Computing: 1980 Style

I saw my first personal computer in 1981. At that time, the closest you could come to a computer store (where I lived) was a back corner of the local Radio Shack store. There you found models of their TRS-80 computers, offering all manner of unimagined possibilities – but almost no software. Ready to buy and load (via audio cassettes) were a basic word processor (Scriptsit), a spreadsheet program (Visicalc) and a handful of games, including Galxian, Asteroids, Targ and Zork.

Dot-Matrix Print

But we didn’t buy computers because we wanted to play games or even to word process. Have you ever seen the print from the early dot-matrix printers? We bought computers because we wanted to learn about this new thing that was “going to change everything.”

Early Computing Magazine
Early Computing Magazine

Unsurprisingly, we had to go to print in order to learn and a few early magazines was the bast place to go. Even then, the gestation time of new books was way to long to be reliably up-to-date. New issues of zines were frequent and regular, and among them were BYTE, PC, Compute and even Family Computing.

We learned the latest that was known about these early TRS-80, Atari, Apple and Commodore computers. But better, was the programming tips we could learn by typing code that was included on the zines’ pages.

A Home Accounting program for the Commodore Pet computer
Submitted by Robert Baker of Atco, NJ
January 1980

Of course, the programs never worked the first time. It was impossible to key the code in without mistakes. So we spent as much time going back and decoding the programs, OR we taught ourselves how to write our own programs.

😉

Staff Sergeant Edward Carter Jr.

Posthumous recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor

At the end of the American Civil War, 21 African American soldiers had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  American soldiers with dark skin earned Medals of Honor in every subsequent war until, strangely, World War II.

As a child, Edward Carter Jr, an African American, lived in Shanghai, China with his missionary parents.  At 15, he joined the Chinese Army and rose to the rank of lieutenant before it was discovered that he was a child.  Discharged, he enrolled in a Shanghai military school where he received extensive military training and learned four languages, including Mandarin Chinese, Hindi and German.

During the Spanish Civil War, Carter joined the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a volunteer unit fighting General Franco’s fascist regime and his NAZI allies.  After that he insisted in the U.S. Army, just months before the Japanese attack on Perl Harbor.  Some time in 1942, a counterintelligence service put him on a watch lists because of his service in Spain.  The Lincoln Brigade’s administration had socialist leanings – and he spoke Chinese.  In 1944, he was shipped to Europe but delegated to supply duties, in-spite of his military experience.  Later that year, General Eisenhower, running short of combat soldiers, instituted the volunteer Ground Force Replacement Command.  Early in 1945, 4,562 darker skinned soldiers, were serving in previously all white units, including Staff Sargent Edward Carter.  He came to the attention of General George Patton who selected him to serve as one of the general’s guards.

Later Carter relinquished his rank so that he could enter combat duty as part of the general’s “Mystery Division” and he was recommended for the Medal of Honor by his superiors.  Instead the Army gave him the second highest honor, The Distinguished Service Cross.  After recovering from wounds and being re-promoted to Staff Sargent, Carter finished the war training troops.  By that time, Staff Sargent Edward Carter had received the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, American Defense Service Medal, Combat Infantry Badge and numerous other citations and honors.

When he tried to re-enlist, the Army barred his enlistment without explanation.  Carter died of Lung Cancer in 1963, a result of shrapnel that was still in his neck.

In 1997, Sergeant Carters body was exhumed and taken to Washington where he was moved in a horse drawn caisson and full military honors to a finally resting place in Arlington National Cemetery and President Clinton posthumously award the Congressional Medal of Honor to Carter’s son, Edward Allen Carter III.

Source: Military Museum – https://goo.gl/dQmefP

A Walk Around Kings Mountain

Ferguson Memorial
Memorial for Col. Patrick Ferguson, Commander of Loyalist forces at the Battle of Kings Mountain

My wife and I visited the Kings Mountain Battlefield last Sunday. It’s a 1.8 mile walk around and up over the mountain, reading plaques and imagining the smoke-filled scene of 1780. It was fought between colonists who were loyal to the crown (who wore slips of white paper in their hats) and independence seeking patriots (who wore bunches of pine needles in their hats).

The hated commander of the Loyalist forces was Col Patrick Ferguson. I’ve researched Ferguson recently and found him to be quite an interesting character. He was a Scot and was raised in Edinburgh, where his family associated with some of the the leaders of the Scottish Enlightenment. Indications are that he was sympathetic to the American patriot cause.

