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Re: Project DELTA
Have read your reply. You get the picture that Delta was different under my
direction than that of the Col of Ed. You are right. But it took you to push
my 'hot" button with the mention of Ed Boas, ie now Dr. Ed Boas. Before you
get to deeply involved with the "simple" aspects of Delta, i.e., the "kids
running the show", you must be aware of the tremendous work that occurred
before we got to the stage of the Col of Ed taking over the computer (and the
remains of the Project) for the U of D.
By all this I mean that there is a past that Clark Baker, et al, know nothing
about because they (as 16-17 year olders) didn't know about & couldn't
possibly comprehend because they wouldn't have cared or understood.
DEC didn't always exist, nor did interactive computing, nor
telecommunications. If you read the history of computing you know that
computing was a God -send to the Astronomers & Business people. Then, in the
process of educating "kids" for those worlds the Education people decided to
find ways to use computers in those courses. Then IBM took the lead in
Computers in Education with Computer Assisted Education (CAI) with
Coursewriter, etc. The "war" began between the CAI "pageturners" & the Math &
Science Programmers. I was a Math & Science teacher (Fortran), but I had also
written my own Coursewriter CAI program for my class. Then I had written
Autocoder programs for Administrative applications including Assembler because
we had to "hand assemble" our code- they had no compiler for the IBM 1401. I
learned the differences between "Education computing" & "Applications
computing". I realized that FEW teachers (especially non-University teachers)
understood the "new" computer oriented thought process that went into using a
programming language to "teach" the computer to solve problems.
My function at the University was to get the teachers into that mode of
thinking & I was given the tools (with funded money! - Private funds as well
as Taxpayers grants) to make that happen. We started out with the IBM 1401,
then went to the IBM 1130 with the first interactive (telecommunications)
system & BASIC instead of Fortran which had alreadybeen taught to the
teachers. Without that 1st group of University students from the CS & EE
Department working for the Comp Center we could never have completed the work
of the grants. We had to battle with the Col of Ed because they insisted on
the CAI approach. I alone was convinced that only the young minds were
capable of the new approaches to computer "thought" if led into it rather
than being "taught". Fortunately, there were a few techers who were versatle
enough to make the "mental" transition in their teaching & their students were
terrific! Without the MONEY to lead this effort (DSAA paid the whole tab!!!)
in the 1st few years, Delta would never have existed. Without the
understanding of the DSAA group (mostly DuPont) this project would never have
Then we got the PDP11 with RSTS, It was not debugged & it was WORK! I worked
alone, at first, but I was well supervised by DSAA, DuPont & brilliant faculty
at the U of D in the Comp Center, CS Dept & eventually the EE Dept. When the
project "took root" we moved from the U of Del to the school districts' data
center where we "walked alone", the "high school kids" & I. If we were going
to grow, we had to be in a University environment. So I worked with DSAA to
move back into the EE Dept under a well defined reserch project. We had only
1 or 2 graduate students assigned to the project & therefore it was essential
for the "kids" to continue. That environment enabled the kids to grow
intellectually. Oh yes, we were quite a team! But I concentrated on the
intellectual analysis approach to learning & problem solving, the storage of
data in data bases for info retrieval. The schools were learning! The kids
were learning! They were writing programs that were under my analysis but with
their system input. They were GOOD! These were excellent programs.
Then things changed. The University decided that the K-12 activities belonged
to the College of Education. The C. of Ed. believed in both CAI & teaching
kids to program in ways that they could make a living, The Delta approach to
"new learning approaches" ended. I had participated in so many "moon
landings" that I couldn't go back to Earth. I left.
Oh yes, I (& the system!) was insulted many times by obnoxious students.
Thanks to Dan Grim & the willingness (finally!) of DEC to cooperate, we
discovered systems glitches & DEC issued a new version of the operating
system. I handled the problems by calling the school Principal, telling him or
her about the mischief & got his permission to talk directly to the student.
If the student was "basically good & smart" we used him. If he was a "bad"
kid, I talked to his parents. The schools were usually very glad to have that
happen. They were informed, but didn't have to act unless it was required.
There are volumes of info & events that make DELTA very special. But the
Delta that I created & knew ended about 1976 after I had worked 10 years of
60+ hour weeks.