Class Notes (807,242)
Canada (492,664)
York University (33,498)
Natural Science (2,766)
NATS 1700 (204)


15 Pages
Unlock Document

York University
Natural Science
NATS 1700
Zbigniew Stachniak

Lecture 14. Computing in Canada Part 3: microcomputers in schools Informal and unedited notes, not for distribution. (c) Z. Stachniak, 2011-2012. Note 1: in cases I were unable to find the primary source of an image or de- termine whether or not an image is copyrighted, I have specified the source as ”unknown”. I will provide full information about images and/or obtain reproduc- tion rights when such information is available to me. Note 2: most of the information provided in this lecture has been derived from [1]. Introduction The use of microcomputers in preschool, elementary, and secondary edu- cation in the 1970s and 1980s is a vast and complex subject. It spans all types of educational activities and initiatives such as computer literacy pro- grams, computer assisted instruction, training of teachers, distance learning, or creation and evaluation of educational hardware and software (including educational computer games). In this lecture I shall provide only a brief his- torical overview of the impact of the microcomputer industry on education at the primary and high school levels. 1 The history of computer education can be traced to the first days of modern computing. In the late 1940s, Edmund Berkeley, a great enthusiast of com- puting and computer education, conceived his first small computing device and named it Simon (we discussed Simon in Lecture 6). Fig. 1. Berkeley’s Simon computer. Source: Charles Babbage Institute. Photograph: (c) the Regents of the University of Minnesota. In the 1950s and 1960s, Berkeley designed a number of popular educational computer toys such as the Brainiac, Tyniac, or Geniac. His work inspired many others to work on bringing the understanding of computers and their role in a modern society to schools and homes. In the 1960s, many innovative computer toys made of plastic, cardboard, and other materials were offered to children. 2 Fig. 2. A boy assembling Berkeley’s Brainiac educational computer. Source: Charles Bab- bage Institute. Photograph: (c) the Regents of the University of Minnesota. 3 Computer classrooms Computer laboratories at schools were already discussed in the 1960s. How- ever, the main obstacle to the implementation of such computer equipped classrooms was the high cost of minicomputers and their peripherals. At best, a school was equipped with a single minicomputer or just with a ter- minal connected (via a modem) to a minicomputer shared by many schools in the area. In February 1986, Alan Pollock posted an article in Netweaver (the elec- tronic newsletter of the Electronic Networking Association, 1985–1991). In his article Pollock recollects: From time immemorial it seems, The Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal (P.S.B.G.M.) has used a Hewlett-Packard HP- 2000F minicomputer to teach programming in Montreal’s high schools. Equipped with a terminal and a modem, each district school communicated with this one computer which was located at the P.S.B.G.M.’s central office. The system worked well; stu- dents actually learned to program. Fig. 3. A HP-2000F minicomputer. Source: - arizona.htm 4 According to Bob Kavanagh, another early computer activity in a Canadian high school took place between 1973 and 1977 in Saskatchewan. I can recall ... the Evan Hardy Collegiate Computer Users’ Group. Their teacher was Ernie Meili (not sure of spelling). There were about a half dozen students, all male as far as I can recall... They came to campus [of the University of Saskatchewan] on Saturday mornings, and Ernie would give them ideas about pro- grams they could write for our PDP-11/20 minicomputer in the minicomputer lab. My job was to let them in, provide technical assistance and generally support their interests in programming. They wrote programs in BASIC, one student at time, as they had to first write the program through the (only) terminal attached to the computer, get it punched out in paper tape, feed it back in and hope it worked. We spent Saturday mornings doing this for a few months. It had to be Saturdays as the minicomputer was used by UofS students the rest of the week. [Bob Kavanagh, private communication, 2011] The HP-2000F (introduced by Hewlett Packard in 1974) and the PDP-11/20 (introduced by Digital Equipment Corp. in 1970) were expensive minicom- puters. There were more affordable minis for the educational market, such as Digital Equipment Corporation’s EduSystems based on the company’s best- seller PDP-8 computer, but, in the end, these were microcomputers and not commercial minis that integrated computer technology with teachers’ work- ing environment and, most importantly, made computer education a part of schools’ curriculum. For instance, the Evan Hardy Collegiate Computer Users’ Group mentioned above switched to its own Apple II computers as soon as the school bought a few of these microcomputers in 1977. 5 Enter microcomputers The Canadian MCM/70 was the earliest PC destined for classrooms. The MCM/70 in Education promotional document prepared by Micro Computer Machines in 1973 on the occasion of the unveiling of its personal microcomputer– the MCM/70–proclaimed a new era in computer education. A small MCM/70 was to bring to the world of education a technological solution to the problem of introducing economical interactive computer systems. According to MCM’s vision, inexpensive school laboratories equipped with MCM/70 computers could be created to provide each student in a computer equipped classroom with his own individualized interactive computer. Fig. 4. A fragment of MCM’s MCM/70 in Education promotional brochure, MCM 1974. Source: York University Computer Museum 6 One of the main and persisting difficulties in bringing microcomputers to schools was not the lack of inexpensive hardware and software but of qual- ified teachers. This was somehow balanced by a great enthusiasm of some teachers who, as Berkeley, were fascinated by the computer technology and were dedicated to the introduction of computer education into classrooms. Initially, computer education was an optional subject and, when taught, teachers emphasized computer programming considered by many an essen- tial skill in the development of a modern individual. But that was soon to change. In 1981, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (founded in 1920 with thousands of members across US and Canada) adopted the po- sition that gave computer literacy a more profound place in contemporary education programs. Mathematics programs must take full advantage of the power of computers at all grade levels. Students and teachers should obtain a working knowledge of how one interacts with comput- ers and uses their capacities. Computer literacy is an essential outcome of contemporary education. [The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics report, 1981.] By the mid-1980s, it was recognized that while not everyone would need to learn how to program a computer (any more than everyone has to be a mechanic or an engineer in the petroleum industry to drive a car), it is essential for everyone to be familiar with computer use and applications. 7 Early North American computer education market was dominated by com- puters from Apple Computer (the Apple ][s). A few other microcomputer manufacturers had a sizable share of the education market: the Texas Instru- ment’s TI-994/A, Atari’s 400 and 800 computers, the Radio Shack TRS-80, and Commodore’s PETs, VIC-20, and C-64 were also popular choices for a school computer. The Canadian educational market was of a similar make-up with the ex- ception of a much stronger position of Commodore which, in 1983, had 65% of the Canadian education market to itself. A unique Canadian educational computer–the ICON–is discussed below. All major microcomputer manufacturers developed educational software. For instance, Commodore had vast libraries of educational programs for all its computers. In 1983 Commodore introduced the Computer Educator – the library of educational programs for its immensely popular VIC-20 computer; many of these programs were published in Canada (by Commodore Business Machines in Agincourt On.).
More Less

Related notes for NATS 1700

Log In


Don't have an account?

Join OneClass

Access over 10 million pages of study
documents for 1.3 million courses.

Sign up

Join to view


By registering, I agree to the Terms and Privacy Policies
Already have an account?
Just a few more details

So we can recommend you notes for your school.

Reset Password

Please enter below the email address you registered with and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Add your courses

Get notes from the top students in your class.