After my struggles to create successful BASIC programs on my own, I turned to education materials from the 1980s that taught teachers and students how to use BASIC. Once I had paged through a few, I realized that many of the resources expressed a larger ideology about computers and information society. For instance, one document listed “Applications” that students would understand by the end of the programming course. These included “Problem-solving Tools,” “General Use,” and “Impacts on Jobs.” The last caught my eye as a familiar refrain: technology and job readiness. I took a step back and thought about Apple’s interests in these curricular activities. They would obviously push for more and more students to be using their products, at school and then at home. If they train students to use PCs, which were already implemented in most businesses, they would by extension train the students to be good workers.
It was then that I examined Apple II and Apple IIe advertisements. I found several targeted to students and education, including a promotional video starring Steve Jobs, that praises the Apple IIe as even easier to use than the original, which was already in use “in schools” and “in education.”
For my final project, I want to examine the interrelation of the corporate and the curricular when it came to Apple IIe, one of the first ‘easy to use’ classroom PCs. I am curious to see the extent to which Apple’s promise that the Apple IIe was easy to use and the claims that the PC was customizable (aka “The Most Personal Computer”) actually translated into the computer literacy programs taught in schools. From what I can see so far, the answer is, not much translated. Most BASIC taught to students covers only the first 20 pages of a 200+ page BASIC programming manual entitled Basic BASIC. The materials also highly encourage teaching and using pre-existing programs rather than having students write their own.
The end goal of the project will be to make an educated guess about the impact of corporate vs. curricular messages and the actual experience of programming BASIC on the subjectivity of an Apple user.
Kittell, Linda, and Walczak, Joseph. “Computer Education Curriculum. Connecticut Vocational Technical School System. Version 4.” Connecticut State Dept. Of Education: Hartford, 1985.