Friday, December 23, 2011

The Macintosh by Apple

The Mac was a major milestone in modern computing including for education. I just read the 400 page biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson so I'm full of  a sense of its history.

I just got this Mac 512 SE to join the retro ed tech collection.

 I personally joined the ranks of the Apple fans when the Macintosh came out. I had been an early PC user (1983) and had not personally been on the Apple 2. I was on the PC until 1988 when I moved to California and had a Mac both at home and in the office.

I was on the Mac from 1988 to 96 when I switched to a PC oriented company.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Projectors: Movie Projectors and Slide Projectors

Happy Holidays! my colleagues yelled. There were two medium size boxes all beautifully gift wrapped.  Inside, two old decrepit projectors. I was thrilled.

The movie projector is an 8 millimeter Bell & Howell. Model 253A, Serial number  H34504. 500 watt lamp, 5 amps, 115 volt AC, 60 cycles.  As soon as I get the time, I'll try to look it up and date it (Any volunteers?).

The other projector is an Argus slide projector.

For those of you who are keeping track, this expands our projector collection considerably. We had previously featured our DeJur  and when in California at the STEM conference, I had photographed several old projectors on display at the Claremont.

I just realized that we have never truly featured our film strip projectors or our collection of film strips. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

See and Spell

 Is it a toy or an educational tool?

This clever educational device certainly predates Vocab- SpellingCity- .com.  I haven't found a date on it but I'm guessing its post WWII, perhaps the 50s.

 You get to spin the wheel and in each of the three windows, you can see a little picture.   There are maybe ten rows, three each. The pictures are of baby, toy, dog, cat, boy, girl, bone etc

You look at the word, then you try to spell the word.

Finally you open the window to see how you did. Pretty exciting, huh?

The See and Spell is similar to flash cards and a zillion other contemporary solutions to the problem that its hard to test youself on spelling.  Of course, the most contemporary solution (which I personally am troubled by) solution to the studying-your-spelling-list-problem NOT give spelling tests.   Yes, the Common Core standards and associated curriculum have based their approach to word study, as best I can tell, on some research such as one study that I've heard about that shows a very LOW correlation between the ability to spell words on spelling tests and the ability to spell them in the context of writing.  Conclusion: they're dropping weekly spelling tests and weekly list-based word study.  I suspect that will be harder to accomplish than they may think.

One more thing: Thanks to Cady for the See and Spell.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mimeograph Machines and the AB Dick Company

One of the prizes of my colleciton is this old pre-electric mimeograph machine circa 1917. Click to read more about this old mimeograph machine. Oddly, while I do have this old one, I can't seem to find a standard electric one circa 1960s or 70s.

I've been in and out of all sorts of odd stores and even contacted the surplus people related to school districts and government agencies. I've been on Ebay with not much success.

I'm now tracking down the company that made them: AB Dick Company.   Here is a Youtube video of the dedicating of their Chicago factory in the 40s. And I quote vvickers3313 from Youtube:  This was the dedication video of the building that stood at 5700 W. Touhy in Chicago. It was converted from 16mm film, taken circa 1940s. There is no sound. This video will only be interesting to all employees who worked for this great company. 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The A. B. Dick Company was a major American manufacturer of copy machines and office supplies in the late 19th Century and the 20th Century.
The company was founded in 1883 in Chicago as a lumber company by Albert Blake Dick (1856 – 1934). It soon expanded into office supplies and, after licensing key autographic printing patents from Thomas Edison, became the world's largest manufacturer of mimeograph equipment (Albert Dick coined the word "mimeograph"). The company introduced the Model 0 Flatbed Duplicator in 1887. Later on, the flatbed duplicators were replaced by devices using a rotating cylinder with automatic ink feed. Basic models were hand-cranked while more elaborate machines used an electric motor.
The company had a new headquarters built in 1926, the building at 728 West Jackson now called Haberdasher Square Lofts, and remained there until their move to suburban Niles in 1949.
The company virtually created the business of "quick printing" via storefront shops that printed from disposable plates on duplicators. Tens of thousands of its Model 350 and 360 duplicator were sold, many of which are still in use. Starting in the 1960s, xerography began to overtake A. B, Dick's older mimeograph technology.
John Stetson was president of A. B. Dick when he was appointed Secretary of the Air Force in 1978.
In 1979 the company was acquired by the General Electric Company (a British firm, not to be confused with the American company General Electric). In 1988 the company acquired Itek Graphix, a leading manufacturer of plate-makers for duplicators (small format offset presses). By the late 1990s it was a division of the Nesco company of Cleveland.

