Teaching computer classes to seniors

February 24th, 2014 11:23 AM
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A year ago this month, the Gulf Coast News of Baldwin County, Alabama, reported how Anne Hinrichs, 74, got her start on the Apple II; now she's helping other seniors get their start with modern computing.:

As a typist in the 70s, she realized computers and word processing were the future of her profession. Anne bought an Apple II computer in 1977 right after she accepted a job typing for a court reporter.

"I took the computer apart and put it back together again so I would know the ins and outs of it," she said.

Anne's interest in computers grew quickly. It became a hobby that soon turned into a job. In addition to typing, she contracted with Olensky Brothers in Mobile, setting up computer systems in offices and teaching people how to use them.

As computer technology became more and more complex, Anne immersed herself in learning. Instead of reading novels, she read computer books. And she never gave up on something challenging, like learning computer languages.

Hinrichs may no longer be teaching on the Apple II, but she still has her original machine:

Anne Hinrichs

Photo by Jill Clair Gentry of the Gulf Coast Today staff.

Alas, her students are not learning on the Apple II, but it makes me wonder if certain demographics would cotton better to that platform, given that kids at the Joseph Sears School in Illinois are playing on retrocomputers. A common stereotype is that today's kids have a natural affinity for technology, since they have grown up alongside it. Is learning the Apple II therefore easier for them? Or is it more challenging, since they are accustomed to GUI interfaces and mobile devices, neither of which the 8-bit Apple II naturally accommodates? How easily do they transfer what they learn on the Apple II to a modern platform — or are these skills transferable at all?

Likewise, would seniors do best with older computers and then graduate to modern platforms, just as Hinrichs did? Or does it make more sense for them to jump right into today's machinery, with no background or context?

I've never had to teach computer literacy so don't know where I would begin. But whatever her platform of choice, I'm glad Hinrichs hasn't stopped!

The music of the ImageWriter

December 2nd, 2010 7:16 PM
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Chiptune music — the use of retrocomputing hardware to synthesize original melodies — is not a new phenomenon … but the creativity of artists seeking to use classic computers to produce these tunes never ceases to amaze me.

An example I recently stumbled across is by Man or Astro-man?, a surf rock group founded in Alabama in 1992 and reunited in 2010. Their 2000 album A Spectrum of Infinite Scale features a track entitled "A Simple Text File". Although Man or Astro-man? is not a chiptune band, their music video for this piece is something any Apple II user can be proud of:

What makes this piece so imaginative is that it's essentially a self-playing piece of hardware; once initiated, it requires no software or human intervention. Granted, the hardware featured above received its print command from a piece of software, but the result is more reliant on the hardware than on user input, making it an entirely different kind of creativity from that of, say, 8 Bit Weapon, who acquired and remastered Michael J. Mahon's Apple II DMS music software to help them get the most out of their instruments. It's two equally dedicated approaches to delighting the retrocomputing enthusiast.

For a less Apple II-centric example of musical hardware, check out this rendition of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody", performed by an Adaptec 2940UW SCSI card, a TI-99/4A with tape drive, an HP ScanJet 3C, and an Eico oscilloscope, among other pieces of equipment:

Which of these performances would you buy tickets to see?

(Hat tip to Stavros Karatsoridis and Shark Bait)