The ComputerTown, USA! project started with Bob Albrecht and Ramon Zamora, friends who played tennis with the lead librarian at the Menlo Park Library, saying we want to put computers out for your patrons. A year or so after they started this, the National Science Foundation got wind of it and invited People’s Computer Company to submit a proposal to the National Science Foundation.
Bob was always gathering groups of kids together to show them how to program and play computer games. He was involved with the Point Foundation (institutional home of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog), Dymax, the publisher of People’s Computer Company newspaper, and the storefront computer center called People’s Computer Company. Putting microcomputers in libraries was an obvious next step.
With NSF funding came the necessity to publish quarterly and annual reports in addition to the handouts needed for teaching in the library and helpful letters to other libraries, community centers and schools wanting to clone the ComputerTown concept. The LO*OP Center/HCLE archive contains the original NSF proposal that tells exactly what the grant funded, including the publication of the ComputerTown, USA! News Bulletin. As the 3-year grant period drew to a close, Julie Anton, Ramon, and Liza Loop gathered all this material together into a final report to the NSF. They then re-edited this material into a book for Reston publishers (then a subsidiary of Prentice-Hall) in 1979.
Reston, which was already in financial trouble, printed the book but never marketed it (the cover price was an unfortunate $10.00) so the public never had an opportunity to buy it. When Reston went out of business in 1985, they offered the remainder stock to the authors at 75 cents each. Liza Loop bought 750 copies which are now available through LO*OP Center to the highest bidders (starting at $100 per copy). Book collectors have a few copies but the book is out-of-print. There is a copy of an earlier, shorter version in ERIC (see:https://eric.ed.gov/?q=Loop%2c+Liza&ft=on&id=ED224478).
Liza took copies of the book to Moscow and Novosibirsk in 1987 when she visited computer clubs there. They were still on the shelves when she visited in 2001. The full book is available from Internet Archive’s Open Library, and anyone can download the ebook.
A lot has changed in 35 years and it might be fun to revisit the ComputerTown concept with three questions: How accurate were Bob Albrecht and his team at predicting the future? What has changed in the communications and computing landscape to make ComputerTown no longer relevant? What elements of ComputerTown are still needed today?
Welcome to the second quarter of 2015 HCLE report. We share many of these news items via our outlets (wiki, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and collect them here for your and our convenience.
Our staff of 1.3 FTEs, several volunteers and many outside collaborators reached the following milestones in the spring quarter of 2015.
- Attended and presented at a series of conferences (AAM, MW, Brink, STS)
- Contacted original members of the Homebrew Computer Club for stories and funding
- Creation of a metadata superset for simplified coordination with other institutions
- Developed a list of supportive scholars for future proposals
- Expanded our list of collaborators including, Pratt SILS, OAC/CDL, CITE, Henry Ford Museum, SHOT CIS, …
- Extended our outreach via podcasts, and possible publications
With these accomplishments (and with the appropriate funding) HCLE should be able to produce a Proof Of Concept virtual museum web site in 2015. Subsequent to the proof of concept will be the major tasks of digitizing and curating the collection, and designing the complete virtual museum interface. Those tasks may not be completed in 2015, but significant progress is anticipated.
Please pass our news along, especially if you know someone else who will want to contribute money, know-how, artifacts, stories, or connections. Even by glancing at what we’ve done, you’re helping make HCLE happen as you pass along the story. Thank you.
- Open Education Systems (OES)
- Liza published the first draft of the OES concept on the HCLE wiki. HCLE is about the past. OES is about the future. The two naturally work together with HCLE providing the data and insights that direct the OES vision.
- HCLE currently relies on general operating funds provided by LO*OP Center, Inc. Future sustainability requires additional underwriting from individuals, members, foundations and government agencies. At present there are no plans to generate revenue through fees to access the Virtual Museum.
- To increase the chances of grant awards, we initiated a search for a professional fundraiser/grantwriter. No selection has been made, yet.
- A proposal for the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) was prepared but not submitted. The exercise, however, produced an impressive list of scholars and collaborators who now support our work.
- A letter to scholars has been drafted to encourage research, maintain relations and to provide a source of Letters of Support for grant proposals.
- We made a direct appeal to member of the original Homebrew Computer Club. While the primary intent is to collect their stories, a secondary benefit is to increase our visibility to potential funders. See Stories for their response.
