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Re: Elevator hacks, PLATO, Dept of Ed...
> From: Bob Mader <Bob.Mader@digital.com>
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Elevator hacks, PLATO, Dept of Ed...
> Date: Wed, 29 Apr 1998 12:04:39 -0400
> 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.
Well, some of us are here lurking...
> 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).
Well in the earlier days "Delta", operations was just Teresa and her
HS student helpers, with some support from Dan Grim (a grad student
at the time) and Dave Robinson (EE Prof). There was a relatively
small core group that actually did hands-on stuff, and a larger group
of "contact students", ~2 from each HS that were less involved, though
some of them moved into the core group.
While I think the project orginated with Teresa when she was associated
with the College of Education, once it moved off-campus it was quite
independent. When it moved back into the EE department, the relationship
was more that the EE dept was hosting delta - providing a place for them
while it wasn't really involved in running the project. Dave had his
own HS outreach program (a Thursday night seminar with HS students
having access to the EE dept PDP-8's, etc). In this phase there was
probably more non-HS involvement, since some of the orginal core group
had graduated and there were technically competent college students at
hand rather than at school.
The eventual move to Willard and the College of Education was probably
the handwriting on the wall, with them unable to host the project without
wanting to be in control and have it further College of Ed goals, in
addition to doing things for HS Students. I'd already left for the real
world long before then, and lost touch except for some years later, by
which time the computer had been moved to the Computer center, with the
Delta folks doing whatever they did remotely from Willard, without much
love on the part of the Computer Center staff.
There are probably a bunch of tales of the politics involved in the
various transitions, but I think that's up to the the principles to
discuss, as it's hard for the help not to get very politicized without
really having full access to the underlying departmnental politics and
> 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 don't know directly, but at the time Delta started, it was unthinkable
for an individual school to have a computer for student use - even the
districts that had computerized for report cards and payroll were using
services or involved in the DICE consortium (powered by an IBM1401).
When the project Delta teletype arrived at Concord HS, it replaced
an electromechanical calculator with access to the Burroughs B5500,
which was a general purpose, multi-language timesharing system,
something that took RSTS several years to evolve towards. Brandywine
had a card-programmed Wang electronic calculator.
A few years later, the schools had access to affordable programmable
calculators (still desktop) and there were the time-sharing vs.
calculator wars among the teachers. Later a few schools were able to
set up the own internal mini-Deltas using cheaper PDP-11 family members
and eventually the coming of the PC's would make centralized facilities
irrelevant to the purposed of the HS educators, at least until the
internet would come along.
There was also always some conflict about whether computer access was
supposed to be to further general educational uses (tools) or teach
computer skills (tech) - most of the folks on the list are probably
thinking the latter, which was probably not a primary goal during the