Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Wed, 1 Mar 1995

I was born in 1940. In terms of time, that was just a short while ago. In terms of technology, it is in the far distant primordial past. It was a time before anti-biotics, plastics, ball point pens, cellular phones, orbiting satellites, head radios, transplants, fax, electric typewriters much less computers, television, satellite dishes, fibre optics, soft-ware, jet planes, vcr, virtual reality, word processing, e-mail, xerox, Nikes, dacron, space travel, pocket calculators, ICBMs, video games and an endless list of technological marvels that have changed the vocabulary of our speech, the face of society, as well as both our personal and professional lives.

As I remember, I was in classes during the tail end of the chalk and pencil era of education when leaking fountain pens ruined shirts and tattooed our fingers with black or blue splotches; when chalk dust covered our clothes, stuck to our fingers, and whitened our lungs. We measured using a wooden ruler, later a slide rule, or booklets of printed trig values. We added with our fingers. Copying meant shuffling messy finger-blackening carbon paper and thin onion sheets. The U.S. Mail and the telephone was how most of us communicated with each other. Telex and telegrams combined the two. It was a time before camcorders and tape recorders, before video tapes and cassettes and CDs. It was a time when the letters we knew most were LSMFT (Lucky Strikes Means Fine Tobacco), not VHS or FTP; when DISTANT LEARNING meant you had to travel a few miles to go to school; when DOS sounded like something the Katz 'n Jammer Kids might say; when GOPHER was a pesky animal who dug up your father's manicured lawn and yard; when WORLD WIDE WEB would have conjured up images of a B horror film filled with scary giant spiders invading from outer space; when we would have thought that NETSCAPE was some kind of scenic watercolor; when we would have assumed that INTERNET, BITNET, TELNET were new ways to catch fish; when CD were the third and fourth letters of the alphabet we kids were struggling to memorize in song; when TIN was something that cans were made out of; when FAX sounded like something you memorized for a test and quickly forgot; when MOSAIC sounded like a divine commandment, a grand production of Cecil B. DeMille, or a tiled bathroom; and when LISTSERV may have been reservations at a restaurant. At that time, MAC would have been a truck; APPLE would have been something in your eye, you brought to the teacher, that kept the doctor away, or you ate; PASSWORD would have been a game you played at night with friends or family; BOOT would have been something you wore on your feet; NOTEBOOK would have been a wire-edged school book; LAPTOP would have been something your girl sat on; BYTE would have been something you did to your lover's neck or a sandwich; RAM would have been an animal that ate my favorite sweater at Central Park's Children Zoo; a LURKER would have been a sexual pervert; SURFING would have been riding the waves at the beach; POSTING would have been building a fence or mailing a letter; BAUD would have sounded like something risque; FOOTPRINT would have been an impression you left in the sand at the beach or the mud on the school playgrounds; VERONICA and ARCHIE would have been mischievous high school comic book characters. It was a time when COMPACT was something small, HACKERS were perverse and sensational murders, LINKUP was a way to button the french cuffs on your shirt sleeves, HARDWARE was nails and metal fittings, and DOWNLOAD sounded like something I did on the warehouse docks to work my way through school. The only banks we knew lined rivers and lakes, or were places to save money, not to store information.

The only technology in the class room I remember were bulky and cumbersome 16mm movie projectors that the teachers always had trouble threading, reels of film which constantly broke and burned, manual film strip projectors with their rolls of film strips, maybe a crude manual slide projector, and an awkward phonograph player that always seemed to play scratchy records. Beyond my sight was the hand-cranked, messy mimeograph machine that produced eye- straining, faded and blurred blue or black homework sheets. At home, I may have pecked on a manual Royal typewriter with the forefinger of each hand using what we called the biblical method of seek and ye shall find.

It was indeed a long time ago, a time before the new technological language, a time when erasing was done with a pencil- head or a colorful block of soft rubber on paper, or a velvet block on a blackboard, instead of a delete key. It was a time even before "white-out", and an error on a typed page meant either a messy erasure that left a soft gray haze surrounding the correction or a re-typed page.

But, you know, however marvelous are these new educational technologies, I think how we often forget that WE humans, with our emotions, with out creativity and imagination, with our wisdom and humor, even when we forget names or miss an appointment or bump into a wall or get off the elevator on the wrong floor, are still the most marvelous of marvels. We forget that how we connect with each other on the electronic information highway and how the other technology works is a very technical thing, but how we use that connection and react to it is a very human thing. We forget that teaching is a very human act. And we forget that the educational technology is only important if WE use it to serve us and to make both us and our students more human.

Make it a good day.


Louis Schmier  (912-333-5947)
Department of History                      /~\    /\ /\
Valdosta State University          /^\    /   \  /  /~ \     /~\__/\
Valdosta, Georgia 31698           /   \__/     \/  /     /\ /~      \
                            /\/\-/ /^\___\______\_______/__/_______/^\
                          -_~     /  "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\
                             _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -\____

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