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Elevator hacks, PLATO, Dept of Ed...
I vaguely remember the Unix PDP-11/40 down the hall from 203. I never really
got much of a chance to play on it. All I can remember, though, is that I
thought it was odd that such an interesting machine lives in Willard Hall,
of all places.
Speaking of strange computers in Willard Hall, I wonder how many of you
remember the PLATO system. There was a really fancy "PLATO classroom" down
the hall from 011, near the front door to Willard. I remember actually
learning enough about how to write PLATO lessons to develop my own; the
topic was how to hack elevators, complete with pictures showing how to
operate the Smith Hall elevators with the door open. I can't even remember
now what language the PLATO lessons were written in.
I hope all these fun stories of elevator hacking and the general disregard
for system security isn't upsetting anyone on the mailing list. I can't help
but notice that we haven't heard from many of the folks who were involved in
the early days of Delta. I hope they aren't getting the impression that
Delta met it demise in the early 80's due to all of this mischief. There was
still lots of good learning going on.
However, in my correspondence with Teresa Green and the Baker's (Clark and
Ed), I've gotten the distinct impression that Delta was very different in
the early days. It seems that under the EE Department, Delta was more
focused on getting students involved in learning about how the computer
worked. With the transition out of Dupont Hall and over to the Department of
Education, the priorities seemed to change. Now, the computer was view as a
teaching tool on which applications were to be developed (like PLATO where
the operating system was totally hidden from the users).
I think what made Delta so very special is that the computer system was run
by the students. This was (and still is) a revolutionary concept. Even now,
with all the PC's and Mac's that are in high schools today, they are used as
teaching tools; very little emphasis is placed on how the computer works and
how to program it. But with Delta, it seemed the system was there primarily
for the students to learn how the computer itself worked.
And look at the results! Look at all of the successful computer people on
this list (and honorable mention for the token journalist). If I had kids in
high school, I would be at every PTA meeting lobbying for a fully-loaded
Linux box whose sole purpose would be that they just let the kids loose on
Anyway, I didn't mean to get on such a tirade. I wonder, though, if anyone
would care to comment on this? Were things really different during the EE
days (before my time at Delta 77-80)? And does anybody know the story of
what happened at the very end of Delta? Did the Department of Education just
run it into the ground, or did the PC/Mac's make it obsolete or what?
I want to go on record as saying thanks to all the folks who have shared
their great Delta stories. I hope to hear many more! Also, thanks to Jim for
setting up this mailing list. And thanks to Teresa Green for starting
Delta... what a difference it has made in so many lives!
Regards for now...