Tag Archives: People’s Computer Company

ComputerTown Book Origins

computertownbrin00loopThe 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?

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Preserving My TRS-80 Likes Me

Things really were simpler then, at least when the topic is computing and the era was before 1980. One document in our catalog (item #1030) is,

My TRS-80 Likes Me – When I teach kids how to use it!, by Bob Albrecht.

1030

The eight page document is “a resource guide for the elementary teacher.” Within those eight pages are example programs, fundamental computing concepts, and a playful attitude. Similar guides are possible now, but their instructions are likely to be layered on browsers, apps, and operating systems. Back then it was: boot the machine, type the code and RUN. But the guide also taught more fundamental concepts, as well as setting a tone and culture that encouraged kids to play and learn.

We’re preserving such documents so researchers and the curious can study and recall an era that redefined the way we learn.

The programs were all in BASIC. He prefaced the text with a disclosure:

“IMPORTANT NOTICE! I am not saying that the TRS-80 is the best computer for a// purposes. I am not saying the TRS-80 is the best overall educational computer. I am saying that I think the TRS-80 is the best computer that I have used (so far) to teach elementary school children, grades 4, 5 and 6, how to understand and enjoy BASIC.”

Programs start with four lines, grow to over a dozen, and end with one program that has three dozen lines. Elementary school students learned to print their name, but also how to write games and create graphics for the screen. 

At the time (1979), BASIC had been available for about 16 years. There were advocates for programming languages like FORTRAN, and for limiting classes to college students and graduates; but Bob knew younger people could learn to program, too.

As he wrote:

“THEY WANT TO CONTROL THE COMPUTER.
Why not? They control the future; so, let them control the computer, the tool of the future; give your kids this tool: let them shape it in ways unknown to us. Then stand back and enjoy!!”

One lesson that helps illustrate the fundamentals that had to be taught were “Tell them about the prompt(> ) and the cursor(-).” Cursors continue, but > prompts are hidden behind those layers described above.

Starting with such simple lessons is logical, but the more important lesson may be the attitude.

“Let the kids do all the hands-on stuff. Be patient- let them make mistakes, correct their own mistakes. and above all, encourage them to EXPERIMENT!”
“Now the fun begins.””

There may only be eight pages, but there’s enough in them to provide insights into history.

Bob Albrecht didn’t do all of the work. As he said in an interview we posted earlier, “people like Gerald Brown and Mary Jo did such a beautiful job of pasting it up, laying it out,…” The story behind the group effort leads to People’s Computer Company (our previous post), the Whole Earth Catalog, and about 32 more books on BASIC published as recently as 1996.

History is a network. Documents influence other documents. Contributors contribute in more than one place, and unintentionally inspire others. There’s enough to explore whether you’re interested in early educational technology, BASIC, the TRS-80, creative hand-produced publications, or a community that mixed programming with wine tasting and Greek dancing. (Read Interview with Bob Albrecht by Jon Cappetta for more.)

Preserving such documents for researchers and the curious is why we’re creating our virtual museum. Even one edition, like this one, can provide a cornerstone from which to build broader research projects and histories. Tell us where it leads you.

Peoples Computer Company In Our Catalog

Will personal computers raise or lower educational standards? Magazines from the mid-seventies asked that question before most people knew the term “personal computer” or had access to the internet. Reading those forty year old articles is a good way to explore whether we’ve made progress, or are simply asking the same questions. Even though the hardware used in schools now includes tablets and phones as well as desk top computers, and they’re all connected into a vast network, it’s not clear that students are performing better academically.

Teachers, students, business people and hobbyists all relied on a growing number of magazines to educate themselves about electronics, computer software and the myriad ways computers could be used. We’re protecting such publications, particularly ones that reflect the name of our parent nonprofit organization, LO*OP Center, Inc. One example (item #1018 in our catalog) is People’s Computer Magazine (volume 7 number 3) from November-December 1978.  It’s useful in researching questions about the impact of computing on learning and can lead to a wide variety of other research topics. The 1970s was a dynamic era that laid the groundwork for our still dynamically-changing present.