- A draft was created for a Kickstarter project to crowdfund the Proof of Concept.
- We have received a promise of grant writing assistance from Jeremias Herberg (Luneburg University).
Operations/Virtual Museum Web Site
- As HCLE progresses from the present start-up phase into normal operation this section will enlarge.
- Proof Of Concept (PoC) web site
- Preliminary conversations were carried out with Jessica Sullivan about the Proof of Concept web site. Preliminary specifications were sketched out. The PoC site is a high priority. Funding is being sought with public, crowdfunded, and private sources.
- The content of the HCLE Virtual Museum comprises materials collected and preserved by founder-director Liza Loop and currently owned by LO*OP Center, Inc. Additional items are being donated and related items, owned and hosted online by other individuals and institutions are being referenced in the HCLE catalog.
- The Collection continues to be digitized as resources allow. Mark Pilgrim is digitizing Apple ][ disks, Anthony Cocciolo (Pratt Institute) digitized various floppies and Betamax tapes, and Jerry Herberg (Luneberg University) aided Liza in sorting, cataloging, and digitizing parts of the Collection. Discussions with Henry Lowood (Stanford) and Fred Turner (Stanford) continue.
- All digitization efforts are being encouraged to use the Catalog, though some translations may be required.
- The Catalog is the software that contains and manages the database. No free open-source software was found that met our criteria, so we are developing this capability internally.
- The Catalog is in use and enabling the digitization of the Collection.
- Stan Crump, our programmer, improved the operation and coordinated with the digitization project at Pratt. The more we use it, the more we learn about how it must handle needs such as multiple users; especially, collaborators.
- Information about each item is stored in the Catalog and can be displayed in various formats for scholars, museum staff and visitors. Maintaining a rich set of metadata is essential for locating documents and images as well as understanding their context and significance.
- Svetlana Ushakova completed her metadata crosswalk work, effectively providing a comparison between three external metadata sets (EADS, MARC, Dublin) with our internal metadata set.
- A metadata superset was created based on the work done by Svetlana. A superset will allow us to capture enough metadata to export subsets that match the requirements of collaborators.
- Svetlana will document some of her work as part of a class project.
- We began a search for a new metadata coordinator because Svetlana needs to concentrate on her studies.
- We prepared a metadata schema (list of fields with explanations) and distributed it to various collaborators so we can better coordinate our efforts.
- We’ll pass along this quote from a collaborator that distinguishes metadata from search data.
- “museums systems were not developed with public search in mind, and they do not support much descriptive metadata.” – from Ellice Engdahl
- This informal web site serves as an online rallying resource for those building the formal Virtual Museum. It will continue to provide a virtual sandbox and conversation pit for staff and volunteers after the museum site is launched.
- The wiki continues to grow and the style continues to mature and stabilize. A restructuring has been proposed, but only style elements have been incorporated. This may take a dedicated individual for an intense, short-term effort. The main additions have been:
- OES (see LO*OP Center above)
- PIAL Play It And Learn (the draft of the games section)
- Our stories highlight how folks learned to use computers between 1955 and 1995 and how and what teachers taught with them. Our emphasis is on learning and teaching; we leave documenting the history of the computing industry to others. Our story tellers are not the celebrities of the high tech revolution. They are the unsung heroes who changed the way we educate ourselves and our children.
- HCLE EdTech Pioneers: our growing list
- We launched a new initiative to contact each HCLE EdTech Pioneer, if possible, asking them to improve their pages, nominate others for the list, and contribute, information, insights, artifacts, introductions and any other resources that HCLE can use.
- The following people were kind enough to be interviewed; and have nominated several other EdTech Pioneers.
- Liza Loop, our founder – whose page hadn’t been given the attention it deserved, until we consolidated several pages into one.
- Bob Albrecht – interviewed by Jon Cappetta and possible blog
- Glen Bull – who will also propose to CITE’s funders about publishing Pioneer stories on a regular basis, and who may work with Jacoby Young on podcasts.
- The following people have been contacted. There have been some improvements to their pages, but the bulk of the material awaits existing links or an interview.
