Having been born in 1983, my understanding is that I’m among the oldest members of the millennial generation. The Internet/WWW began its rise in popularity when I was in the senior half of elementary school, and we would slowly but surely see a lot more technology and a lot more computers in our schools. While we had full-size desktop PCs, Macs and even Commodore 64s in school, today’s elementary students and teachers have tons of tech at their disposal, including wireless connectivity – tablets, lighter/thinner laptops, interactive whiteboards, Bluetooth peripherals, and even wearable tech. Do today’s kids still learn things like cursive handwriting, proper touch typing, doing math without a calculator etc.? I’m guessing the Dewey Decimal system is totally foreign to them.
While down an online rabbit hole a couple of weeks ago, I decided I’d put together a TTINPO of memorable school tech from my child & teen years. Here goes:
1. Commodore 64s
Around the same time that my parents got our first computer, an IBM PC clone, I began using a Commodore 64 in my kindergarten or grade 1 class. Hope I’ve correctly remembered the Commodore BASIC command we’d enter to get into some of the programs: LOAD “MENU”,8,1
2. Networked IBM PS/2s and their Model M keyboards
In grade 1, the school’s IT guru and senior classroom teacher, Bill Damery, would occasionally bring me to his classroom upstairs (room 217) in the west wing of LEES, and I would clickety-clack away my stream of consciousness in whatever word processing software was on the classroom’s IBM PS/2, using the system’s classic Model M keyboard, the same type of ‘board I use today on my Linux Mint-powered Acer desktop box. Mr. Damery and my typing sessions also helped wipe out my then-dislike of the buzzing sound from full-size dot-matrix print heads doing their thing – an IBM ProPrinter was connected to his classroom’s PS/2.
3. OPAC in the school libraries
When my elementary alma mater, Scott Young Public School, opened in September 1993, IBM hardware was also installed there. Most of the computers were PS/ValuePoint boxes with 486s under the hood, though a few PS/2s and ProPrinters were brought over from Lady Eaton. Also brought over was Mr. Damery, who would do double-duty as SYPS’ librarian. Instead of the old-fashioned card catalogue, SYPS adopted a library automation/OPAC system, specifically the Columbia Library System, which would handle book searches (including keywords and Dewey Decimal numbers) and circulation. The public libraries in nearby Lindsay and Peterborough had already rolled out the Dynix library system on modern DEC and Wyse terminals, complete with a laser “wand” for scanning books’ internal barcodes upon checkout and return.
4. The World Wide Web in its infancy
SYPS “went online” around 1995, thanks to at least one dialup connection to an Internet service at, if I remember correctly, Peterborough’s Fleming College… this was back when a good chunk of Internet access for K-12 schools was provided by colleges and universities. The IBM computers at Scott Young eventually became DOS/Windows hybrids, with Internet access on the Windows side, in early versions of the Netscape browser.
5. MIDI software
In the big music classroom at SYPS, there was a powerful Yorkville audio system, along with a couple of TOA microphones, and a big, MIDI-compatible Roland keyboard whose model number I don’t recall off the top of my head, but I think it might have been a D-10. The keyboard was hooked up via MIDI to a PC, running PG Music’s “Band In A Box” software, and I seem to remember getting the system to spit out a pop-ish rendition of “O Canada” using that MIDI setup.
6. TV/video titling software on an Amiga
On one occasion, I spent a day at the Victoria County Board of Education offices, on Verulam Road in Lindsay, editing VHS videotape footage on a set of older top-loading Panasonic semi-pro VTRs and an edit controller, handed down to the school board a few years earlier by Lindsay Comcable, the local cable company which was sold to Cogeco a little over 20 years ago. The school board employee and I then took a trip to Comcable’s community TV studio on George Street West to add some colourful, professional-looking graphics to our edited video – the “board office” only had a very basic Panasonic titler that created the same kind of output you’d get from a TV or VCR on-screen display at that time – definitely the total opposite of the Chyron and Inscriber and Vidifont character generators used throughout southern Ontario TV. “Cable 10” had a pair of Commodore Amiga 2000s, one that ran the channel’s “community bulletin board” seen outside of regular programming, and another for “name keys” or “supers” in regular productions – the latter ran InnoVision’s “Broadcast Titler” software.
7. Non-linear video editing
This came along in high school, when my school rolled out a ton of Pentium II computers with Windows 98. My Communication Technology class was in a purpose-built “suite”, which included a video production facility complete with a dedicated studio with professional Strand lighting grid, and separate control rooms for video, audio, and lighting. Most video prod was done on Panasonic semi-pro S-VHS camcorders & VTRs (AG-456s and AG-1980s respectively), but we had a set of Hitachi cameras in the studio. In the video control room, there was a computer that ran the “FAST Video Machine” software, controlling two AG-1980s, and one computer in the classroom ran Adobe Premiere, likely version 4.2. At school, I would use Premiere for class projects, and at home, when we upgraded our computer’s graphics card to an ATI All-In-Wonder, I began tinkering with MGI’s VideoWave software, with our cable TV connection wired to the All-In-Wonder’s RF input and the software dubbing whatever I was watching on the TV app.
8. Type-Right keyboarding units
My grade 6 teacher had two or three big laundry hampers full of these keyboarding toys from VTech, and I still remember how much force was needed to press each key – quite a bit for a still young child. Using these may have contributed to my rather good touch typing ability, along with near-daily computer use.
9. Encyclopedias on CD-ROM
In the SYPS library, on the south wall near the circulation desk and west seminar room, sat a desk with an EmPac PC, and a small stack of CD-ROMS, most of which were encyclopedia titles. If I remember correctly, we had copies of the Grolier and Compton’s encyclopedia discs, but I don’t think we had Microsoft’s Encarta.
10. Digital audio recording/editing
In grade 12, with the goal of studying radio broadcasting in college the following academic year, I did a co-op (co-operative education) placement at Peterborough’s Trent Radio (CFFF-FM 92.7). I had hoped to do my placement at one of the city’s two commercial AM/FM combos, CHUM’s CKPT (1420) and CKQM-FM (105.1), or Corus’ CKRU (980) and CKWF-FM (101.5), but I was told that, for some reason, our school board’s co-op students couldn’t go to those operations, so my only option then was Trent Radio. Kind of a good thing, because at CFFF, I spent a good chunk of time in Studio B at Trent Radio House, doing all kinds of production work in Cool Edit Pro version 1.x. At the commercial stations, who knows what I’d be doing, other than maybe clerical stuff and being a “gopher” for the jocks. After high school, I would continue to use Cool Edit Pro and its successor, Adobe Audition, for most of my broadcasting career. Other “DAWs” I’d use would include SAW, TripleDAT, WavePad and MixPad.
I’m probably gonna sound like a crotchety old cantankerous curmudgeon here, but technology-wise, I think today’s young’uns have it pretty good compared to us… except, of course, for all the hurdles, politics, disagreements etc. that have sort of become part-and-parcel of today’s K-12 education world.