Screenshot 2017-11-17 at 10.40.55

People learned about computers and computing from other people, hence, the appropriately named magazine “People’s Computer Company” was started in 1972. By the time our example issue was printed, the name had become People’s Computers and was just about to become Recreational Computing. Two years later, it became part of Compute! Magazine, which continued to publish until 1994. Those 22 years represent the dramatic changes in technology, the way we use it, and the nature of the publishing industry.

Browsing through the articles reveals familiar products mixed with now-forgotten topics, products, and ventures.

Speak & Spell

Speak & Spell was introduced as an educational toy that revolutionized educational electronics by using solid state components. Solid state made it lighter, simpler, easier to use, and more likely to survive a young child’s environment. The device used a voice synthesizer that prompted the child to spell the word they heard. This was far simpler than earlier games that required media like cassette tapes. It continued to sell until 1992.

Radio Shack

Radio Shack began in 1921 to provide supplies to electronics hobbyists and audiophiles. LO*OP Center founder, Liza Loop, remembers visiting this first Radio Shack retail store with her father in the 1940s. In 1963, Tandy Corporation, a chain of leather craft stores bought Radio Shack with its 9 electronics stores and began a transition from leather to electronics. It commissioned the design of the TRS-80, one of the most popular early personal computers. Liza took a job as a computer sales person at the Radio Shack store in Santa Rosa, California so she could buy computers at the employee price and resell them at her cost to local schools. Schools at the time were not accustomed to paying retail and Radio Shack refused to offer an educational discount. Liza’s strategy made it possible to get many more computers into local classrooms. Radio Shack has finally faded, but in 1978 they were working to stay in the forefront opening fifty computer centers for sales, service, education, and general community support.

Marin Computer Center

On a more local level, the Marin Computer Center celebrated being open for a year in this issue of People’s Computers. Similar to our parent organization (LO*OP Center) David and Annie Fox established a non-profit to “bring the wonders of advanced technology to the people.” That sentiment was echoed in People’s Computer Company motto;

Computers are mostly
used against people instead of for people
used to control people instead of to free them
time to change all that –

we need a . . .
People’s

Computer
Company

 

Early EdTech

Before hashtags like #EdTech, academics were considering whether “personal computers raise or lower educational standards.” The magazine didn’t just mention the topic. It included an article written by Howard Peele called, The Case for APL in Education. APL was the acronym for A Programming Language, a language that was already 18 years old, and that continues to be used. The question continues, and Howard Peele continues to teach at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

IBM Selectric

In 1978, typewriters were more common and less expensive than home printers, which is why hobbyists were interested in modifying their typewriters. APL, the language described in Howard Peele’s article was influenced by the available character set on the popular electric typewriter, the IBM Selectric.

Do It Yourself

We may say DIY now, but in 1978 it was assumed that most computer users would customize or create their own hardware and software.

The issue provides information for hardware.

  • Turning an IBM Selectric into a printer
  • Building a computer from a MICROSTAR circuit board ($1,270 in 1978 equivalent to $3380 in 2017)
  • An RCA board that adds color to a monitor
  • An RCA board that adds a music synthesizer

More space was devoted to free software. The original media for installing programs was a printed copy of the program that was typed in by hand. Very open source.

  • Starwars Hodge
  • Runequest
  • TRS-80 Frogs
  • PHANTNUM
  • HANGMAN
  • REVERSE
  • Distance and Error Checking coders

In the 64 pages is much more information revealing the capabilities and the culture of the time. The graphics and the layout demonstrate an era when work was done by hand. People’s Computers represents a transition from manual to technological, part of the transition when culture went from being based on paper to being based on electrons.

Screenshot 2017-11-18 at 10.35.58There are also some fun reasons to browse the magazine. Bob Albrecht, founder of People’s Computer Company,  had long used a dragon for a mascot, which led to some playful graphics. There was also a long-running cartoon series called FORTRAN MAN. In this episode, FM fights the “despotic Glitchmaster.”