I've heard that AB Dick got acquired by Presstek.
I've just started reading from a site called the about copy machines. Stay tuned... 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Victrola

In March of this year, I wandered into an antiques mall (the Treasure Chest), met Fred, and bought several items including this Victrola.

I haven't taken my victrola into the office, I keep it at home. Partially because while it is old and genuine, I'm not entirely sure that it counts as something used in education.

 I think Victrolas were entirely for home entertainment and were in people's parlors, not in schools.

I gather in the early days there were two types of record players: those with external horns and those with an internal speaker. The internal speaker type are Victrolas. This one dates from around 1920.

Anybody know what the ones with the external speakers are called? I think they are record players but I'm not so sure....

The machine came with one particularly beat-up old 78 rpm records. In fact, it had a cigarette burn on it so you could play the first third. But it was a great song, it was the army fight song.

Over hill, over dale...Or is it ...

Over Here, Over there, we will hit, the dusty trail, and those cassions, go rolling along.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Back to the Slide Rule...53 Years Back.

Slide Rule
Slide Rule
The slide rule was, in its day, an amazing tool. In the pre-digital technology era, which by the way was when I went to high school, the slide rule was the defacto method for doing large calculations that couldn't be done by hand.

The slide rule was the tool that separated the mathematically competent from all those who couldn't quite understand the magic of the logarithmic scale.

It's amazing to think of the calculations and achievements that were done on a slide rule. World War II with all the weaponry, airplanes, radar technology, and even the atomic bomb...all developed with the help of the slide rule.

The Trident submarine, the early lasers, and Interstate Highway Program were all developed with the calculations done on slide rules.

The Gemini, Mercury, and Apollo Space Programs by NASA including the trips to the moon were calculated on slide rules

I was going through a vintage 1958 HOLIDAY magazine, and came upon this ad. It appears that a group of busy engineers and architects are engaged in the challenge of building a new urban tower.

Nothing earth-shatteringly new to report on slide rules...obviously, since this ad is 53 years old, but with a trove of vintage magazines at my disposal, I like finding examples of how education indirectly creeps into popular culture.

Here is a slide rule in an advertisement.

The image is clear, a slide rule in the hands of these men creates a smart picture of success. It helps sell brands and creates a whole image.

Today of course, the day of slides rules has passed.  An ad today would feature men with Smart Phones and they probably would have different hair cuts and shirts. But  mastery of the slide rule, in its day, was the height of a certain worldly savoir faire than stank of success and competence.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Carbon Paper is Cool!

carbon paper
Carbon Paper is Cool!
When you enter our incredibly high tech offices, you'll find a typewriter ready to use right in the reception area. It's the same typewriter that I used through high school (I graduated from BCC in 1976) and my Dad wrote his doctoral thesis on (awarded in 1962).  Astute observers will notice that I've put in three pieces of paper and that there's a piece of carbon paper between the top two.

The reason for three sheets of paper is that my Dad taught me that it would protect the carriage and keep it from breaking. The reason for the carbon paper is to properly recreate the way I typed my papers. Photocopies were rare and expensive back then so we used carbon paper. To my delight, I bought the carbon paper right at Office Depot. Apparently, it's still in use.  Despite that, when I show it to the kids, they think carbon paper is really cool. Of course, it takes them awhile to understand it's purpose but once they do, they think it's fun and want to make a huge mess with it.

BTW, who is Kevin Laurence and why would I mention him in a post about carbon paper?  Is he the inventor of carbon paper? No, he is not. Sadly, we don't know for sure who the inventor of carbon paper is but thanks to Kevin, I know this about the origins of carbon paper. And I quote from Kevin's The Exciting History of Carbon Paper!  

