Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Phonics Games & Other Classic Learning Games

When my daughter was about six, she walked over from the TV room to me and asked with a sly smile whether I knew how how much The Phonics Game was worth. I admitted that I did not.

Triumphantly, she said: "It's worth every penny!" and smiled, since she knew that it was -  somehow -very funny.  Imagine my joy when I checked out Ebay recently and sure enough, there was The Phonics Game for sale in "practically new condition."  I immediately bid high, knowing it was worth every penny.  Smile.

The Phonics Games


The phonics game contents
The Phonics Game included cassettes, many types
of cards, a timer, VHS tapes, and a mirror!


For those watching,  the 80s and 90s were a time of seemingly endless TV commercials for Hooked on Phonics and The Phonics Game, each with a 800 direct response message.  Aiming at the guilty-feeling of many mothers, especially the poor, these ads promised an increase in grades if they only bought them.  Hooked on Phonics was particularly aggressive until the FTC under the first Bush Administration cracked down on their non-verified claims and aggressive marketing techniques and took them out of business.

Spirograph was another educational toy popular in the 60s and 70s. It was really a simple matter of rotating some gears inside circles with a colored pencil tracing the pattern that that a hole in one of the gears made. It was addictive fun and we all learned patience and to make elaborate symmetrical designs. Educational?  I'm not sure but Hasbro had a huge hit on its hands with it so I bought one for our office as part of the ever-growing Retro Educational Technology collection.


Spirograph by Hasbro
Spirograph by Hasbro
The SEE and SPELL
The SEE and SPELL
A Precursor to VocabularySpellingCity
The Game of Cootie
The Game of Cootie
Cootie Game
Cootie Game


The HsngMouse for Hangman
HangMouse
The Famous Star on VocabularySpellingCity
who  his own hangman game
Here are a list of the classic interactive games featuring the HangMouse: HangMan Online, Sound It Out, Letterfall, Word Find, and  Read a Word





Sunday, December 4, 2016

Vintage Telephones in My Office and Home

In our office, a new (to us) sign for a telephone recently appeared:


If you follow the arrow, you arrive at this phone which sadly, is not currently connected to anything:

"New" Phone in our Office

I'm so pleased by this arrangement that I've just made a quick inventory of our vintage telephonic equipment.

I have this classic candlestick phone which is pictured sitting on top of my victrola (actually, it's in my house, not in the office, but I think that still counts are part of the RetroEdTech collection):

Classic Candlestick Phone
Classic Candlestick Phone

There's this odd Scandinavian phone which weighs about a ton and which I use to have connected to the phone system.  It's an old dial rotary phone with a very visible pair of bells. Over a decade ago, someone in my house clipped its wires (don't ask, it's an xwife story...). 



I have this nice 1960's dial rotary phones made for ATT by its subsidiary Western Electric. It has that nice mid Century modern look.  


 And lastly, and it's a bit of a non sequitur, here is a model of the first geosynchronous communications satellite to be placed in orbit.  What it has in common with the telephones is that it was part of the telecom communications revolution and its in my collection.  The plaque on the base says:

"SYNCOM
 The first synchronous orbit communications satellite. 
Built by the Hughes Aircraft Company 
for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 
Launched from Cape Canaveral, 9:33 am, July 26, 1963."


Syncom 1963 - Satellite
Syncom 1963 
The reason that I have and treasure such a thing is that Burton Edelson was my dad so I grew up on dinner time conversation about the march of technology and how it was changing communications and the world. We regularly discussed geosynchronous orbit at dinner. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't remember the exact altitude at which this is a stable orbit.  



 Burton Edelson Plaque on Syncom Model  Satellite
Syncom Model Plaque for Burton Edelson

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

SRA, Golden Books, and Card Catalogs

I took this picture today in the hallway of our office.  What a great collection of classic educational materials....

A Library card catalog,  a SRA box and a Golden Book
A Library card catalog,  a SRA box and a Golden Book

Sitting on a classic elementary school card catalog, there is a box of the SRA materials with an old Golden Book and just the corner of an old World Book Encyclopedia.  Does that bring back memories or what?

