rmack350 wrote on 5/27/2014, 12:29 PM
I like seeing how kids approach this and what assumptions they make. If you're designing an interface it helps to order your ideas.

Here's a flip-side example of this. I had a friend who'd been using the DOS version of Word Perfect at their work, well past the time that Windows 98 had become widespread. Eventually a friend gave this person a computer running windows. We were walking her through her first-run experience and onscreen instructions told her to click on a button. Totally baffled her because it didn't occur to her that the grey rectangle on her screen could be a button and that you could click on it with the mouse cursor.

We take a lot for granted, and get retrained by our technology too. Last night I had a very computer literate friend try to drag her finger on my laptop screen. I've caught myself doing this too.

I have this idea that 80 year olds should be doing usability testing. If you're designing for intuitiveness I think this is a much better group to use for testing.

larry-peter wrote on 5/27/2014, 12:59 PM
I thought I was the only one who confused his laptop for a smartphone!
I always use a mouse with my laptop, and a couple weeks ago I didn't bother to connect it. Rather than go for the touchpad, I started trying to zoom the screen with my fingers. Felt like an old fool.
JohnnyRoy wrote on 5/27/2014, 1:45 PM
I still own that computer (Apple ][+) and it's sitting in my basement as I type. It cost me $3,200 back in the day with 48KB of memory.

The video was intentionally made to be worse than it really is and it would be nice if the "adult" actually knew what they were talking about.

He wrongly said that the computer doesn't do anything unless you type in a program, then he boots it with a floppy disk and contradicts himself because a game comes up without "typing" anything. A modern computer doesn't do anything until you install software either. In fact, a modern computer without a hard drive can do LESS that than Apple ][+ because at least the Apple has a built-in Basic Interpreter that you could play around with. A modern computer would just give a disk not found error and do nothing.

He also wrongly stated that if the computer is on and you put in a floppy disk that you need to turn it off and on again. That's not correct. All you need to do is put the floppy disk in the drive, close the door, and at the "]" prompt type:

] PR #6

Where 6 is the slot that the floppy drive controller is in. The first floppy controller went into slot 6 and the second in slot 5. Each could hold two drives. Mine has 4 floppy drives on it, two slim height drives under the display and two full height drives next to it. Usually the printer card was in slot 1 and so PR #1 would echo any future output to the printer, PR #0 would get you back to the display and PR #2 would echo output to the modem (assuming your serial card was in slot 2) including the Hayes AT command set if that as your modem. I add an 80-column display card in slot 3 so PR #3 would toggle me into 80 column mode (otherwise the display was only 40 columns).

One kid complained the game was "too green"... yea well plug it into your Color TV set and it would have have looked just like an arcade game. The Apple ][+ was fully 16 color capable and connected to your TV with an RF cable unlike the IBM PC that came after it that only had 4 colors. I spent hours playing Beer Run on my Apple ][+ with a Joystick in front of my Color TV. What great memories.

So the video was bit contrived for shock value and I don't think it was accurate nor do I feel old. ;-)

Chienworks wrote on 5/27/2014, 2:20 PM
jr, yep. I had many of the same observations about that video. Also, cycling the power with a floppy in the drive was frowned against because the stray surges could cause the heads to zap part of the disk!

I had the Apple //e, and using it i learned most of what i know about computers and programming. Everything i've learned since then has basically been fluff on top of that core body of knowledge. I still have a //gs in my basement. I wonder if it's still functional. One of the anecdotes i heard about the //gs was that at the big trade show where Apple unveiled it, some IBM sales people were overheard talking to each other about how amazing it was and laughing about how if Apple ever actually marketed it, the IBM PC division would be sunk overnight.
VMP wrote on 5/27/2014, 2:33 PM
Born in the mid 80's I have the most memory of my Intel Celeron, which was the PC I have used growing up. I also remember playing some games on the Macintosh 128K, that little candy Apple computer.

I find this amusing: Game of Thrones author George RR Martin: 'Why I still use DOS' [/link]

john_dennis wrote on 5/27/2014, 2:41 PM
Though I've worked in the computer business since 1976 and have had one in my house since 1983, they never did anything that I cared about doing until the mid 90s.