  The exact origin of carbon paper is somewhat uncertain. The first documented use of the term "carbonated paper" was in 1806, when an Englishman, named Ralph Wedgwood, issued a patent for his "Stylographic Writer." However, Pellegrino Turri had invented a typewriting machine in Italy by at least 1808, and since "black paper" was essential for the operation of his machine, he must have perfected his form of carbon paper at virtually the same time as Wedgwood, if not before (Adler, 1973). 

Kevin tracks the prehistory of carbon paper in its role supporting the love affair between Pellegrino Turri and the beautiful but blind Countess Carolina Fantoni, (I'm not making this up! But you'll have to click through for that story).  Kevin describes the big breakthrough of carbon paper:

By 1823 Cyrus P. Dakin of Concord, Massachusetts, was making carbon paper similar to Wedgwood's, and selling it exclusively to the Associated Press. Forty-eight years later, the same Associated Press was covering the balloon ascent of Lebbeus H. Rogers; a promotional stunt in Cincinnati for the biscuit and grocery firm of which Rogers had just been made a partner. During an interview in the newspaper offices after the flight, Rogers happened to see Dakin's carbon paper and immediately saw its commercial potential for the copying of office documents. The firm of L.H. Rogers & Co. was immediately founded in New York, and in 1870 achieved its first major sale ($1,500) to the United States War Department (Sheridan, 1991). However, it was not until 1872 and the development of a practical typewriter for commercial office use (the Sholes and Glidden typewriter), that Rogers' vision was proven correct.

And The Typewriter Provided The Perfect Application

For the first time a good copy could be produced at the same time as a good original.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

So many levels of technology

I thought I'd include a picture that I took during my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon (West Africa) in 1980-82.  At that time, the towns had running water and electricity (for the rich) and telephones that rarely worked. The  villages, where maybe half of the population still lived, had no telephones, electricity, or running water.

I hear that the rural schools still look this way.  But somehow, they do have working cell phones with Internet access almost throughout the country. Go figure.

The schools mostly had chalkboards, desks, benches, and a few books. A few years ago, I contributed heavily to a project to get a library of books (think several bookshelves) into thirty rural schools in Cameroon.   Isn't it odd to envisage these technically primitive schools co-existing in my world of being constantly wired, and in several ways!

Congrats to Jeff, Melanie, Jason, and Andrew

I just read a fantastic article about the history of educational technology. It's called The Evolution of Classroom Technology on a blog called

The article  is really a catalog of educational breakthroughs with short comments It makes some similar points about education and technology. Essentially, we feel today  that we are in the middle of a revolution in education due to technology. We are not the first to feel this way.  They base the article on a few Source(s): New York TimesHistory of ThingsWikipedia.

Since the article is so fantastic, I'm feeling a tad defensive.  You see, it's a fantastic timeline.  My blog is meant more of a catalog of my own collection, it's not trying to be a comprehensive timeline.  Which is good.  Since the team at Edudemic has totally won the race to produce a great comprehensive timeline.  Well done.  Very useful and interesting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mimeograph Machines

I have powerful and fond memories of the smell of the blue ink on the mimeographed copies that were used in my K12 schools.

 I haven't yet located a mimeograph that would have been in use in the 60s and 70s (my school days) but I was recently given this much more valuable and older mimeograph machine.

HELLO - If your school or church has an old mimeograph machine around, particularly if it's working order, please contact me (via since it would really help round our collection.

The mimeograph machine that I have is from just after the turn of the century.  It is labelled:

Edison's Rotary Mimeograph
 No. 76. 
Made by A. B. Dick Company, Chicago Illinois

There are a list of patents going back to 1897.

The machines that were used in the 1960s into the 80 were by the Standard Rocket company.

Here for instance is a manual version of the machines that I remember in the schools

 It is a 1961 Standard Rocket mimeograph machine with a few dozen Copy-rite Spirit Master Units  and two standard wicks (I'm not entirely sure what they are).  The machine is hand cranked and appears to be in working order.

