Monday, 26 January 2009

Back to Mac



Aah, the joys of viral marketing. Courtesy of the Viral Video Chart I've been reminded of the first time Steve Jobs showed off a Mac, back in 1984.

I was still in school, and within a year or so Berkhamsted had invested in what I believe was the first IT suite in a school.

What were we using? Why, the first Apple Macs, that's what. At home, my parents had invested in a Sinclair ZX80, a ZX81 (they were renting a property to a couple involved in selling them, so I got to see the first generation of home PCs up close long before they made it to market), and then later a Sinclair Spectrum. Finally, I ended up with a BBC B computer, which was a fantastic piece of kit.

Looking back, it's incredible how far we've come in 25 years. I remember having to load up games by playing a cassette tape into the computer. A series of painful squawks and screeches somehow got transformed into games and other applications. 

The total memory of these machines was no more than 16Mb (for the ZX81) and when the Spectrum was released with 256Mb of memory people wondered what anyone could possible want with that amount of memory.

Even back then the sight of a floppy disc pulled from Steve's pocket is enough to make people in the video ooh and aah. 

The pace of technological advancement is progressing at such a pace that it's hard for those of us in education to know where to deploy relevant systems that will deliver measurable benefits to students, parents and our colleagues.

With that in mind, I will be starting an MA in Online and Distance Education at the Open University next week. My first module is entitled Technology Enhanced Learning - Practices and Debates. It's going to look at precisely this sort of question. 

I'm looking forward to learning more, engaging with other practitioners, and sharing my thoughts. I'll keep you posted. 

P.S. After a quarter of a century I'm still a Mac Boy. Old habits die hard.

9 comments:

Dan Felstead said...

A man after my own heart!! I lust for a MAC. My son has a Macbook and has never looked back. I will switch next time I buy...especially now since the intel chip and you can run Windows on bootcamp or as a virtual machine. That has been the only drawback for me...just too expensive to buy new photoshop etc. Now I can! I stated in 1990 with an IBM clone using a 65 meg hard drive and 1 meg ram. Like you I thought I had died and went to heaven...more memory than I could possibly use in a lifetime. Last week I finished a file in photoshop that was over one GIG! Times have changed!!!

Dan

Sacha van Straten said...

I've had a Macbook Pro since they went to Intel.

I run XP off a virtualiser called VMWare Fusion. It has the ability to hide XP once it's running and just pop Windows based apps into your Apple doc. It's very strange but rather wonderful, and means I can be accessing Outlook on the school's network, while running Photoshop or Final Cut Pro at the same time.

I was an educational technology show last week and there was a 2 terabyte SD card there! Can you imagine that? 2000 gig in your camera. Insane.

But I bet I could fill it given a chance!!

Sacha

Don said...

Well, who says it has to be either/or? I have 2 PCs at home, plus a iBook from school, and when I wrote a grant three years ago for a SMARTboard, I also picked up a PC and a iMac. No one does high end graphics computing like Mac, but I come from the business world. PC is still 93% of the market.

The best of both worlds. (One of my PCs at home is a $300 job that runs the internet and Office. Just a few other apps... because I'm just a simple guy.

Don

Sunny said...

a floppy out of the pocket is sheer magic :) thanks for sharing the video

Mark S. Steed, MA said...

An iconic piece of kit - I wonder if this generation would think that anything could be so neat as we did when the Mac was first launched. I suspect that they are so accustomed to technological innovation, that they wouldn't give it a thought let alone a standing ovation.

Sacha van Straten said...

A good point. Maybe we should refer to them as Digital Philistines?

On the other hand, teens today do have an advanced sense of aesthetic design and usability when it comes to mobile phones and MP3 players, so perhaps it's more the case that their reference points are different to ours.

Lynda Lehmann said...

I've been on a desktop PC since I started. Be that as it may, I can relate to your sense of wonder at how far we've come. I always feel as if the "whole world is in my computer"!

Of course, it can be used for ill. But the scope of knowledge and communication and sharing that's achievable by our artificial intell, is mind-boggling.

I can only hope our neurons don't degenerate because of over-dependence on our machines!

Sacha van Straten said...

Hi Lynda,

I had a fascinating chat over lunch today with a colleague of mine who is an esteemed teacher of English Literature.

We were comparing how the syllabus has changed over the last 20 years or so.

His observation was that when we took our A levels (aged 18) we were required to commit a number of plays, novels, and poetry anthologies to memory.

Now, students can take the texts in with them, and in the case of 19th century literature, it's not uncommon for students to not be required to read the whole novel at all!

His forward projection was that in fifty years time literature that's from the 19th century will seem as alien and challenging to high school students as Shakespeare and Chaucer are now.

While young people may read a great deal of online based texts, and watch moving and still imagery, the notion of sticking at a substantial text in order to derive some internalised sense of comprehension, learning and intrinsic reward, appears to be a dying art.

Of course, those of us at the coal face will do all that we can to promote the integration of the different skills needed both to appreciate traditional literature and the myriad of new paradigms, appearing via emerging technologies and communication platforms.

Lynda Lehmann said...

You've got your work cut out for you! Most people can hardly put together a decent sentence, let alone communicate an idea of any complexity.

I often think we are de-volving at a rapid pace. :(