFE system, Chris and a friend formed a small business building PC network solutions.

“Our speciality was to network desktop PCs across offices, which was not so easy then. Microsoft DOS had no networking capabilities, so we used Novell software to network MSDOS across PCs. There was no public Internet, so modems performed data transfers across offices,” says Chris.

After owning the business for a few years, Chris decided to combine his passion for Science and Technology with his interest in journalism. In the mid-1990’s he graduated from a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Print and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Queensland.

Chris has since written extensively as a columnist and commentator. “I now enjoy my passions for journalism and IT wrapped into one job,” says Chris.

In May 2016, Chris was awarded Best Consumer Technology Journalist at the IT Journalism Awards, one of the highest technology media honours in Australia and New Zealand. In the last three months alone, Chris’ work has included reporting Siri’s implementation on Apple MacBook, the role of art in the virtual world and a review of the new Ghostbusters virtual reality experience at the Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in New York. 

"Technology sometimes fails to meet people's expectations, at other times it’s fantastic,” says Chris.

Chris highlights the work of Eric Lobbecke - an award-winning illustrator and artist who has been using virtual reality to create a sculpture - as an exciting example of the cross-discipline possibilities generated by advancements in technology.

"He donned an HTC Vive VR headset and took charge of the hand controllers to build a sculpture. He could build the sculpture's face from the inside out, and use a 3D printer to print it," writes Chris.

The new era of sensor technology has also peaked Chris’ interest. A web camera can assess concentration levels in children as they read and sensors can help people with chronic illnesses, such as Motor Neurone Disease, communicate.

“As well as eye tracking and mood recognition, there is technology that measures the electric signals from the brain. A paralysed person may not be able to move their leg or their finger but their brain still can signal their intention to do so. This signal can be repurposed to represent, say, an instruction to type a letter on a keyboard or to move a wheelchair forward. Simply trying to move the muscle can be enough to generate a signal,” writes Chris.

Chris says that it is easy to see how Melbourne Grammar School students will benefit from the big open learning spaces in the future Geoff Handbury Science and Technology Hub. His advice for Melbourne Grammar students is to: “let your imagination run, but have your feet grounded in reality. Make sure you have your mind open to new developments and do a reality check."

Melbourne Grammar School’s New World of Teaching and Learning Campaign is now more than three quarters of the way towards its fundraising target – to raise $15 million by December 2016 to fund the $34 million future Geoff Handbury Science and Technology Hub. “I am thankful to the Old Melburnians, parents and everyone who has helped move the Campaign forward to date,” said Josée Pinsonneault, Director of Development. “With their help, the School can really create an inspiring environment for the future of Science and Technology education. As we build on this momentum, the support of everyone in our community will be critical as we raise an additional $3 million over the next three months.”