About the smell. Yes, the smell of the freshly printed mimeographs is of course the most important thing.  Does anyone know what gave them that fantastic smell and how I could reproduce it?

 This blog highlights vintage educational technology which have been collected in the VocabularySpellingCity office such as My Victrola,  school desksGolden BooksDictionaries and Encyclopedias,  and film strips .

Take a peek at the cutting edge technology of yesteryear.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Writing on Slates

I'm interested in understanding the role of technology in the transformation from the one room school house to today's system. 

I'm just beginning the study but I believe that at one point, writing with paper and fountain pens and quills was awkward and expensive. While businesses had typewriters, schools generally did not.  The students practiced writing on slates with chalk. The books were shared resources.  The teacher along had a notebook in which she would write in ink.
I'm not sure when this era would have existed.  For instance, the picture below is taken from a page of Harpers Weekly published in 1886 (I bought it from Argosy Book Store in NYC). Its about the Philadelphia School of Industrial Design.  The studenets seem to be holding pieces of graphite.  The mass produced pencil started in Germany in 1812 (source: Pencil History)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Filmstrip & Film Projectors and STEM Education & Technology

I just attended CYSTE  (Conference on Cyberlearning Tools for STEM Education) which was a thrill in a number of ways. It was a conference of highly motivated professionals working and researching collaboratively to figure out how best to move forward with technology and STEM education.

I was struck by the fact that most speakers were very  optimistic about the potential for a positive transformation of education through technology.

The conference, held in conjunction with the NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) Annual Conference in San Francisco was held at the Claremont in Berkeley and appropriately, the hallways were decorated with retro technology. For instance: this old filmstrip projector was called a Delineascope and is marked Property of Fowler High School.  It was made by the Spencer Lens Company of Buffalo New York and is Number 6634.

Right next to it was an old film projector.Unfortunately, my cell phone picture of it is not adequate to make out the manufacturer or item number.

I appreciated the juxtaposition of spending the days discussing how the Ipads and Android smart phones and other amazing new devices were full of potential to transform education while we had examples of previous transformations sitting in the hall.

Reflecting a bit on the question of technology and education.  It's too easy to be optimistic and believe that technology in of itself is transformative.  Similarly, it's too easy to be cynical and say that technology makes no difference, it's all about teachers.  My thought is that:

  1. Schools should not feel hopelessly out fashioned and in many cases, todays schools really feel to students like a visit to a museum. This makes it hard for them to take the schools seriously when they know more about technology and the "real world" than their teachers.
  2. It's hard for schools, just like it's hard for people and businesses, to stay current on technology. It's moving fast and it's hard to keep up. This question alone merits a lot of conferences and investment.
  3. The nature of work and tools is changing rapidly and surely, the schools should have as one goal that they provide graduates ready-to-work in todays world.  Doing research and "science" today is heavily dependent on technology. Yes, there are still beakers and field work but there is a lot of computer aided analysis of organic molecules and remote sensing data of geology.
  4. Technology can transform education about science. There are films and games and websites which have had and will have phenomenal impact. But at the end of the day, it's not the gee whiziness of it, it's the content and the activity and the "teaching" that they provide or facilitate.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Old Spelling Books & Readers

They're musty and yellowed with age. The covers are faded and practically illegible. Numerous students have decorated the pages with penciled handwork. The brittle pages crumble like dried leaves making a mess all over the floor. But oh how we love these old spelling books and readers!
These were among the textbooks used in the first small schools. They went in sequence and the vocabulary got progressively challenging. They included simple lessons that often taught morals and values. Most of the examples gathered between myself and John are from the mid 19th century to the turn of the 20th.
We enjoy finding like-minded people who savor these old tomes too. My friend Sharon, who used to be a teacher, gets it. She tells me, "There is something very comforting about old textbooks. When I find these books at the flea market, usually for one or two dollars, I sort of hyperventilate the way some women do when they find a great pair of shoes."
When I last visited Sharon, we combed through her bookshelves. She took out an English book that belonged to her father. Published in 1924, the "Century Collegiate Handbook" was given to Inek, when he arrived in the U.S. after WW II. Sharon adds, "As far back as I can remember he has always loved books and reading and that has been passed on to me."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Found an Old Schooldesk

I was wandering around a local antiques mall yesterday and spent a considerable amount of time chatting with an old guy asking how he got started selling antiques.  I had already checked out his booth and hadn't seen anything of interest.