- Marge Cappo
- Kevin Lund
- Mitchel Resnick
- Dan Bricklin (Innovator)
- HCLE Pioneer Meeting
- We are organizing a meeting of the HCLE Pioneers to demonstrate our appreciation, provide a venue for collaboration and gather more stories. Formal, structured interviews are useful, but informal, casual conversations from Pioneer to Pioneer may reveal insights an interviewer wouldn’t know to pursue.
- Atari podcast
- Thanks to an interview of Liza Loop on an Atari podcast, contacts were made that may extend the reach of our Pioneers’ stories
- Jacoby Young – podcast
- Glen Bull (CITE) – an HCLE column in the CITE Journal
- Online exhibits will simulate a gallery of objects to wander through, take the visitor on a guided tour or invite hands-on participation.
- PIAL Play It And Learn (the draft of the games section)
- The PIAL exhibit will provide gamers and the curious the opportunity to play the original games within browser-based emulators of the original environment, while providing data to researchers interested in investigating what the gamers learned, and how.
- A draft page has been produced and will be heavily modified.
- Bibliographic references to game design have been added to aid designers and researchers.
- As a new institution, HCLE is making contacts in the worlds of museums, formal education and independent learners — both online and face-to-face.
- A variety of conferences, seminars, and gatherings were attended to improve HCLE’s network, identify interested scholars, publicize our progress, enlist collaborators, and identify potential funders.
- Museums and the Web
- Alliance of American Museums
- attendance and represent Online Museum Working Group
- Brink Institute
- panel participation and blog
- Science and Technology Retreat Conference
- We are pursuing the (re)publication of two books:
- ComputerTown USA! e-book
- Future Flashback – a new look at the past and future of educational technology
- We are considering convening an Ed Tech Pioneer private meeting to generate additional material for Future Flashback
- Liza Loop participated in one podcast (Atari) which may inspire an HCLE series through the actions of Jacoby Young.
- Social Media
- We have been reasonably successful at engaging other professionals by commenting on and sharing posts and publications found on social media. Though informal, these contacts have expanded our network and produced opportunities for collaborations, funding, and increased visibility.
- We continue to use social media as a source of Initial contacts
- Social Media Traffic Report
- HCLE Blog
- We continue to post to our blog about activities, insights, and developments. Stories about games and the HCLE Pioneers have generated significant traffic which are not reflected in our traffic report because they are shared to avid gamers and the Pioneers’ networks.
- #EdTech could use a dose of #EdTechHistory
- We are a community of builders, researchers, educators, learners and enthusiasts. We aim to recognize each person who contributes to HCLE. Their contributions are described throughout this newsletter
- Svetlana Ushakova – Metadata coordinator, soon to be emeritus
- Stan Crump – Programmer, soon to be emeritus
- Jon Cappetta – Interviewer (Liza Loop, Bob Albrecht)
- Helen Passey – in negotiations for graphic illustration
- Jeremias Herberg – assisted Collection, is a Collaborator, and may provide insights into funding
- HCLE is such a small organization that it must join with more established partners to accomplish its mission. Happily, we are finding willing colleagues.
- Associate Professor Anthony Cocciolo from Pratt Institute’s School of Information and Library Sciences enlisted a class of students to help digitize and present some of HCLE’s artifacts.
- Artifacts: floppies and Betamax
- Timing: summer project
- Coordination: Anthony and Stan are getting media into catalog
- Henry Ford Museum
- Liza Loop visited the Ford to establish contact and to investigate possible collaborations.
- Letters of Support (consequence of preparing CLIR proposal)
- OAC/CDL (works with DPLA) – contact = Adrian Turner
- Application to be Contributing Institution in process
- Texas Coast Bend Collection shared their (private) example of a digital museum.
- tschak909 – Thom Cherryhomes, Atari Education System
- Kimon – exhibit, Retrocomputing
- Even virtual organizations must attend to the tasks that make them “real” within the surrounding social and governmental context.
- Possible Advisory Meeting
- We are considering convening an advisory meeting to get an informed, outside opinion of HCLE’s progress and direction.
- IEEE History Project
- Museum of Play
- The Henry Ford
- Larry Cuban
- We continue the production of these quarterly newsletters, partly to spread the word about our progress, and partly to capture and preserve the history of this history museum.
- They may be dull, but backups are a high priority for a virtual museum.