Before that, and to some extent since then, it was an intellectual pursuit rather than an artistic or entertaining pursuit.
richard-amirault wrote on 5/27/2014, 3:03 PM
I still own that computer (Apple ][+) and it's sitting in my basement as I type. It cost me $3,200 back in the day with 48KB of memory.
I also still own my Apple ][ ... but it was a plain 'ole ][ (not a ][+) and came with 16k of memory and Integer Basic and no HD or even floppy drive (you loaded games and programs from an audio cassette) It cost me $1200 new in 1979.

Over the years I upgraded it with various options and upgrades (but never a HD) and it lasted me for a full ten years before I got something else (Amiga 500 ... that also cost me $1200 new!)
Larry Clifford wrote on 5/27/2014, 3:14 PM
My first PC was an IBM XT 286, retailed for $4000, and had 2 5-1/2 floppy drives. One held the OS and the other data.

My first full sized computer was an IBM 305 RAMAC and was used in the US Army for inventory. It was all relays and small tubes inside and required setting up a board with wires that supplemented the crude programming. You could run only one program at a time. See

Obviously, I have a desktop PC that is far more powerful than any of those computers.
Laurence wrote on 5/27/2014, 3:33 PM
This song is sort of relevant to this conversation. It's worth waiting through the rather long intro. The actual song starts at about 2 minutes 40 seconds (though there is a sort of spoken intro that starts at one minute 20 seconds). Looking at it again... yeah, it's still funny!:

Gary James wrote on 5/27/2014, 3:48 PM
An Apple ][ Plus was my first computer. I still remember the man at the finance company asking me "You want to buy a what?". That little puter (as my young son called it) set me on a career path that would run 30+ years designing software for the Test & Measurement Industry.

At one point I was a contributing editor for Nibble Magazine. I had several of my programs featured on their magazine covers. But in the late 80's when the IBM PC became the defacto standard for industry, I made the irrevocable switch to the PC platform. Years later I donated the Apple and a ton of software to my younger sons school.

There is one small error in the popup facts. The Apple LISA was NOT the first computer with a GUI. That distinction goes to the Xerox Star computer that pre-dated the LISA. Apple execs visited Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) and took the idea for their next gen computer. That's why I always get a laugh when I think about Apple's lawsuit against Microsoft for "stealing" ideas from the LISA / MAC for use in Windows, when Apple stole the idea from Xerox.

The Xerox STAR computer in 1981.

Laurence wrote on 5/27/2014, 3:53 PM
>That's why I always get a laugh when I think about Apple's lawsuit against Microsoft for "stealing" ideas from the LISA / MAC for use in Windows, when Apple stole the idea from Xerox.

I also laughed when Apple filed their suit against Samsung for things like pinch to zoom. This video showcases this multitouch GUI technology before Apple invented it, and the guy demonstrating it mentions that he didn't invent it either:

stbo wrote on 5/27/2014, 3:57 PM
I feel a little sorry for them really. I remember the thrill of making the computer do something - actually programming - understanding the problem, then making the machine actually do it.

My first computer was a BBC Model B. With an 8-bit bus, externally accessible (the TUBE), I built things like a 64 channel stage lighting system, each channel with 64 levels of brightness, all on an a single bus.

BBC basic - Pascal-like, in-line assembly, Switchable 64K RAM banks...

Those were the days....

larry-peter wrote on 5/27/2014, 4:39 PM
I credit the Commodore 64 for setting me on my career path. Worked days driving a forklift, spent my nights (for about 6 months) creating a sprite-based video game to learn simple programming. That got me intrigued by computers enough to save my $ to buy a cheap Japanese PC-AT clone that could run Roger Powell's Texture sequencer, and used a score I did on it to get my foot in the production world.

(I could still stack 20 tons of drill pipe on a flatbed if I had to.)
amendegw wrote on 5/27/2014, 4:53 PM
fwiw: Your Computer Chronology

Sidecar2 wrote on 5/27/2014, 6:06 PM
We started in our department with some Apple II's also in the mid-80s. Actually got management to pony up for a specialty two-column scriptwriting software. Challenging, to say the least.

The Mac Plus we got next revolutionized everything. I remember a friend and me staring at the 9" desktop pondering how to copy a file to a disk. When it dawned on us to drag the file icon over the disk icon, raucous hilarity ensued.
Sidecar2 wrote on 5/27/2014, 6:15 PM
Actually, my first real "computer" experience was with an Audiovisual Labs (AVL) ShowPro III multimedia programmer circa 1978-79.