But after about 30 minutes with him, I noticed something under a box and asked him (Fred) about it.

 Bingo, jackpot! It was an old school desk which is one of the items I've been searching for over the last year.

This school desk could date from anytime between the 1950s back into the 1880s. I base this on the fact that are there are two spots for inkwells, a feature that disappeared in the 60s as ballpoint pens and cartridges for fountain pens replaced traditional fountain pens that were loaded by filling them directly from ink bottles.

 Also pictured are two other items that I found: an old blackboard that students would use at their seats and a school lunchbox talking about the US going metric.

The student blackboard feels really old to me, perhaps around 1900.  It was obsoleted by the introduction of reasonably price paper and pencils.

Metric Lunch Box
Metric Lunch Box

I can date the metric lunchbox without taking such wild guesses, it says right on it: "c 1976 King-Seeley Themos Company".

Of course, we all know that the US failed in its modernizing and internationalizing effort to move to the metric system which is one of the many disadvantages that we carry with us as our educational and economic system struggle to keep up and compete in the modern world.

Not for us the celsius or centigrate system, no liters or meters or grams. Just inches, feet, miles, gallons, and pounds.

We failed at it because in the short-run, it was hard. Shame on us! Now we are the backward company with a less efficient advantageous system and the rest of the world has the benefit and efficiency of the metric system. I think we are the only country that couldn't seem to make the shift.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Viewmaster

My grandparents kept the Viewmaster in the top drawer of the side table in the den. Every Friday when my sister Jody and I would visit them, we would promptly take the plastic machine out, spread out all of the reels, and start clicking away.
The Viewmaster was developed in Oregon by a company named Sawyer's. Like the stereoscope, it afforded 3D viewing, but because The Viewmaster used full color Kodachrome film rather than printed postcards, the images were crisper.
Originally the Viewmaster focused on geographic and scenic imagery. Our grandparents were world travelers and they made sure to bring the world to our fingertips. My sister remembers flicking through Rome; I was rather impressed with Hawaii. Jody says, "I guess at the time without cable or Video or DVDs I was hungry for images that included broader scopes of the world."
Later on, stills from popular TV shows and children's stories were included. Hands down, my sister and I loved the Barbie reels the most. But we also liked Laugh In and Dark Shadows.
Thinking back, my sister liked the privacy of the whole viewing experience a la Viewmaster. I, however, remember that we'd argue about whose turn it was to look through and pull the trigger. For the most part though, we shared nicely, passing the Viewmaster between us, and commenting on the decor of Barbie's home.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Technology du jour: The DeJur

The world headquarters of Vocabulary SpellingCity is located in an office building in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The building, like most, is serviced by a cleaning crew. One evening one of the workers dropped off this DeJur vintage film projector.

When the Mayor of Spelling City saw it, he didn't recognize it as one of his own dusty doohickeys. He promptly asked his team about it. Someone said, "The cleaning lady brought it a few nights ago." The curious mayor stayed late one evening to ask her about it.

The cleaning woman said the projector was "junk from her attic," but after seeing all machines in the office, thought she would add to the collection. The mayor smiled, thanked her, and handed her an appreciative cash token.
The projector was last seen in good company high up on a shelf.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Return of the Slide Rule

slide rule
Slide Rules Like I had in High School
When I posted the first blog about the slide rule, my very creative friend Terri from California was quick to comment and send a photo (above). Her father, O.J. Gilmore, a University of Nebraska Engineering grad, was a slide rule-carrying aeronautics specialist. A professor of O.J.'s bequeathed a Vector Type Log Rule to him upon graduation and from then on it was safely stowed in his briefcase. Apparently this particular rule is a very valued model.

