First Class was dubbed “The Video Quiz” by it’s host Debbie Greenwood, which was supposed to reflect the use of videogames as part of the proceedings. Two teams of three kids each representing their respective schools (so they were normally forced to wear their school uniforms), competed against each other in various rounds including playing the afore mentioned videogames, and also more standard quiz fair such as general knowledge or music rounds.
To add to the technology vibe of the show, the good old BBC Micro was used to provide the on screen scores and also one of the rounds, Word of Mouth, which was a variation on the game Hangman, where teams had to guess a word (normally something like the name of a country) by choosing letters. The round took it’s name from the fact that the letters appeared inside a robots mouth.
Whilst never actually seen, the computer was given the name Eugene by Ms. Greenwood, apparently in reference to the name of the chap who programmed the BBC Micro for the show.
The BBC Micro also got wheeled out as the prize of the show, as the ultimate winning team were awarded one of the computers as their prize (Game show prizes were pretty cheap back then, weren’t they?). This prize was reserved for the final champions of the show, as the teams scores were entered on a league table and the top teams came back to compete again at the end of the series.
The videogames that were used in the show were actually proper arcade games, the best remembered being the 100m sprint from Track & Field, Paperboy and my personal favourite 720Â°, the skateboarding game from Atari. Track & Field was particularly funny as you would hear the terrible speech synthesis try and say the players time (you could never make it out) and if a good result was achieved the little computerised athlete would jump up and down, which always seemed to make Debbie smile.
Another round was called The Spinning Gold Disc, which saw a compact disc (then still another modern miracle) have segments of its surface removed to reveal a celebrity face.
Three series of the show were made between 1986 and 1989, with a couple of celebrity specials thrown in for good measure, featuring teams from Grange Hill and EastEnders. It aired in the early Saturday evening slot on BBC1, and I can certainly remember worse ways of starting off a Saturday evening.