Acknowledged as the best marksman in the British Army, Ferguson spent time, while convulsing from wounds suffered in the West Indies, designing and fabricating a breech loading rifle. With it, he was able to fire 15 accurate shots in one minute, a HUGE improvement over the muzzle-loading Brown Bess muskets used by the British Army. Because of the expense of mass producing Ferguson Rifles, they were only used by a special unit that Ferguson established early in the American Revolutionary War. He admired the style of Indian warfare practiced by many of the patriot soldiers, and had his soldier wear (somewhat) camouflaged uniforms and practice guerrilla style fighting. Wounded again, he lost his unit to other officers, who had ridiculed his tactics as less than “honorable.”

Kings Mountain Death Of Ferguson
In fact, only one in ten loyalist soldier wore red coats and none of the patriots wore blue. Except for Ferguson, all of the combatants were Americans.

Returning to service he was assigned to raise a loyalist militia to assist Gen Cornwallis’ Southern Campaign. It was the militia that he raised that was defeated on Kings Mountain, where he was killed and his body mutilated. His blunder was sending a letter to the Overmountain Men, threatening retribution against their families if they marched east to fight the British. The Overmountain Men came. They were rough frontiersmen from the Appalachian mountains and beyond, accustomed to eking a living from the wilderness.

The Battle of Kings Mountain was preceded by the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill, which resulted in a similar outcome. My interest in these events comes partly from the fact that my ancestral patriarch of the 18th century had children who served on both sides of that war.

WILT: Weather Station “Kurt”

The official name was WFL-26, or Wetter-Funkgerät Land-26. It was an automated weather station installed in Northern Laborador in 1943 and labeled as the property of the “Canadian Weather Service.” Fact: There was no “Canadian Weather Service” in 1943.

U-537 Anchored in Martin Bay, 22 October 1943

U-537 Anchored in Martin Bay, 22 October 1943. I can only guess that the photo was taken by a crew member or one of the German Meteorologists.

The weather station was established by a team from the German submarine U-537, anchored in Martin Bay. During World War II, Germany lost access to international weather data, and needed information about conditions over Russia and Northern Europe for air operations.  To help disguise the installation, they labeled it as Canadian and scatter American cigarette packs around the area.  Today, the only Wikipedia article about the site, Hutton Peninsula, is in it’s Swedish version – a pretty good place to hide a covert weather station.

The weather station was not discovered until a historian for equipments manufacturers, Siemens Corporation, found its description in corporate archives.  

WFL-26 represented the only German armed military operation carried out on the mainland of North America of World War II.

By the way, WILT stands for “What I Learned Today.”

Sources:

Budanovic, N. (2016, April 3). The Secret Nazi German Weather Station In Canada, Discovered 38 Years After It Was Built – Page 2 of 2 [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.warhistoryonline.com/featured/weather-station-kurt.html/2

Winter, J. (2013, March 24). Weather Station Kurt [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://xefer.com/2013/03/kurt

Extraordinary Learning

A 15 year old Canadian schoolboy, with a fascination for the ancient Mayan Civilization, recently theorized a correlation between the star positions in major constellations and the geographic locations of known Mayan cities. Based on this theory, he used Google Maps to suggest the location of an unknown ancient city. The Canadian Space Agency was so impressed that they used a satellite-based space telescope to study the spot and confirm the existence of the hitherto, unknown city. 

In my work I ran across many ordinary youngsters who — with access to technology, supportive teachers and unconstrained curiosity — did extraordinary things. It all begs for a more empowering and imaginative way of educating our children. 

“Follow the Money” to Ferguson

Chris Lehmann challenged us (EduBloggers) last week to join the conversation about the police shooting of an 18 year old African-American man in Ferguson, Missouri and militarized posturing of law enforcement against the resulting protests. To be honest, I was not fully aware of the situation, too focused on getting my daughter ready to return to college and establishing a second residence to be closer to my and my wife’s parents.

I’ll agree wholeheartedly with all of Chris’ sentiments here, here and here, and would expound on them if I could. But, as a white, anglo saxon, protestant, eighth generation American, whose grandfather’s grandfather probably owned slaves, I honestly do not feel worthy to ardently express righteous sympathy with what I would characterize as second Americans. White man’s guilt?

I would like to ask a different question, though – and not as an attempt to distract us from a conversation about the unfulfilled promises (myths) of the American Dream. I ask this alternate question because I believe that there is another struggle happening here, one that possibly goes back to the beginnings of this country.

Looking at the picture to the right, I do not see how anyone could disagree with calling this a militarized police presence. But where did all that military hardware come from? Who bought it? ..and why? ..and Who got paid for it?

If we agree that one reason for learning (being taught) history is to avoid making its mistakes1, then here might be a useful starting question, “What were the historical mistakes that led to the situation of this picture?”

This could go almost anywhere in human history, of course, and why should formal learning experiences be limited (by testable standards)? But that’s a different issue — maybe.