After Terri wrote to me, I remembered that another dear friend, Charlotte, was the daughter of an engineer. I emailed Charlotte and asked if she might have any fond slide rule memories. I caught my friend and fellow writer on the verge of a deadline, but she responded regardless. "My dad had various size slide rules all over the house, in their little cases, and I was fascinated with them but never saw him use one!"

And since we're on the subject, just one more photo.
Circular Slide Rule
Circular Slide Rule
This circular slide rule is also part of Vocabulary SpellingCity's permanent collection of educational technology. And with that I conclude my portion of this blog devoted to the logarithm-loving device that I will surely never know how to use.

One more thing, the Apollo Program including the trip to the Moon was based on calculations mostly made on....SLIDERULES!

Speaking of classic technology, check out the old chemistry set. And remember the best way to get a well educated science population is to start with a solid elementary science program.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Polaroid

Polaroid cameras offered immediate gratification. While photography in general was amazing, the ability to see the picture within minutes of taking the picture was an astounding novelty and innovation.

Before digital photography revolutionized picture taking, Polaroid film produced results quickly and allowed us to see our marvels as well as our mistakes. Used in work and for fun, the Polaroid enjoyed a reputation as the ultimate party camera.

Invented by Edwin Land, and first sold in 1948, images started developing inside the camera and then continued for another minute once outside. The familiar mechanism sounded and spit out a murky image which, after some arm waving back and forth, went from fuzzy to fine before our eyes. Little did we know back then, that waving it dry was completely unnecessary.
This diagram was printed in The Golden Handbook "Photography: The Amateur Guide to Better Pictures (copyright 1956 by Simon & Schuster). The handbook is co-authored by two University of Illinois professors, one of education and the other of science education. In the forward they write:
"Photography, in just a century, has become a great medium of communication. It is a universal language, equally effective whether its task is factual or fanciful, scientific, artistic, or recreational."

Regarding photography and photographic equipment in the 60's and 70's, Vocabulary SpellingCity's mayor and techno-collector remembers, "We took pictures with cameras that had flash bulbs. The Polaroid was incredibly cool back then. I remember when the Instamatic arrived and you could 'point and shoot.' Today, that all sounds unbelievably quaint!"

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Slide Rule

Here are two slide rules. I don't know how they work. John, the Mayor of VocabularySpellingCity used a slide rule in high school physics and chemistry. He says, "I used to use it pretty well."

I visited The International Slide Rule Museum to find out what "using it well" would mean, but the answer was beyond my comprehension. I went to my personal library and perused The Young People's Science Encyclopedia from 1966. I thought, for sure, I'd get it since I am already an adult.

There, a slide rule is defined as:
"a mechanical instrument for doing mathematical problems more easily -- mostly multiplication and division. It consists of movable pieces of wood containing logarithmic scales and matching antilogarithms."

I was still lost. I can't remember what a logarithm is and the amount of energy I would need to spend in order to relearn it, could perhaps power a small village. The right side of my brain is limited compared to the left.

I'd be much obliged if someone could enlighten me just a smidge by completing the sentences below:

A slide rule is handy if an engineer needs to ________________.
An architect might use a slide rule to calculate ________________.
The easiest task you can do with a slide rule is ________________.
It was cool when we used the slide rule to figure _______________.

I asked John if he wore the slide rule in his front shirt pocket as a symbol of mathematical wizardry. I had fond visions of the stylish engineering geeks at my alma mater sporting pens and other pocket-size tools. He did not, but kept his in his book bag.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pencil Sharpeners: The Boston Champion Saves the Day

Pencil Sharpener: The Classic Boston Champion

As a substitute teacher and homework-supervising mom, I have witnessed much pencil sharpening -- both successful and frustrating, both annoying to the ear and disruptive to the class, and always messy. In between the cheap dollar sharpener that lurks in each student's desk or crayon box and the loud electric sharpener that breaks much too often, lies this classic vintage hand-operated Boston Champion.
Boston Sharpener Strong!