In a demonstration of cooperation instead of competition, the back page is devoted to yet another publication that had a long history, Dr. Dobb’s Journal – Computer Calisthenics & Orthodontia, which only ceased publication in 2014.

Preserving such documents for researchers and the curious is why we’re creating our virtual museum. Even one edition, like this one, can provide a cornerstone from which to build broader research projects and histories. Tell us where it leads you.

Exploring Designs for Teaching – Lee Felsenstein on Community Memory, Free Speech and Computing

On June 7th, 2016 we held an Oral History Workshop – How Education Made Computers Personal at Leuphana University (Luneberg, Germany) and online. The workshop was a collaboration between HCLE’s parent organization, LO*OP Center, and Leuphana University to capture more of that history and make it available to modern researchers.

The history of how computing changed education and learning, and how learning and education changed computing is more than the story of hardware introductions and institutional initiatives. As, Lee Felsenstein, observed;

“the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control,
even through technology.”

And, as the motto of the People’s Computer Company stated;

“Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people,
used to control people instead of to free them.
Time to change all that…”

Lee Felsenstein (host of the Homebrew Computer Club and the designer of the Osbourne-1) made a presentation about the Tom Swift Terminal, Applied Conviviality, and…

Much of the early EdTech work was dedicated to applying computers and computing to education and learning; and was done by people whose work challenged conventional institutions: innovators, educators, visionaries, and revolutionaries. Some of the work was recorded. But, much of their work wasn’t recorded because it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, undocumented was safer than documented. Now is a good time to refresh our memories to make sure the information is preserved, made available to researchers, and archived.

There is an urgency to record as many of these oral histories as possible. The memories are perishable. The artifacts and documentation are easy for subsequent generations to dismiss without the right perspective. We are endeavoring to record those histories through the workshop, but also through a crowd campaign so many more voices can be heard. The presenters are as well known as many other EdTech pioneers; but there are equally useful stories to be heard from elementary school teachers, hobbyists, and self-taught students. If you have a story, pass it along. If you want to read those stories, visit the HCLE wiki (our digital loading dock while we built our virtual museum.) There are more stories to tell and hear. Thanks for participating.

 

For more of our videos from this and other presentations, visit our YouTube channel (HCLEMuseum).

Apple in April at the Living Computer Museum

What was it like to be at the Apple in April event at the Living Computer Museum on Wednesday, April 12th? I’m sure the experience was different for each of us but I can tell you how it was for me.

First came getting there at all. I didn’t know about the meeting until a few days before (Monday, April 10) when HCLE consultant, Tom Trimbath, sent me a copy of a message he had received from Living Computer Museum + Labs marketing coordinator, Lauren Bayer. Tom keeps up on social media while I am sort of a recluse so I really appreciated his heads up.

Lauren’s note was inviting Tom to visit Living Computer’s new exhibit. It read:

“Continuing the momentum, we’re excited to share that LCM+L will be hosting a new, permanent exhibit dedicated to the to the first two decades of Apple! This will include three original Apple I computers, Apple’s first-ever product, including the only operable Apple I in existence available for use by the public and a unique demonstration model that was housed in Steve Jobs’ office until he first left Apple in 1985.
The Apple Exhibit will open to the public on Friday, April 14. We appreciate your support in helping us spread the word within our community. In addition to a few images available for sharing on social channels or in a newsletter, we also crafted sample posts to leverage for your social media channels.
  • Our partner @LivingComputers will open a new exhibit dedicated to the first two decades of Apple Computers on April 14! #ComeInGeekOut
  • Get hands on with the only operable Apple 1 @LivingComputers Apple Exhibit, which opens to the public on April 14! #ComeInGeekOut
  • From a garage start-up to a global leader in computer technology, the @LivingComputers Museum + Labs is opening a new exhibit dedicated to the first two decades of Apple on April 14. Visitors can interact with the only operable Apple 1 available to the public, along with other computers that helped spark Apple’s growth.”

