Teacher’s Taste: The Apple IIe

Sunday, April 20th, 2014 by eadodge

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.

 

Source:

Kittell, Linda, and Walczak, Joseph. “Computer Education Curriculum. Connecticut Vocational Technical School System. Version 4.” Connecticut State Dept. Of Education: Hartford, 1985.

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3 comments on “Teacher’s Taste: The Apple IIe

  1. Lori Emerson says:

    Erin, this sounds fascinating and I know there’s a lot of documentation (perhaps more primary than secondary sources) on how Apple tried to get into the educational market and into schools before any other computer company. Is the form of your project a paper of some kind? Will you be delving into magazines from the era? I found Byte magazine extremely useful in my own research; it also so happens that CU has most of the copies of this magazine and the lab as a few issues on the bookcase in the back.

  2. eadodge says:

    I’m currently looking into curriculum documents from around the country used in k-12 schools during the time. Some are programs designed to bring educators up to speed on microcomputer use in the classroom. Other sources include surveys conducted on teachers and students who use the computers in school. In addition, I have found a number of Apple’s original advertisements via YouTube (not sure if I can count them a ‘scholarly’ source, but they are insightful for the messages they contain). Thanks for the tip on Byte, though! I’ve got the page pulled up and am searching around for Apple II and Apple IIe-related articles and advertisements.

    The form of the project will mostly be a paper, split into a minimum of three sections: The Schools, The Company, and The Experience. The last portion is where my own lab work will come into play with the elements set up in the first two parts. I imagine I will also use some of the student survey results from the time to see whether my experience was typical or not. I also will have an index that includes pictures of programs that I attempted and will refer to the index throughout. Or I may end up putting the pictures into the essay body — I haven’t decided yet.

    Thanks for the guiding questions! I wasn’t sure what info to include in a pitch!

  3. Erin- Cool project! I found a two-page article in Forbes magazine from 1995 on the user-friendliness of computers and their popularity, entitled “New Hope for Computer Illiterates?” It was a quick and interesting read about the issues people were encountering as computers became more personal and prevalent and how companies were combatting these issues so the consumer didn’t get turned off by technology altogether. It is not school-focused so you may not be interested, but may enrich the “Company” part of your final project. I found it through the CU library database.

    Renee

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