According to the curators at The Early Office Museum, Boston brand mechanical sharpeners emerged on the scene 100 years ago. There were many models; the Champion was just one. Plenty of vintage ones abound on eBay. Pricing starts below $10.

Ever wonder about the history of the pencil? Here's an even better article from  To quote and paraphrase a little: 
... pencils descend from an ancient Roman writing instrument called a stylus. Scribes used this thin metal rod to leave a light, but readable mark on papyrus (an early form of paper). Other early styluses were made of lead, which is what we still call pencil cores, even though they actually are made of non-toxic graphite. 
Graphite came into widespread use following the discovery of a large graphite deposit in Borrowdale, England in 1564. Appreciated for leaving a darker mark than lead, the mineral proved so soft and brittle that it required a holder. Originally, graphite sticks were wrapped in string. Later, the graphite was inserted into hollowed-out wooden sticks and, thus, the wood-cased pencil was born!
Nuremberg, Germany was the birthplace of the first mass-produced pencils in 1662. Spurred by Faber-Castell (established in 1761), Lyra, Steadtler and other companies, an active pencil industry developed throughout the 19th century industrial revolution.

Could some linguist help me with why the word pencil has a c instead of an s in it?

To tout the simple, no-nonsense merit of the Boston Champion and other similar manual metal sharpeners, here's a little story a la Goldilocks and the Three Bears made up by one of the creatives in our office (ie Jane Dagmi...)

Goldilocks often went to the Three Bears' house to do her homework. She and Baby Bear would do their math independently, and then later compare answers. One day, Goldilocks arrived early at their cottage in the woods. The bears were still out foraging, but the headstrong girl with shiny blond hair, made herself at home anyway.

Goldilocks sat down in the kitchen and took out her work. She reached inside her knapsack for a pencil. The first one she found had a broken tip. She reached back in and pulled out a second. Its point was dull. She stuck her head in the bag and found no others. "Oh, I do hope the Bears have a pencil sharpener!" Goldilocks exclaimed.

She walked over to the kitchen counter with pencils in hand. She first found a big black electric sharpener. "This must be Mr. Bear's," Goldilocks thought. She stuck the first pencil in and the hungry machine chewed the pencil to bits, nearly taking her finger with it.

She opened a drawer, and found a small sharpener inside that was shaped like a nose. "This must be Baby Bear's," she laughed and stuck the second pencil up one nostril for that is where the blade was cleverly concealed. She spun the pencil round and round and heard the familiar abrading sound. When she took the Ticonderoga out of the nostril, the pencil was annoyingly pointy only along one side. She put it back in and after several more revolutions heard the crunch of broken graphite. "This just won't do," she said, with a droplet of discouragement in her voice.

She walked toward the window, hoping the Bears might be in sight. She did not see them, but she did spy a Boston Champion sharpener on Mama Bear's desk. She approached the device, and inserted the remainder of the second pencil into the hole. Goldilocks turned the hand crank 7 times for good luck. The Boston Champion honed the tip perfectly. It was just right and Goldilocks blurted out, "Woo hoo!!!"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The History of Educational Technology

Here is a relevant presentation on Educational Technology that I found:

That Sound of Music

In 2010, John Edelson's big holiday gift was a phonograph. The Newcomb Audio Products record player was a present from his wife. “Since John got interested in old educational stuff,” she says, “it’s gotten really easy to get him gifts.”

John took his new old phonograph to work, and instantly incorporated into his office d├ęcor. He also played it for the Time4Learning staff at the next meeting. Jennifer Eaton has been working on shaping this homeschool curriculum with John for five years, and has witnessed his collection grow. She confirms, “He gets very excited when he gets a new addition. So excited that he shows us how it works, and how it was made, etc.”

I wasn’t present at the phonograph’s debut show-n-tell, but was eager to listen to its sound. I wanted to hear the familiar crackling static that has the power to transport me back to 1973 in the pink shag carpeted bedroom that I shared with my sister. Or even to the oak entertainment console where my mother stored her many Burt Bacharach albums.