Hmmm…LO*OP Center owns the first-ever Apple 1 off the assembly line and I had visited Living Computers two years ago. Somebody there knew about our machine but staff had changed. I wondered if they were interested in our Apple I so I telephoned Lauren.  She was exceedingly cordial and promised to ask around the organization. I later heard that my call had caused quite a stir.  Within hours an email arrived from Executive Director, Lath Carlson, with an invitation to Wednesday’s invitation-only party. I was thrilled. I didn’t pay any attention to who was going to be there but I wanted in. Luckily I didn’t have any pressing appointments to keep me from hopping on a plane to Seattle and my dog sitter was available!

By Tuesday afternoon I was ready to go and I began worrying about what to wear – evening attire? Cocktails? Business casual? Jeans? Then I realized this was Homebrew. I’ve known some of these people since I was in my 20’s and I’m now over 70. It doesn’t matter what I wear.  I decided to relax and have fun.

Meeting Old Favorites. There were only a few minutes between checking into the hotel and catching our ride to the Museum. Standing in the lobby were magazine editors David Ahl of Recreational Computing and Tom Hogan of Infoworld, neither of whom I had met in the early days of reading what they wrote, but it’s not hard to identify aging geeks swapping stories. Four more new faces were in the limousine that picked us up. Museum staff welcomed us on the first floor. I glanced over the badges still waiting on the front desk. Oh, nice crowd! Haven’t seen him/her in quite a while.

It was hard to tear myself away from the exhibits that have been installed since my previous visit and head upstairs to the party proper. Mike Willegal of the Apple I Registry sought me out, introduced himself and asked for a photo of the jumpers on our Apple I. There was Jim Warren from the West Coast Computer Faire, People’s Computer Company and many of my other old haunts. I hadn’t seen Gordon French from Homebrew since the reunion at the Computer History Museum in 2013. I’ve been working with Lee Felsenstein (designer of the Osbourne 1) recently so we were already up to date on our goings on but  it has been perhaps 10 years since I’ve had a chance to chat with Len Shustak, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the Computer History Museum in Mt. View, California.

I’m actually not a very technical person and I remember struggling to hook up Apples, Pets and Radio Shacks to the Nestar network that Len and Harry Saal put together in the early 1980s. In those days, school kids who wanted to swap computer games really had to learn a lot about operating systems and hardware at a level way beyond scripting with a drag-and-drop interface. Many of the conversations I listened in on at this party were recaps of the hardware and software repartee around personal computers that has now been going on for more than 50 years.

Hobnobbing with the Living Computer Museum Staff. While visiting with the computer aficianados of now and then was pleasant I found I had more to talk about with the young and enthusiastic educators and curators who comprise the staff of this unique museum. I slipped out of the party to chat with Nina Arens, education coordinator, about how to engage kids in coding activities and with Cynde Moya, collections manager and several others. I went back the next day for more and hope this is just one episode in a long, fruitful collaboration.

Reflecting on the Experience. I won’t bore you with more name dropping but there were lots of other old acquaintances to say hello to. I was honored to be in the company of these pioneers of the computer industry but I was also aware that my own trajectory has always been a tangent to theirs. My passion is how people learn and how we can facilitate that learning more effectively, not bits, bytes, electrons and gates. I’m fascinated by how people think, especially people who think differently from the way I do. I love watching them solve problems but I don’t have much to say to them. It was fun to observe the renewal of long-term friendships and to hear the exchange of stories, of appreciation and of genuine concern. At the same time I realized that I did not form firm connections with those who were so instrumental to my career. I felt welcomed but still an outsider. Maybe it’s that reclusive aspect of my personality or maybe I’m just so oppositional that I’m always heading upstream when everyone else is floating down with the current. That’s what I was thinking about when I looked up and saw that the group picture was being taken from the side of the crowd where I was standing. I had thought I was in the back and instead I ended up in the front, near Paul Allen, co-founder of MicroSoft and the man behind this wonderful museum — whom I had not even met.