We might, for instance, go no further than a little more than a decade ago, when 19 mostly Saudi Arabian terrorists, attacked the United States at it’s heart, New York City. Those 19 mostly Saudi Arabian men, using our own technology against us, were effective nearly beyond anyone’s imagination.

Our response was to make war in Afghanistan and Iraq and declare war on terror, establishing the Department of Homeland Security.  Although little else happened here, local police forces still find themselves armed for terror both from without and within. ..And you know what they say about a hammer.2

I would suggest that we responsibly and effectively teach history to avoid its mistakes, but also as a guard against having history re-written for us.

I will close here by suggesting that we ask students utilize contemporary literacy skills and do what Deep Throat3 said, “Follow the Money.”

 

1 A paraphrasing of George Santayana’s quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.Santayana, G. (1905). The life of reason. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15000

2 The Law of the Instrument, or as Abraham Maslow said in 1966, “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.

3 Deep Throat is the pseudonym given to the secret informant who provided information toBob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of The Washington Post in 1972 about the involvement of United States President Richard Nixon‘s administration in what came to be known as the Watergate scandal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most important developments in human history

There are a lot of developments here. Some of them we don’t appear to use anymore. However, without all of these developments, we would not be where we are today. Try to find scientists and poll them as to what are the most important developments, and then poll your students. After all the of the […]

the-most-important-developments-in-human-history_52c8bb69a19a8_w1500.pngThere are a lot of developments here. Some of them we don’t appear to use anymore. However, without all of these developments, we would not be where we are today. Try to find scientists and poll them as to what are the most important developments, and then poll your students. After all the of the information is compiled, share with your students what the scientists said.

Go through each development, or assign developments to groups of students. Why is each development important. What could not have happened without each development. Speculate where we would be without said development.

Blog: http://visual.ly/most-important-developments-human-history

The History of Opportunity

In the opinion of you and your students, what was the biggest development that has led to our modern day life? The Gutenberg Press, the typewriter, electricity, the computer? How can your students harness this technology in order to take advantage of the opportunities this infographic claims there is? Most importantly in preparing for tomorrow, […]

the-history-of-opportunity_517bd59389399_w1500-1.pngIn the opinion of you and your students, what was the biggest development that has led to our modern day life? The Gutenberg Press, the typewriter, electricity, the computer? How can your students harness this technology in order to take advantage of the opportunities this infographic claims there is?

Most importantly in preparing for tomorrow, your students must look to tomorrow, what are going to be the technological advances of tomorrow that will build the opportunities of tomorrow. Without knowing what they are, what can your students do to prepare for the technology of tomorrow. Better yet, what can your students do to create the technology of tomorrow.

Blog: http://visual.ly/history-opportunity

The History of Press (Printing)

We are taught that Johann Gutenberg created the first printing press. But this infographic goes back to an older printer in 618 AC. It also says that Gutenberg’s was the first movable type. So why are we (or at least I) taught that Gutenberg invented the first printing press, and before this it was all […]

the-history-of-press-printing_52544b78d401d_w1500.pngWe are taught that Johann Gutenberg created the first printing press. But this infographic goes back to an older printer in 618 AC. It also says that Gutenberg’s was the first movable type. So why are we (or at least I) taught that Gutenberg invented the first printing press, and before this it was all handwritten.

Regardless of what is taught, how did the printing press, both the Chinese version and Gutenberg’s, change things? How did this change literacy and lead to the Enlightenment and then the American Revolution, and other revolutions? What could have happened if the Europeans had a printing press before the dark ages? Could we be living like the Jetsons?

Now, look at newspapers from various centuries and after important developments in this infographic. How did the  appearance of the newspapers change? What is the most significant technological change? What about the most significant appearance change?

Blog: http://visual.ly/history-press-printing

Celebrating America’s Diversity

This infographic begins in the year 1820. What was going on in the world in 1820 that makes this infographic begin there. Do you agree that it should begin there? Should it begin earlier, or later? What were the biggest factors that led to immigration to America? Where did the immigrants settle in America? What […]

celebrating-americas-diversity-family-history-month-2011_50290d3e5e9b9_w1500.pngThis infographic begins in the year 1820. What was going on in the world in 1820 that makes this infographic begin there. Do you agree that it should begin there? Should it begin earlier, or later? What were the biggest factors that led to immigration to America?

Where did the immigrants settle in America? What was going on in each state that led to the number of immigrants, or lack there of? The infographic only talks about how many immigrants are in each state. When did the immigrants travel there and why? For instance, North Carolina has a recognizable immigrant population. What is going on that we have so many? Why not other states?

Blog: http://visual.ly/celebrating-americas-diversity-family-history-month-2011