I turned the knob on John's record player, and very carefully placed the needle onto the record. After a revolution or two at 45 RPM’s, I heard that nostalgic crackle followed by the super sweet voice of the female singer. What was a delight for me was a fright for my fourth grader. Sammi covered her ears and hastily pleaded, “Ooh mom, turn that off. That’s scary.” She said the singer's voice reminded her of a clip from a horror movie that she once saw.

Now it’s your chance to listen……….

STAY TUNED: John’s record collection

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Walk in Peace

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. Today we are celebrating him. I interrupted my daughter and her friend in the middle of a game and asked, "Why do we celebrate Martin Luther King?" Here are snippets from their response:

"He made it so everyone can be together... He changed our lives so blacks and whites can go to the same schools, same bathrooms and same shoe black people don't have to sit in the back of the bus...he had a dream for blacks and whites to be together."

They spoke passionately and elaborated about the time he and his father went into a shoe store and refused to sit in the designated section, and then were sent out without being able to buy shoes. I love how girls remember this story and feel the injustice when it comes to not being allowed to buy the shoes of your choice.

We are grateful for Martin Luther King's courage and conviction. Because of him and other noteworthy predecessors and followers, most of us can peacefully walk in the shoes of our choice and anywhere we desire.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My Manual Typewriter - Just My Type

John’s early portable Smith Corona has already starred in a former blog, but I felt the desire to revisit the topic, and to praise this machine from my own point of view.

Growing up, we had one typewriter in our house. It sufficed. My mother, who had been a secretary, was an excellent typist. The only other device with a keypad was a new push-button Princess phone.

I learned to type in high school on a portable typewriter in Ms. Lentz’s typing class. She would put on a Beatles record, and the class would tap along to the beat. I specifically recall flourishing to “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” In those days (I am referring to the very early 1980s) we didn’t pick up the skill out of necessity to communicate efficiently with our friends via text or IM. Typing back then was an acquired and valued skill that could land a good typist a nice administrative job.

A few more thoughts about this universal icon with timeless appeal...

I think old typewriters are romantic. Movie set designers know this well, and use these bygone machines in period dramas or when depicting passionate, sentimental writer types. My vote for the most romantic use of an old-fashioned typewriter is in Baz Luhrmann’s "Moulin Rouge." The story takes place in early 1900s Paris, where a penniless Bohemian writer falls in love with a captivating yet terminally ill courtesan. Armed with an Underwood, the writer/poet taps out a love story, with plenty of internal struggle, in a light-filled dilapidated garret.

I think old typewriters can be a bit scary too. Screenwriters know this well, and have equipped some of the nastiest screen villains with them. Criminals have a notion that they are less likely to get caught if sending machine-made ransom notes or threats. In “The Jagged Edge” for example, lawyer Teddy Barnes is smitten with the man she is defending of murder until she discovers a Smith Corona hidden (not very well) in his closet. She quickly feeds the paper around the platen and types, “He is innocent.” The “t” is raised in exactly the same manner as the “t” in the anonymous typed notes she has been receiving throughout the trial. Teddy takes the machine, makes a speedy exit, and later despairingly tells her deceitful and murderous lover, “I found the typewriter.”

I think there’s always a way to recycle cool old things like typewriter parts. Jewelry designers know this well, and repurpose the graphic keys to make stylish bracelets, earrings, cufflinks, and pendants. I have a bracelet that reads “edit.” A close friend of mine who is an Adjunct Professor, clinical psychotherapist, and appreciator of the past has a set of typewriter key earrings. When she bought the pair, it brought her back 50 years. In Professor Deborah Grayson’s own words:

“I used to love the sound of the clicking and tapping of the ‘stadium seating’ keys on the vintage, black Remington of the 1960's as my Mom would masterfully type out our term papers in high school- zing! zing! zing! All of the sounds of the keys tap dancing were sheer music, especially the zip, zip, zip of the paper carriage moving the words up and out of the typewriter. I can only imagine how she would've tweeted, blogged or texted! She was fast. I remember that in those days, she typed 180 words per minute. I love keeping those memories close...”

(this last photo was taken by me while watching "Moulin Rouge" for the 87th time.)