|Posted on February 4, 2011 at 3:44 AM|
by Dave Howell, Computer Users of Erie, PA
I guess my career of teaching computer literacy using the venerable TI-99/4A Home Computer began in 1977. Actually the TI-99/4A didn't come on the market until 1982 but I had been getting students in my math classes acquainted with some of the basic computing operations using electronic calculators in the school's Math Lab. The Erie School District used our middle school to initiate the Math Labs and develop the course of study to be integrated in our math curricula. At the same time, the District installed teletype terminals that were tied into the District's mainframe computer system by dedicated telephone lines. The more precocious students in my Math classes were encouraged to access the mainframe computer only after they finished their assignments, of course.
Then in 1982, the electronic calculators were replaced with a roomful of TI-99/4A Home Computers. The "Math Lab" became known as the "Computer Room." I was selected to operate the Computer Room and together, with teachers from other buildings, helped design a 10-week course of study for Computer Literacy classes. I still have the course of study we used and the assignments that were given to the students.
Each of the five middle schools ran this 10-week class, 4 times a year, for all students in the school. Besides helping students become familiar with basic computer operation, the emphasis of the course of study also gave students experience in using the BASIC language in writing simple programs. Students were shown how they can literally "command" the computer do what they want. These classes helped students avoid the feeling of intimidation that plagued most of the older folks of the time. Some students even went on to embrace the computing field as their life's work.
The following year, the District added the PHP1200 Expansion Systems to our Math Labs. This expanded the 16 Kb TI-99/4A to a capacity of 32 Kb, accommodated 5 1/4-inch Floppy Disks, and permitted the use of printers. Hence, the classes morphed from writing programs in BASIC to learning the fundamental concepts of word processing (TI-Writer) and spread sheeting (MS Multiplan). These classes continued to be offered throughout the remainder of the 1980's.
By 1990, the TI-99/4A's were being replaced by the Apple IIc and the Apple Macs. However, being the TI diehard that I was, I kept the TI-99/4A alongside the Apples. By the time I retired in 1993, no one was using the TI computer system anywhere in the School District. The teacher replacing me didn't want them so I asked for permission from the District to collect all of the unused TI equipment left in the buildings rather than to allow them to be tossed out. That's how I ended up with a sizeable collection in my basement and garage!