This is part of the RetroEdTech collection curated by the Mayor of VocabularySpellingCity and housed in the VocabularySpelllingCity offices.  For more info on each items:

Card Catalogs - Card catalogs were the key to every school and public library.  Users could look up books by either author or title and then find them on the shelves. They conceptual organization was the Dewey Decimal System and each library had its own physical layout and maps to where to find the books.  (Quoting from Wikipedia). The Dewey Decimal Classification organizes library materials by discipline or field of study. Main divisions include philosophy, social sciences, science, technology, and history. The scheme is made up of ten classes, each divided into ten divisions, each having ten sections. The system's notation uses Arabic numbers, with three whole numbers making up the main classes and sub-classes and decimals creating further divisions. The classification structure is hierarchical and the notation follows the same hierarchy. Libraries not needing the full level of detail of the classification can trim right-most decimal digits from the class number to obtain a more general classification.[39] For example:
500 Natural sciences and mathematics
510 Mathematics
516 Geometry
516.3 Analytic geometries
516.37 Metric differential geometries
516.375 Finsler Geometry
As I read about the Dewey Decimal System today, I think of the original web directories such as Yahoo and DMOZ and wonder whether they used or leveraged the Dewey System. BTW, Yahoo's directory shut down in 2014, DMOZ in 2017 per Wikipedia.

Golden Books - The Golden Books are a great collection of kids books both story books and informational text. The Poky Little Puppy was the most popular and a particular favorite of mine.  We had the 45 record of it which I remember listening to time and time again.

Thanks to Youtube, here's the recording that I remember:
































SRA - Did personalized instruction start with those SRA reading cards and boxes that were so popular in the 1960s and 70s?  Probably not since the old one room school houses and many other educational systems presumably had systems for perssonalized or student-paced instruction. But SRA was probably a major milestone in that it was broadly used and had a defined widely used system for student paced and individualized reading. The SRA box, properly called the Reading Library Kits from  Scientific Reading Associates, was a widely used system developed by Don Parker for personalizing learning and having students take some ownership of their reading.    I'd like to research this more but here's a few notes from Audrey Waters Hacked Education Blog on SRA.

The cards were purposefully designed as an alternative to whole class instruction, so that students could focus on activities aimed at their particular (reading) level and move forward at their own pace. “I wanted, somehow, to individualize instruction,” Parker says in his story. Individualized instruction is often branded as “personalization....


The SRA Reading Laboratory Kit was first published in 1957, with a suggested sale price of $39.95 per box. IBM acquired SRA in 1964. It sold SRA to Maxwell Communications Company in 1988, and when the latter tried to stage a hostile takeover of CTB/McGraw-Hill the following year, the SRA assets became part of a new company, Macmillan/McGraw-Hill.
McGraw-Hill continues to publish the SRA Reading Laboratory – in print and as software – to this day. Over 127 million children have used the product.

If you like this nostalgia, you might like reading about dictionaries and Encyclopedias.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Card catalogs

It seems just like yesterday that I was going to the library, looking up books in the card catalog, and seeing where they were cataloged based on the Dewey Decimal system. Now, it's all obsolete and gone. But, not to worry, these memories will be kept alive in the RetroEdTech museum at the VocabularySpellingCity headquarters. This past week, courtesy of a local school, we obtained an original old style school library card catalog.
School Library cart catalog
Card Catalog


These card catalogs enabled students to look up books by subject, author, or name and then locate them on the shelves using the amazing Dewey Decimal System. The Dewey Decimal System is a library classification system developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876 and regularly revised since then. The Decimal Classification introduced the concepts of relative location and relative index which allow new books to be added to a library in their appropriate location based on subject. The classification's notation makes use of three-digit numbers for main classes, with fractional decimals allowing expansion for further detail.

Do you follow the TV program, the Big Bang Theory? If you do, you've probably noticed that Sheldon's and Leonard's room features a card catalog in back.  I keep wondering when it's going to become part of the plot.

Card Catalog in Sheldon & Leonards Room
Card Catalog in Sheldon & Leonards Room
The Media Centers of old, prior to the digital revolution were packed with both reference and literature materials.   RetroEdTech has these posts on those topics:

Encyclopedia and Dictionaries in School Libraries


Golden Book informational books and stories were read by tens of millions:

Back Cover of Golden Books: The Golden Library of Knowledge
Back Cover of Golden Books: The Golden Library of Knowledge