new life for old tech (and other tales)?


Posted: September 5th, 2003 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Comments Off


One thing I like about this teaching gig here at Georgia Tech is that it primarily takes place in a wired classroom and not a computer lab. I?ve typically had to police students in the past, where the lure of the screen proved too tempting for them (online chess and card games seemed the most common distractions, as well as IMs). These distractions simply aren?t an issue so far, as I can?t imagine actual chess games or impromptu blackjack sessions breaking out in the back row, and I hope they won?t be on the days that we actually venture into the labs?perhaps the “specialness” of these visits will encourage them to stick to task.

I like that there?s one computer station in my class, which proves useful for quick troubleshooting?say a student has trouble accessing my online syllabus or registering for a Web Crossing account. The system integration works well. The projector is clear, and just last class I moved seamlessly from displaying some online content to showing a short video. Gushing over the logistics of all this might seem piddling, but when you?re faced with only a 50-minute class session, and when you?re used to plugging, unplugging, rebooting, and singing voodoo chants in an effort to get something up on the screen, you realize how much of an impediment trouble-laden tech can be to achieving your pedagogical goals.

On a side note, I finally found a good home for one of my favorite machines, but sadly one that I could no longer make good use of myself because of its lack of portability. My original bondi-blue iMac (233 Mhz, 4Gb hard drive, codename Columbus) served me well for nearly 5 years, so I felt that I owed it to the beast to place it in an environment where it was still likely to get used. Ashley?s parents had been plogging along on a Tandy TS80 for so many years, using it for word processing, printing documents, and similar limited tasks, so I thought the iMac would allow them?not to mention Ashley?s younger brother Nathan?a chance to expand their personal computing options into such exotic realms as email, web browsing, gameplay, etc. As I cleaned it off, uninstalled unnecessary files, and reinstalled some apps, I realized just how viable a computer from 1998 running OS 8.1 could still potentially be, especially when resource-hogging multimedia applications aren?t an issue. Perhaps it was slightly sluggish, but a memory upgrade would make it nearly as peppy as anything around today. Godspeed, little iMac; this world is hardly through with ye.

Oh?while it?s fresh on my mind, a quick plug?s in order. I?ve started up a group called the Columbus Consortium to Combat Planned Obsolescence (C3PO), which ideally will end up being a collection of hobbyists, hackers, programmers, tinkerers, and people with a general interest in exploring how to extend the life and utility of older computer technologies. The Yahoo! Group site is located at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/columbusconsortium, and the mission statement can be found here. If you?re reading this, you are, of course, invited to join. I?m excited to see what innovative thinking and products come of this venture.


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