Thank you, Paul, for hosting such an interesting party. Next time I’ll make a point of saying hello.

Apple Group with Labels V3
photo courtesy of Living Computers Museum + Labs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Designs for Teaching – Liza Loop on Distance, Synchronicity, Control

On June 7th, 2016 we held an Oral History Workshop – How Education Made Computers Personal at Leuphana University (Luneberg, Germany) and online. The workshop was a collaboration between HCLE’s parent organization, LO*OP Center, and Leuphana University to capture more of that history and make it available to modern researchers.

Liza Loop’s presentation, Distance, Synchronicity, Control: Exploring Designs for Teaching About and Through Computers, was inspired by the work of Stuart Cooney, Seymour Papert, and LOGO. Asynchronous teaching is very old. Paintings on cave walls, words in books, and files in computers are all stored instructions that control and pass information to later learners. EdTech has been with us for a long time.

The details of the presentations are too much to relay here; which is why we made a few videos of the presentations available and want to focus on one here.

The nature of the collaboration is a good example of creating a bridge between generations. Liza Loop is the founder of LO*OP Center, the co-creator of the event; and brought the first Apple 1 into schools, opened a public access meeting place for computing, and helped write user’s manuals for the Atari 400 and 800 computers. She lived the history, and knows others who also lived it. The other co-creator was Jerry Herberg, a doctoral candidate at Leuphana working on how computers influenced learning. He is studying the history, and finding others who are also eager to study the history; especially, because they realize the opportunity to meet the pioneers is becoming increasingly difficult. This oral history workshop was yet another step in passing along history. There are many more stories to tell and record and study.

The history of how computing changed education and learning, and how learning and education changed computing is more than the story of hardware introductions and institutional initiatives. As one of the speakers, Lee Felsenstein, observed;

“the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control,
even through technology.”

And, as the motto of the People’s Computer Company stated;

“Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people,
used to control people instead of to free them.
Time to change all that…”

Much of the early EdTech work was dedicated to applying computers and computing to education and learning; and was done by people whose work challenged conventional institutions: innovators, educators, visionaries, and revolutionaries. Some of the work was recorded. But, much of their work wasn’t recorded because it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, undocumented was safer than documented. Now is a good time to refresh our memories to make sure the information is preserved, made available to researchers, and archived.

There is an urgency to record as many of these oral histories as possible. The memories are perishable. The artifacts and documentation are easy for subsequent generations to dismiss without the right perspective. We are endeavoring to record those histories through the workshop, but also through a crowd campaign so many more voices can be heard. Howard, Liza, and Lee are as well known as many other EdTech pioneers; but there are equally useful stories to be heard from elementary school teachers, hobbyists, and self-taught students. If you have a story, pass it along. If you want to read those stories, visit the HCLE wiki (our digital loading dock while we built our virtual museum.) There are more stories to tell and hear. Thanks for participating.

LOOP Center and Educational Technology

Our museum’s story stretches back to 1975 and the founding of LO*OP Center, (Learning Options * Open Portal), a 501(c)(3) California nonprofit corporation chartered:

To improve the quality of people’s lives by integrating cultural diversity and appropriate technology into local communities through educational projects and events.

Thanks to GeekFest Berlin’s 2016 event, we’ve created a series of videos from Liza Loop’s presentation that touch on various aspects of the topic and our organization’s history within it. One of those videos describes LO*OP Center’s history. Familiar names like Bob Albrecht, Dean Brown, and Lee Felsenstein; familiar concepts like timesharing and the mouse; and historic initiatives like PLATO, People’s Computer Company, and the Computer Memory Project all played their roles. One theme that Liza Loop reiterates is that people should be in charge of computers and not the other way around, and as she puts it; “know when to turn the damn thing off.”

The ways that computing changed learning and education have fundamentally shifted our society and civilization. We have found no other institution with a specific focus on formal and nonformal education that is working to preserve that history. If you are aware of any, please pass along the appropriate contact information.

