I had two real first experiences using the Internet.
Here’s the first:
I had purchased my first personal computer in 1980. It was an Apple II, which was invented by Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Computer. In his book, iWoz, Wozniak describes his unbelievable creativity in firstly inventing the Apple I, and followed soon thereafter (1977) with the Apple II. I used my 1980 Apple II (which used cassette tapes to run programs), along with a modem made by Hayes Micromodem of Atlanta to connect to two different data bases on the Internet: BRS Afterdark (Bibliographic Research Service which libraries used; afterdark meant it was cheaper), and Compuserve, one of the first online companies offering access to data bases and products—and this was 1980. No one at Georgia State University was doing this, so when I asked to use one of the phone lines to connect to data bases, not only did they not know what I meant, but they simply said, “sure.” So now I had connections at my home, and in my office at the university. Later I started using email, and gopher and some of the other ways of accessing and sharing information on the Intenet. Remember bitnet?
The Apple II: my first computer, C.1980. I connected a modem to the Apple II, and I was connected to the Internet! See the end of this post for a picture of the modem I used
Then I started traveling to Russia (then, the Soviet Union). I first went there in 1981. After several years of travel, and after developing very wonderful and strong relationships with Russian educators in Tbilisi (Georgia), Moscow, and St. Petersburg, and after bringing hundreds of American and Russian teachers and researchers together through a series of exchanges through the rest of the 1980s, we jointly decided to begin designing and writing lesson plans and curriculum that we would implement and teach in each others classrooms. Russian teachers taught in American classrooms, and Americans taught in Russian classrooms. We developed trust. We were ready to move on.
The second first real experience with the Internet:
A group of us had developed the Global Thinking Project. We designed it to be used in an Internet environment. Problem was, we didn’t have the hardware for the Russian schools.
Phil Gang, a friend and colleague, suggested we visit the local Apple Computer office, and see if they might be interested. It just so happened that we were hosting a group of educators from Russia who were involved in the GTP, so we all went to the Apple office. The meeting broke the ice, and because we had our Russian colleagues with us, Apple realized that the project was going to happen. We needed computers.
At the next meeting we met with the Apple directors, and they agreed to give us six Macintosh SE computers and printers. They also introduced us to Gary Lieber, an engineer for Apple who had just moved to Atlanta from Cupertino. Gary became a part of the GTP, and he traveled to Russia with us. Ten of us arrived at the Atlanta airport with the Macs, printers and modems (given to us by Hayes Micromodems) boarded the airplane carrying this technology on with us. We flew to Moscow, and we now ready to install the computers in six different schools in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In late January, 1990 we carried (literally) six Macintosh SE computers (printers and modems) onto a Delta jet, and flew with them to Moscow, and installed them in six schools, helping establish one of the first global telecommunications systems for science teaching.
We were held hostage at the airport for about six hours. The Soviet customs officials demanded money from our Soviet colleagues, so it took hours of negotiation to let us through. We did and we were ready for the first installation the next day.
Without Gary, we couldn’t have done it. Telecommunications connections were not as easily obtained as they are today. There was only one company in the Soviet Union that we could use to get a modem connection, and it was called SOVAM (Soviet American Telecommunications). Gary had to program the computer we used in each school to reach SOVAM, which we used to connect through Europe to Apple’s email system. Unbelievably Gary got the system running in each school, and we had a telecommunications project that linked six Russian schools with six American schools (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles).
There was a wonderful moment in School 157 in St. Petersburg. Gary was explaining to a group of Russian secondary students how the computer network and telecommunications system worked. One of the Russian students asked Gary how long it took a message typed on the Macintosh in his classroom to reach America. Gary said, “Oh, less than a second!” The students were astounded. So were some of the adults.
With the installation of the computers and modems into six Russian schools, we had established The Global Thinking Project telecommunications system.
The network shown here was established by putting Mac SE computers and modems in Russian and American schools. In Russia, telephone lines connected the IASNET to Geisco in Europe, which used satellites to transmit data to the US. Without Apple’s Gary Lieber, we probably could not have established this early telecommunications system.
This was an exhilarating experience for all of us. We implemented the first field test of the GTP curriculum over the next two months. Students in Russia were using their new computers to send email messages containing information about themselves and the data they had collected on the various GTP projects. That summer we brought all of the teachers together for a conference and training session several months later in Atlanta. Although there were many problems with telecommunications, and helping teachers develop a habit of mind of using email and checking posts on the bulletin board system we had set up, it showed us the potential of using the Internet as a tool in science teaching. This was the beginning. The GTP grew to include schools not only in the USA and Russia, but Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Spain, the Czech Republic, Botswana, Singapore, Scotland, and Finland.
These were the two-first ways that I used the Internet. I’ll continue talking about the Net further this week. Let me hear from you and about your first experiences with the Net in teaching.
This was the modem we used in the Soviet Union. It was made by Hayes, and had a speed of 2400! It worked beautifully.