The ShowPro was a single-use dedicated computer that only controlled QD3 (and later, Dove) slide projector dissolvers.

But darnit, we made some cool shows in high definition using 9 slide projectors, two 16mm projectors, stereo high fidelity sound and sometimes live effects like wind.

That was REAL multimedia.
wwjd wrote on 5/27/2014, 8:25 PM
What's the point? Might as well hand them an Abacus. Things had to start somewhere. Yes, these new kids are spoiled.... but so were WE when we OWNED that first computer on the block. Today, everyone has a smartphone... nothing special there, but these old clunker computers were brand new. Like a CAR from a horse and buggy.

Everything progresses.
ushere wrote on 5/27/2014, 9:36 PM
what, i can't swype on my laptop keyboard!!!!!

larry-peter wrote on 5/27/2014, 9:45 PM
The point, for me, aside from the humorous reactions, is what will be missed in many of their lives.

I'm a knowledge and experience junkie. I would rather DO than watch on YouTube. To me that's what life is about. I can use an abacus, a slide rule and a computer. In many cases, what passes for knowledge today begins with now and moves forward, never looking back. These kids will probably be able to search answers to questions faster than I can. Hopefully somewhere along the line they'll learn how the answers were derived.

End of old fogey rant. ;-)
GeeBax wrote on 5/28/2014, 4:44 AM
Where did I put my HP Programmable Crackulator?
set wrote on 5/28/2014, 5:55 AM
Still have Apple II here too, but no monitor, and no more softwares available...
Then, I go to PC XT, as it is more common that time, and change to 286, 386, 486... well, computer game lover here... Forgot early Pentium type line I used.

Like customizing autoexec.bat that time :)

TheHappyFriar wrote on 5/28/2014, 8:40 AM
The only computer feature that STILL amazes me to this day was on the Amiga. OS's have been upgraded, monitors upgraded, CPU's upgraded, things gotten easier to use, but the Amiga had a single feature I haven't seen duplicated since I first saw it (early/mid 90's): multiple mouse inputs controlling separate cursors at once. It was in the game Lemmings (the original 4/16 color one).

You can't even do that in modern OS's & hardware. Yes, you can do multi-touch (my monitor boasts 10 point) but you can't do touch & mouse at the same time or multiple mice.

Really dissapointed when we got Lemmings for the Tandy (16 colors!) and you couldn't do two player. My mom and I were REALLY looking forward to multiplayer lemmings.
wwjd wrote on 5/28/2014, 10:12 AM
Education is in a transitionary state: it USED TO BE all about cramming info in and MEMORIZING stuff. Now, that is not as needed since all the info is easily accessable. Memorization was needed at the time because that was the only way it was done. Now, there exists alternatives to that. They might even be better.
And I'm pushing 50, so I'm old as well.

We used to crack open encyclopedias to find out things and that could take 15 minutes. Now we look it up instantly in the global library. Encyclopedias existed for a reason at the time, now, no longer needed.

So, these kids don't get it, but they don't need to. And they don't need to respect the old ways anymore than WE should spend time considering the first wheel was made of stone. It's just new and different.

And we all have to admit, a handheld, wireless device with full color, audio movies, email, interenet, is WAY COOLER than my old B&W TRS-80 with 4k or RAM. :)
larry-peter wrote on 5/28/2014, 10:25 AM
"it USED TO BE all about cramming info in and MEMORIZING stuff."
I have to respectfully, but strongly disagree. At least where I live in the US, school curricula are all about teaching for the test. Period. A combination of memorization and usage of tables and calculators.

The curriculum I participated in during the 60s and 70s taught creative thinking, problem solving and instilled a love of learning that I have carried throughout life. I recently heard a manufacturing executive speak about how students shouldn't be wasting their time learning world history when they could be learning CNC programming instead.

For example: I carry my knowledge of history with me into the voting booth every election. I don't envision the current generation Googling the events that led to WWII before casting their votes.

If I don't fill my brain with knowledge, what will I fill it with instead? I personally think it's sad to consider I will take more knowledge to my grave than my children will. Unless they're buried with their iPhones.