2016 was the year we at HCLE saw an increased interest in the history of computing in learning and education (hence our acronym, HCLE). We are building a virtual museum to collect and catalog born-digital artifacts and digitized versions of physical artifacts to researchers, scholars, educators, and the general public. Incredible amounts of money are being spent on how to improve education and learning, and how best to integrate technology into the process. Very little is being spent studying the decades of similar attempts, which may be why society continues to ask the same questions and make the same mistakes.

The complete presentation is available at: GeekFest’s Youtube channel.

Our Inaugural EdTech Oral History Workshop

A first workshop

On June 7th we held our inaugural Oral History Workshop – How Education Made Computers Personal at Leuphana University (Luneberg, Germany) and online. The workshop was a collaboration between HCLE’s parent organization, LO*OP Center, and Leuphana University to capture more of that history and make it available to modern researchers.

LLOHW image from Twitter

The history of how computing changed education and learning, and how learning and education changed computing is more than the story of hardware introductions and institutional initiatives. As one of the speakers, Lee Felsenstein, observed;

“the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control, even through technology.”

And, as the motto of the People’s Computer Company stated;

“Computers are mostly used against people instead of for people, used to control people instead of to free them. Time to change all that…”

Our first workshop expanded on that theme with the influence of Montessori logic, applied conviviality, designs for teaching about and through computers, and pedagogy.

The four main presentations were:

  • Jeremias Herberg: IT Became Personal – Montessori Logics in 1970s Computer Hobby Groups
  • Lee Felsenstein: The Tom Swift Terminal and Applied Conviviality
  • Liza Loop: Distance, Synchronicity, Control: Exploring Designs for Teaching About and Through Computers
  • Howard Rheingold: Counterculture + Social Media = Edupunk Pedagogy


(June 2017 update: select videos available)

The workshop was well attended, considering that it was as much a test as it was a research opportunity. A few dozen people attended at Leuphana and online. Scheduling had to accommodate a 9 hour difference in time zones. It was impressive to see how many people were willing to stay up late or get up early to participate. As a reflection on the history of computing, such an event would have been prohibitively expensive and unpredictable decades ago. Now, the system we used was new, familiar to many even with a mix of languages, and was effectively a test for Leuphana. It worked more than well enough for us.

For about 5 hours, the attendees listened and participated in a discussion of the objective and subjective aspects of early EdTech. Dates and data are more readily researched; but oral history captures the subjective aspects like the motivations and circumstances that led to decisions, actions, and also abandoned ideas. Anecdotes may conflict, but they also reveal the various perspectives that existed and influenced those times and these times. Even though Jeremias didn’t work in the ’60s and ’70s, he was able to put the workshop in perspective thanks to his research. Lee, Liza, and Howard were active in that era; their presentations provided insights and inspired questions as well as possible further investigations by researchers.

Education made computers personal

Much of the early EdTech work which was dedicated to applying computers and computing to education and learning was done by people whose work challenged conventional institutions: innovators, educators, visionaries, and revolutionaries. Some of this work was recorded. Much of it was never written down in the rush to turn new ideas into programs, lessons and new ways of teaching or learning. The workshop helped to refresh our memories, to ensure  that the information is preserved, to archive it and to make it available to researchers.

The nature of the collaboration between Liza and Jeremias is a good example of creating a bridge between generations. Liza Loop is the founder of LO*OP Center and the co-creator of the event. In the early days of personal computing, she brought the first Apple 1 into schools, opened a public access meeting place for computing, and helped write the user’s manuals for the Atari 400 and 800 computers. She lived the history, and knows others who also lived it. Jeremias Herberg is a post-doctoral fellow with the Complexity or Control Project at Leuphana University and works on how computers influenced learning. A sociologist, he is studying the history of science and technology, and finding others who are active in this field. These young scholars realize that the pioneers from a pivotal era are reaching the end of their lives and opportunities to meet them and capture their stories are becoming increasingly rare. This inaugural oral history workshop was yet another step in passing along history. There are many more stories to tell, record and study.

