A historic wrong has finally been belatedly righted, with the award of the 1971 ‘Science in Schools’ Essay Prize to Raymond Simmonds, a 52-year-old petrol station manager from Worksop. Simmonds has been hailed as a visionary for foreseeing that people in 2011 would be using technology to do much the same stupid crap as they did then in a slightly more advanced way. Way back then, he was just ridiculed.
The prize, organised by the Science Museum in partnership with the BBC, had clever school children up and down the country excited by the chance to meet James Burke of Tomorrow’s World and win £100 in premium bonds. They were challenged to write 500 words on ‘How Will Science Change Our Lives in 40 Years Time’.
Simmonds’s essay detailed how he believed that the people of 2011 would be able to carry a small television in their briefcases, attach it to an electronic typewriter and tell loads of friends they had never met all about the yummy tuna-mayo sandwich they’d just had for lunch. Sadly, the competition judges never saw this: it was read out sarcastically by his Physics teacher to a jeering Class 3A of Alderman Bagnall Comprehensive and thrown into a cupboard, where it was rediscovered last month. ‘They ridiculed his predictions that portable phones would not be used for vital scientific discussions but by husbands in supermarkets saying things like ‘they’ve only got Crunchy Nut, I can’t see Crunchy Nut Nutty…’
The actual prize winner, Darius Meadows-Smith of Latymer Upper Grammar School in London, went on to enjoy a successful career designing software for derivatives traders. At the formal ceremony held in London today to strip him of his title, Meadows-Smith said that he was very pleased that justice had finally been done. ‘I feel a fraud to be honest,’ he remarked. ‘Like everyone else, I wrote about how we would all be taking packages holidays to the Moon, how robots would do all the housework and that food would come in small pills. None of it every happened. What an unimaginative little twerp I was.’
In accepting his belated prize, now adjusted for inflation to 500 Nectar points and a signed copy of Nadine Coyle out of Girls Aloud’s new album, Simmonds said that he was pleased to be recognised at last. However, he added that he still felt bitter about his treatment in 1971 and wondered if his life might have turned out better.
‘Look at these words I wrote,’ he told reporters. ‘‘Maybe in 2011 boys won’t need to trick girls into going behind the bike sheds because they’ll be able to use miniature spy cameras to send them pictures of their cocks direct to an electric device smaller than an oven.’ I literally saw the future. And what did I get for it? A hundred lines. And in those days you actually had to write out 100 lines, you couldn’t just copy and paste it off the web. I didn’t see that one coming, I must admit’