Lee was involved in the creation of several countercultural movements and in computers, including the Free Speech Movement where he created the famous “Community Memory”. In 1975, Lee co-founded the Homebrew Computer Club, where many early Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, including Apple inventor, Steve Wozniak, used to gather to swap stories and expertise. As an engineer, Lee created the Sol-20, and early desk-top computer and the Osborne 1, one of the first portable computers. Choosing from a breadth of influences, he chose to talk about the Tom Swift Terminal, a pre-PC device that would have enabled personal access to remote computers and could also be expanded into a quite capable stand-alone machine. As for how “Education Made Computers Personal”, he noted that the 60s – 70s resonated with the counterculture of a search for personal control, even through technology.

Howard was one of the first writers to point out the educational values of digital networks. He was involved in the WELL, a “computer conferencing” system and, drawing from that experience, he coined the term “virtual community”. As he pointed out, many of the issues encountered in those early days still remain after decades of development, partly because;

“Technologies, including EdTech, are changing faster than society.”

Computers and computing have changed society and the way we teach and learn; but, fundamentally, many organizations and institutions continue to struggle to adapt.

Because the details of the presentations are too much to relay here we are working at making the presentations and the video available. (You can follow some of the proceedings via #LLOHW on Twitter.) When they are available we’ll post them this blog and publish announcements on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

One workshop is not enough. There is an urgency to record as many of these oral histories as possible. The memories are perishable. The artifacts and documentation are at risk of being dismissed or overlooked by subsequent generations unless they are combined with contemporary, interpretive commentary. We are endeavoring to record those histories through the workshop and also through a crowd campaign so many more voices can be heard. Howard, Liza, and Lee are already well known through their writing as are many other EdTech pioneers. However, equally useful stories from elementary school teachers, hobbyists, and self-taught students, have yet to be captured. If you have a story, pass it along. If you want to read those stories, visit the HCLE wiki (our digital loading dock while we build our virtual museum). Keep next year’s workshop in mind and let us know if you would like to be kept abreast of our plans. There are more stories to tell and hear.

Thanks to everyone who made it happen.

Saving Stories From California’s EdTech Pioneers

California Humanities is conducting a storytelling grants program that will,

“illustrate the diversity and breadth of the California experience”. – California Humanities

Much of EdTech’s history began in California because many of the technologies were developed there, and many innovators pioneered technology’s introduction into classrooms. We want to share the kind of work we are pursuing within this grant, via collaborators with similar interests, or even as inspiration to others. In this case, we are focusing on the work that happened in California, but Pioneers worked around the world.  The Pioneers are a resource of lessons learned decades ago that are applicable today. The sooner we start the work, the more we’ll be able to document and preserve. Wish us luck!


 

The Introduction to our proposal

A California cultural revolution made computing necessary in the 21st century. These stories, forgotten amid the rush bringing new devices into classrooms, informs us about a history we may have missed, urging us to reconsider how technology impacts our lives and learning. A web-based exhibit of five 10-minute videos, accompanied by images, documents and interpretive narrative, and several live presentations will be embedded within the larger HCLE project documenting the impact of computing on learning in the 20th century. This grant underwrites and publicizes three new educational technology pioneer interviews and integrates two previously collected interviews. Storytellers are: Ann Lathrop, of San Mateo County Office of Education’s SoftSwap; Sandy Wagner, math teacher and co-founder of Computer Using Educators (CUE), Bob Albrecht, programming teacher in the 1960s and founder Peoples Computer Company, Ted Kahn, computing teacher at Lawrence Hall of Science, and the late Bobby Goodson, Cupertino teacher and CUE co-founder. Education is a concern of every member of any community; everyone needs to understand how change in education takes place and impacts their future. This project fills two historical gaps: how teachers became involved in computing; how schools struggled with a profound shift in communications media.